REVIEW: "Cooling Chaos" by Gregory Benford

Review of Gregory Benford, “Cooling Chaos”, Analog Science Fiction and Fact March/April (2020): 117–122 (Kindle) – Purchase Here. Reviewed by John Atom.

Contains spoilers.

A group of scientists and engineers come up with a measure of last resort to combat climate change: an aerosol spray that will reflect sunlight back into space. This new invention is first tested locally to cool down cities and prevent forest fires, before it is applied on a global scale in the Artic and the Antarctic. Despite some political opposition, the effort succeeds, ushering new hope for the future.

This is a speculative piece through and through, with little to none of what may be considered “science fiction.” I very much appreciated Benford’s highly realistic depiction of of the science, including the provided reference at the end which should be accessible by anyone. However, as a work of fiction there is hardly a story here. A big chunk of the text consists of preachy exposition of what has happened, or will happen, to Earth as a result of climate change, and how the proposed technology will fix it. Though informative to many, the overall result is rather uninspiring given the lackluster plot and characters. Not to say hard to get through. The readers will benefit a lot more from Benford’s fact article in the same issue, “Veiling the Earth,” to which this is presented as a companion piece.

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