Skyseed by Bill McGuire is a fast-paced cli-fi eco-thriller about corrupt leaders who turn to geoengineering as a way of tackling the climate crisis.
Please note that the following review contains spoilers.
What is Skyseed about?
The story follows a number of protagonists who get caught up in a US and UK government conspiracy to alter the composition of the climate through geoengineering. Jane Haliwell and Karl Slater are scientists who unwittingly discover that nanobots are being used to alter the climate by feeding on carbon. However, they have no idea who is behind the geoengineering attempt. It’s through the involvement of Captain Ralph Martinez, that they begin to unravel the extent of the plot by the US government and their UK counterparts (who are taking part in the nefarious scheme to try and get a trade deal from the US, as the UK’s economy has collapsed as a result of Brexit and coronavirus pandemic). The name of the geoengineering scheme gives the book its title.
The US led by President Gort, doesn’t want word getting out about the geoengineering experiment. When Jane is identified as the person who has worked out what’s going on, an attempt is made to take her life, which leaves her with a life-changing injury and the loss of someone very important to her – a loss that she will never recover from. Meanwhile the UK led by Prime Minister Duncan Bannerman is appalled at the lengths that Gort is going to, and the loss of life as a result. What neither of them realise is that the loss of life is about to rapidly accelerate, as the whole plan is about to turn the climate and the world on its head when a volcanic eruption causes the bots to rapidly multiply and extract far more carbon from the atmosphere than was planned. Temperatures follow greenhouse gas concentrations, so the world goes from being on fire, to one with expanding glaciers and countries abandoned due to the advancing ice.
Skyseed as an example of cli-fi
The climate crisis is the driving force behind the events that transpire in the book. This is the reason why Gort decides to use geoengineering, which is extremely controversial and highly advised against. If you’re in a hole, you generally need to stop digging in order to get out of it. In the same respect, we’ve altered the climate which is now causing climate disasters across the world. The way to get out of this mess is not to meddle with the climate further! Yet, some see geoengineering as a quick fix to our problems, with very little thought or understanding about the immense risks posed. As such McGuire has written a fantastic cli-fi thriller, which uses the power of storytelling to convey what is a very important message and one the world must desperately heed.
I’ve written about the power of storytelling as a means of bringing about climate action for Mongabay and The Bookseller, and the reasoning behind this is sound. We are creatures of story and stories can reach people in ways that facts and figures simply can’t. As such, cli-fi and eco-fiction books like McGuire’s serve a crucial purpose to help educate a wider audience about the climate crisis, and in this books’ case about the perils of geoengineering and further meddling with our climate.
The book is also very up-to-date including mentions of Extinction Rebellion, Brexit and the covid-19 pandemic.
Skyseed is an action-packed page-turner of a thriller with believable characters and an extremely important message about geoengineering, which is perfectly delivered. It’s a book that I wish those investing in geoengineering, such as Bill Gates, would read in order to better understand the harms they risk bringing upon the world. The book also fills a niche void, with few novels or movies really addressing the topic – Geostorm being an exception.
Cli-fi is gaining prominence, and I would add Skyseed to the recommended reading list alongside The Last Bear by Hannah Gold, and The Water Knife by Paulo Bacigalupi. I’d also highly recommend Bill McGuire’s non-fiction book Hothouse Earth, which I reviewed here.
My new cli-fi children’s picture book is Nanook and the Melting Arctic. Nanook is a caring polar bear who lives in the Arctic. But when his igloo starts melting, Nanook must find a way to save his friends and his home. He knows that the people who can help are also those who’ve caused the problem and he must find a way to convince leaders to act on the climate crisis. You can purchase Nanook from Amazon’s global stores including Amazon UK and Amazon US.