Ray Hammond’s sharp, futuristic eco-disaster novel has been given a grim, unwelcome topicality by the horrific devastation inflicted on vast swathes of Asia by the Boxing Day tsunami.

Extinction is set 50 years from now; a time when climate control has become a reality, but only for those affluent Western nations which can afford to buy the technology from the giant energy corporations which control the weather. The rest of the world struggles to cope with ever-worsening climate conditions and the human consequences of rising sea levels and widespread flooding. Refugees from inundated countries have taken to the sea in whatever vessels they can find and have lashed these together to form vast, floating islands. These ‘environmental refugees’, unrecognized by any nation and kept from landfall by the world’s navies, eke out a miserable and precarious existence on the South Atlantic seas. Michael Fairfax, a human rights lawyer, takes up their cause and attempts to argue for justice before the international courts. However, as he prepares his case, it seems he has been pre-empted by the earth itself, as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and massive tsunamis, triggered by the greed of the weather-management corporations, threaten the very existence of humanity.

This is a convincing and tightly written thriller, in which the scientific background, the politics and the human drama are skilfully intermeshed and the message – that we are meddling with the fragile systems of our planet at our peril and the ecological clock is ticking – is one that could not be more pressing or more in need of urgent global action.

Peter Whittaker

New Internationalist issue 377 magazine cover This article is from the April 2005 issue of New Internationalist.
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