Cory Doctorow: The Lost Cause (Paperback, 2023, Doherty Associates, LLC, Tom) 4 stars

It’s thirty years from now. We’re making progress, mitigating climate change, slowly but surely. But …

Meaningful and engaging exploration of near future climate activism

4 stars

While some sold it as "solarpunk," I'm not sure it fits this genre. Brooks, the "hero" character, is emotionally complex, but eternally falls on optimism. And his comrades generally seem to share an upbeat nature. Near future southern California is hot, plagued by fires, and dealing with the fallout of MAGA racists and their "plut", cryptocurrency allies, a broader swath of "decent people", and the leftist activists that are trying to create change in the face of climate catastrophe that leaves many internally displaced persons. A few characters add some political complexity, but there's an overall "us vs them" equation that lays the foundation for the book. It reads like a few others of Doctorow's books (Walkaway in mind), where there's a constant back and forth between positive, hopeful movement, and reactionary destruction. It shares with other solarpunk (1) a lot of talk about solar and carbon neutral or negative technologies, and (2) a general optimism in the face of difficult climate situations. Unlike much other solarpunk, this isn't a further off future, where significant transformation has changed political, social and cultural grounds. It is instead a near future, where the political debates remain (realistically, I think) in relatively similar terrain. Unlike "The Ministry for the Future", Doctorow doesn't get lost in scalar storytelling ranging from micro to macro transformation. Instead, the focus is on the change that could be made at a small level, in one place, by a group of committed activists. I think the book is meant to leave you hopeful, and I can see how it could do. However, unlike The Ministry for the Future, Becky Chambers' novels, or other Solarpunk, this book feels like it lands solidly in more realistic science fiction. It was a rich romp with some fun ideas (I love the notion that AI combined with open source does something useful and makes it possible for lay people to collectively redesign neighborhoods and communities) and, I think, a decent read on near future politics. And, as I often do, I find myself appreciating Doctorow's political bent, including his thorough investigations into "plut" culture and the cryptocurrency political hellscape.