In 1978, I met my wife in The Bronx at a fraternity party. If you lived in the Northeast at that time, 1978 is a year you'll never forget, the year of the great snows. During the winter, New York was hit with three major blizzards in a period of about two weeks, beginning with the infamous Blizzard of 1978 (they're still traumatized north up in Beantown). For the first time in most New Yorker's experience, the snow removal system broke down citywide. As the streets filled with ice and drifts, the side streets, then main roads, became impassible. Cars were locked in place in some areas for several weeks and channels had to be cut in the sidewalks.
Both Mrs. Chapman and myself were young and stupid and insisted on continuing to go out on dates, waiting for buses that only occasionally appeared out of the blowing maelstroms to take us up Fordham Road to the RKO, Valentine, and Loews Paradise movie theaters. Penguins would have had more sense than to wait out in that mess, but such is the power of love.
Of course, no one at the time was terribly surprised by the bad weather. You see, during the 60s and 70s, numerous scientists had assured us that the world was on the verge of another ice age. Only ten thousand years ago, a period when mankind was building the first cities in the Middle East, New York had been locked under five thousand feet of ice. (The Connecticut town I currently live in was estimated to have been entombed under ten thousand feet.) Visits to the Hayden Planetarium and Museum of Natural History periodically had exhibits on previous ice ages and what we might expect when the next one arrived. I remember reading at the time a fun Sci-Fi novel set in the near future, where the entire world has been snowed in and modern day Inuits pursue genetically modified land whales for food and sustenance. The protagonist of the story is heartbroken when the ice starts to melt and his way of life disappears.
Science was on the case, though. I recently saw a brief clip of a climate scientist of the period who'd developed a brilliant program to save civilization. His plan was to increase the amount of carbon we burnt, thus creating a global-wide greenhouse effect that would warm the planet and forestall the glaciers. (I'm too busy to track down the clip, but it's out there and you can Google it.)
I think we should track that fellow down and give him a special Nobel Prize for saving the planet.
Cycle 26, Winter is Here is a taut, exciting thriller set in the near future when the ice returns. The title refers to a theory proposed by British astrophysicists that cyclical sun spot activity means in about 15 years, the earth will enter a new mini-ice age, similar to the ones that impacted the earth during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. I'm not going to get in a argument with the global warming (oops, "change") crowd about the scientific validity of this theory. It's actually impossible to successfully engage with this group intelligently as they have raised the process of cherry picking data, rewriting their theory in real time to account for all possible outcomes, and launching personal attacks on people who disagree with them to a fervored pitch that would do Torquemada proud. Besides, I want to focus on finding that genius who figured out that CO2 is your friend and get him his Nobel.
Cycle 26 is initially set in Chicago and documents the slow collapse of the Windy City as the snow pile in and refuses to leave. This section is perhaps my favorite of the book, as it reminds me of that brutal winter I experienced all those years ago and the glimpse I caught of how a modern urban infrastructure could crumble and die.
Of course, as would happen in real life, society begins to breakdown as food and energy shortages take their toll. The book follows the experiences of climatologist John Snowden (a not too subtle pun) and Amy Callahan as they join the slow, agonizing retreat of civilization from Chicago in the face of the advancing ice line to a last stand in Dallas.
Along the way, as you'd expect from a dystopian novel (and as would happen in real life), a group of desperate refugees known as "Ravagers" emerge out of the collapse to make life miserable for the survivors. The scenes in which Noah and Amy fight them off are well written, exciting, and realistic, not surprising given Dacy's reputation for a stickler's attention to detail in his prose.
To sum up, Cycle 26 is one of those books that once you pick up, you don't put down. And I have to confess I'm thoroughly bored with global warming gloom and doom and found this novel a refreshing icy blast in the face.
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