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Book Review | The Great Transition by Nick Fuller Googins

From the publisher: What happens after we save the world? In the near future, humanity hasn’t avoided the worst of climate change—wildfires, rising oceans, mass migration, and skyrocketing inequality have become the daily reality. But just when it seems that it can’t get any worse, remarkably, a movement of workers, migrants, and refugees inspires the world to band together, save the planet, and rebuild a society for all. This is The Great Transition. This astonishing debut is a remarkable story of struggle, change, and hope.

Parts of The Great Transition are some of the best climate fiction I have read. In this book, climate change happened. Fires, floods. Massive numbers of climate refugees. Massive extinctions. All the terrible things that we know are coming came. Then a movement took back the planet from the climate deniers and criminals and humanity reached net zero emissions.

This is a remarkable debut novel. The writing is assured. The author clearly did his research on climate change. The planet reached the brink but was pulled back, but only at incredible cost in lives and species. There is one section where the author describes the effort to save the last stand of giant sequoias that moved me to tears. What are we doing to the only planet that we have?

No mistaking, this book has an agenda. The author wants us to look in the mirror and confront what’s coming, make some changes so the worst is changed to not quite the worst. Hold accountable the people who are responsible for the climate damage. But the book also has at its center a family. Mom and dad were heroes in the effort to save the planet. Both lost their parents and families to climate change. Their daughter Emi suffers from anxiety and an eating disorder. Her mom despairs that Emi doesn’t appreciate how good she has it.

The author is a teacher and I feel like the book really shows that he knows young people today. Emi feels very believable. Her mother is still fighting the climate fight; her father has moved on and wants to appreciate the good things. This conflict causes a lot of family drama. The author uses a homework device to tell parts of the backstory; Emi is writing a report on the Great Transition. I didn’t find this wholly effective. Parts 1-3 are the best part of the book. I was wholly immersed. I did not find Parts 4-6 as effective. The family drama gets to be a bit much and the plot turns a little too Hollywood. Also, I thought the book had ended two times before it finally did. It might have been more effective to leave some things unsaid.

Still, I found this book easy to read and very thought provoking, both hopeful and terrified for our common future on planet Earth. I highly recommend it for fans of climate fiction and dystopia.

I read an advance reader copy of The Great Transition. It is scheduled to be published on August 15, and the Galesburg Public Library will own the book in print, as an ebook, and in audio.