Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Provocative, but poorly marketed

by Matthew Glass

Matthew Glass's debut novel, Ultimatum, suffers from unfulfilled expectations. If you read it expecting to find the thriller it was marketed as, you will be sadly disappointed. If you're open-minded, what you'll find instead is a provocative novel of ideas and politics.

The near-future story is set in 2032. Joe Benton, a good man with good intentions, has just been elected President of the United States. He thought he knew what he was getting into, but almost immediately upon entering office, he learns from the outgoing President that the global warming/climate change situation is significantly worse than anyone has ever publicly or even privately acknowledged. The United States and the whole world is facing a catastrophe--rising tides, flooded cities, millions of people needing to be relocated and much, much more.

When I read the description of the novel, I was expecting an action thriller. Desperate people being airlifted from the rooftops of drowning cities. That sort of thing. On the contrary, this is a serious, intelligent (and realisting, all things considered) look at the tense politics involved in negotiating a crisis. It's suspenseful, but a page-turner it's not.

I can't regret time spent reading books with these dire environmental warnings. What's eerie is that as I was reading the novel, I was hearing news reports that echoed the content of the book almost exactly. Very disturbing.

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