Cli-fi bookshelf

Cli-fi, or climate fiction, is a genre of fiction that transforms climate science into human stories. The genre’s authors explore what it means to be human in a world beset by warming temperatures, intense storms, and rising seas, and they speculate on how people might continue their quests for love, joy, and meaning in the midst of extreme difficulties.

Descriptions have been drawn from copy provided by their publishers.

Book collage 1

Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction, edited by Manjana Milkoreit, Meredith Martinez, and Joey Eschrich (Arizona State University 2016, 236 pages, free download)

Imagination is essential to our ability to create, design and bring about the futures we want. Scientific inquiries, combined with our own dreams, fears and desires, are the building blocks of the future we will create. Everything Change is a digital anthology featuring contributions from renowned science fiction authors Kim Stanley Robinson and Paolo Bacigalupi, along with 12 stories from our 2016 Climate Fiction Short Story Contest. The anthology explores a variety of possible futures for Earth and humanity transformed by climate change.

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor Books 2016, 316 pages, $10.99 paperback)

In this stunning Nebula Award winning novel about the end of the world – and the beginning of our future – an ancient society of witches and a hipster technological startup go to war to prevent the world from tearing itself apart. As the battle between magic and science wages in San Francisco against the backdrop of international chaos, the choices made by the opposing leaders, Laurence and Patricia, may determine the fate of the planet and all mankind. All the Birds in the Sky offers a humorous and, at times, heart-breaking exploration of growing up extraordinary in world filled with cruelty, scientific ingenuity, and magic.

Splinterlands, by John Feffer (Haymarket Books 2016, 150 pages, $13.95 paperback)

Part Field Notes from a Catastrophe, part 1984, part World War Z, John Feffer’s striking new dystopian novel, takes us deep into the battered, shattered world of 2050. The European Union has broken apart. Multiethnic great powers like Russia and China have shriveled. America’s global military footprint has virtually disappeared, and the United States remains united in name only. Ever-rising global temperatures have supercharged each-against-all competition and conflict among the now 300-plus members of an increasingly feeble United Nations. As he navigates the world of 2050, geo-paleontologist Julian West offers a chronicle of impending disaster, and a faint light of hope. He may be humanity’s last best chance to explain how the world unraveled.

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The End We Start From, by Megan Hunter (Grove Press 2017, 160 pages, $22.00)

The End We Start From, Megan Hunter’s debut novel, is a searing original, a modern-day parable of rebirth and renewal, of maternal bonds, and the instinct to survive and thrive in the absence of all that’s familiar. As London is submerged below floodwaters, a woman gives birth to her first child. Days later, she and her baby are forced to leave their home in search of safety. The story traces fear and wonder as the baby grows, thriving and content against all the odds. The End We Start From is an indelible and elemental first book – a lyrical vision of new motherhood, and a tale of endurance in the face of ungovernable change.

The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell (Random House 2014, 2015, 656 pages, $18.00 paperback)

A teenage runaway slamming the door on her family, a Cambridge scholarship boy grooming himself for wealth and influence, a conflicted father who feels alive only while reporting on the war in Iraq, a middle-aged writer mourning his exile from the bestseller list – all have a part to play in this surreal, invisible war on the margins of our world. From the medieval Swiss Alps to the nineteenth-century Australian bush, from a hotel in Shanghai to a Manhattan townhouse in the near future, their stories come together in moments of everyday grace and extraordinary wonder. Rich with character and realms of possibility, The Bone Clocks is a kaleidoscopic novel by a writer The Washington Post calls “the novelist who’s been showing us the future of fiction.”

We Are Unprepared, by Meg Little Reilly (Harlequin 2016, 368 pages, $15.99 paperback)

Ash and Pia move from hipster Brooklyn to rustic Vermont in search of a more authentic life. But just months after settling in, the forecast of a superstorm disrupts their dream. Fear of an impending disaster splits their tight-knit community and exposes the cracks in their marriage. Where Isole was once a place of old farm families, rednecks and transplants, it now divides into paranoid preppers, religious fanatics and government tools, each at odds about what course to take. WE ARE UNPREPARED is an emotional journey, a terrifying glimpse into the human costs of our changing earth and, ultimately, a cautionary tale of survival and the human.

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New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Hatchette Book Group 2017, 613 pages, $28.00)

As the sea levels rose, every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island. For the residents of one apartment building in Madison Square, however, New York in the year 2140 is far from a drowned city. There live the market trader, the detective, the immigration lawyer, the internet star, beloved by millions for her airship adventures, and the building’s manager. Then there are two boys who don’t live there, but have no other home. Lastly there are the coders, temporary residents on the roof, whose disappearance triggers a sequence of events that threatens the existence of all – and even the long-hidden foundations on which the city rests.

(Editor’s note: YCC republished an interview with Kim Stanley Robinson in April; YCC will publish its own review of New York 2140 – and two other cli-fi novels based in New York City – next month.)

Fragment, by Craig Russell (Thistledown Press 2016, 216 pages, $19.95 paperback)

When avalanching glaciers thrust a massive Antarctic ice sheet into the open ocean, the captain of an atomic submarine must risk his vessel to rescue the survivors of a smashed polar research station; in Washington the President’s top advisor scrambles to spin the disaster to suit his master’s political aims; and meanwhile two intrepid newsmen sail south into the storm-lashed Drake Passage to discover the truth. Onboard the submarine, scientists uncover a secret that will threaten the future of America’s military power and change the fate of humanity. And beneath the human chaos one brave blue whale fights for the survival of his species.

Autumn: A Novel, by Ali Smith (Pantheon Books 2017, 260 pages, $24.95)

The United Kingdom is in pieces, divided by a historic, once-in-a-generation summer. Love is won, love is lost. Hope is hand-in-hand with hopelessness. The seasons roll round, as ever. Autumn is a meditation on a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on richness and worth, on what harvest means. It is the first installment of Ali Smith’s Seasonal quartet – four stand-alone books, separate yet interconnected – and it casts a sharp eye over our own time. Who are we? What are we made of? From Ali Smith’s peerless imagination comes a shape-shifting series, a wide-ranging story about aging and time and love and about stories themselves.

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Mr. Eternity: A Novel, by Aaron Thier (Bloomsbury 2016, 272 pages, $17.00 paperback)

Key West, 2016. Sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying. It’s here that two young filmmakers find something to believe in: an old sailor who calls himself Daniel Defoe and claims to be five hundred and sixty years old. The story unfolds over the course of a millennium, picking up in the sixteenth century in the Viceroyalty of New Granada and continuing into the twenty-sixth, in the future Democratic Federation of Mississippi States. In 2500, the cities of the Atlantic coast are underwater, the union has fallen apart, and cars, plastics, and air conditioning are relegated to history. A genre-bending page-turner, Mr. Eternity is multiple novels in one. Together they form an uncommon work – about our changing planet and its remarkable continuities.

The Sunken Cathedral, by Kate Walbert (Simon & Schuster 2015, 212 pages, $15.00 paperback)

Marie and Simone, survivors of World War II in Europe and friends for decades, are now widows living alone in Chelsea. Helen is an art historian who takes a painting class with Marie and Simone. Sid Morris, their instructor, awakens the interest of both Simone and Marie. Elizabeth is Marie’s upstairs tenant, a woman convinced that others have a secret way of being, a confidence and certainty she lacks. She is increasingly unmoored – baffled by her teenage son, her husband, and the roles she is meant to play. “Strange storms haunt this novel,” in the words of Kirkus Reviews, “as does the fear that New York will soon be underwater.”

(Editor’s note: This is the second of three NYC cli-fi novels YCC will review next month.)

The Book of Joan, by Lidia Yuknavitch (Harper Collins 2017, 267 pages, $26.99)

In the near future, world wars have transformed the earth into a battleground. Out of the ranks rises a charismatic and bloodthirsty cult leader who [creates] a quasi-corporate police state. A group of rebels unites to dismantle his iron rule – galvanized by the heroic song of Joan, a child-warrior who possesses a mysterious force that lives within her and communes with the earth. When Joan is martyred, the consequences are astonishing. The Book of Joan is an explosive work of fiction that considers what it means to be human, the fluidity of sex and gender, and the urgency of art as a means for survival.

(Editor’s note: Also see ‘Cli-fi’ novel retells ‘Joan of Arc’ story, published by YCC.)

Bonus: More cli-fi novels

Don’t forget about the cli-fi novels that have appeared in previous YCC bookshelves, some of which have since been released in paperback:

The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi (Alfred A. Knopf 2015, 371 pages, $16.00 paperback)

Locust Girl: A Lovesong, by Melinda Bobis (Spinifex Press 2016, 179 pages, $24.95 paperback)

The Well: A Novel, by Catherine Chanter (Washington Square Press 2016, 400 pages, $16.00 paperback)

The World Without Us, by Mireille Juchau (Bloomsbury 2016, 320 pages, $13.00 paperback)

The Carbon Diaries, by Saci Lloyd (Holiday House 2009, $5.95 paperback)

Not a Drop to Drink, by Mindy McGinnis (Harper Collins 2013, 380 pages, $9.99 paperback)

600ppm: A Novel of Climate Change, by Clarke W. Owens (Cosmic Egg Books 2015, 243 pages, $16.95 paperback)

Odds Against Tomorrow, by Nathaniel Rich (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2013, 306 pages, $17.00 paperback)

(Editor’s note: This is the third NYC cli-fi novel that YCC will review next month.)

Green Earth: The Science in the Capital Trilogy, revised and abridged edition, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Del Rey Books 2015, 1068 pages, $20.00 paperback)

The Heatstroke Line, by Edward L. Rubin (Sunbury Press 2015, 228 pages, $14.95 paperback)

The Lamentations of Zeno, by Ilija Trojanow (Verso Books 2016, 164 pages, $19.95)

Find Me: A Novel, by Laura Van Den Berg (Farrar, Straus, Giroux 2016, 288 pages, $15.00 pap.)

Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy, by Jeff Vandermeer (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux 2014, 608 pages, $35.00)


Michael Svoboda

Michael Svoboda

Michael Svoboda, Ph.D., is the Yale Climate Connections books editor. He is a professor in the University Writing Program at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he has taught since...