Giving Compass' Take:
- Kate Yoder examines the ways in which Stephen Markley's dystopian novel The Deluge reflects the concerning realities of climate change.
- How can works of fiction like Markley's help us better understand dystopian futures and spur us towards the systemic change needed to prevent them?
- Learn more about the purpose of climate fiction.
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
It was the year 2028, and I was hiding with eco-terrorists in a cabin deep in the woods. We were trying to avoid detection by the surveillance state, which was tracking activists after attacks on oil and gas infrastructure. Birds were dropping dead from the sky, and a dust storm raged around us, turning the sun crimson.
I was relieved to wake up from this dream and shake my paranoia that the FBI was after me. That’s how immersive The Deluge is, an ambitious new novel by Stephen Markley. My subconscious had picked up the storyline around page 200, and after I got out of bed, I couldn’t remember exactly where the book stopped and my dream began. Was getting followed by a police cruiser while driving a van full of explosives part of the plot? What about that night walk through the forest with the conspirators?
Bridging the recent past with a climate-wrecked future, the hyper-realistic novel follows a sprawling cast of characters from 2013 until the 2040s. The Deluge stars both the people trying to save the world and the ones wrecking it: a scientist, an advertising strategist, a math genius, a drug addict, politicians, activists, and right-wing authoritarians. Over the course of nearly 900 pages, climate disasters get personal, with roaring fires and ferocious floods coming for the characters’ loved ones. And the brutal weather brings a violent reaction with it. By extrapolating from present trends, Markley conjures a future filled with even more extreme far-right zealots, savvy fossil fuel PR campaigns, and laws cracking down on protesters as terrorists.
Markley’s dark debut novel, Ohio, also took on a big social subject — the opioid crisis — but focused on one single night in a working-class town. The Deluge, by contrast, spans continents and careens through decades’ worth of nightmarish scenes that feel like they were made for Hollywood. (Markley has also written storylines for the Hulu comedy Only Murders in the Building.) Stephen King, who read an advance copy of The Deluge, called it “the best novel” he read last year. That a horror novelist loved it tells you something.
Read the full article about The Deluge and climate change by Kate Yoder at Grist.