Book: Perihelion Summer

Perihelion Summer

The premise of Perhihelion Summer by Greg Egan involves the Earth’s orbit shifting slightly, resulting in an instant climate crisis.

The ensuing desperation reminds me of Seveneves, another novel dealing with an emergency of astronomical proportions. I love survival stories like these where forward-thinking actors manage to design and execute on an improbable pathway out of doom, and then seeing how existence turns almost exclusively into resourcefulness, and the managing of equipment and knowledge against the perils of time, nature, and human conflict.

I find it exciting to have this story centered on Australia. In a universe where the Northern hemisphere is again privileged, the author places a fully-developed nation and its citizens in the exact same boat as other climate refugees, giving a direct taste of the crisis to those of us (such as us Canadians), who might otherwise believe ourselves to be insulated from the coming effects of climate change.

Both the ensuing denial (“we can manage” / “we have a year’s worth of food in the freezer”) and the government response (“more insulation on your house”, “security drones”) are a nod to our current times, our inaction, distrust, and feeble measures in the face of the coming threat. By designing the world such that climate change is already visible and strikingly in effect for all to see, it lends the portrayed denials a much more ridiculous air, exposing the folly of these various courses of action quite vividly.

By accelerating the crisis, and giving a glimpse of the refugee experience, this book turns a mirror on our own responsibility to act in the climate crisis. Hopefully these lessons can help us better empathize with each other and act with the urgency that is required.