"The Deluge" | Reviewed by William Winkler
Novelist Stephen Markley is a graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop. His first novel, “Ohio,” is set in his native state and deals with the dissolution of societal norms and the potential damage to life as we know it. His most recent work, “The Deluge,” set in the decades of the near future, deals with impending disaster driven by the twin engines of accelerating climate change and the persistent depravity of the worldwide political system.
Markley uses an extensive cast of characters to populate his novel. We are first introduced to Dr. Anthony Pietrus, whose book explaining the devastating effects of the release of methane from melting lattice-like structures on the earth’s ocean floors would have a dramatically greater impact on the climate than all of the greenhouse gasses produced by fossil fuels. The book was met with scorn and derision by many in the scientific community, but its impact propelled Dr. Pietrus into the forefront of climate change debate, a position he holds throughout the two decades of the novel’s narrative span.
We meet Kate Morris, radical climate activist, whose idealistic vision of methods to reverse the looming global meltdown is first benevolent and peaceful, but transforms over the years to more aggressive and ultimately violent behavior.
And we meet disturbing characters such as The Pastor, former actor turned quasi-religious charismatic leader, who seeks the presidency of the United States. The Pastor churns his followers into a riotous froth with rhetoric promising “the destruction of Islam,” and a return to “authentic Christian values,”
At nearly 900 pages, this novel includes a great deal of research into the economic and political issues stemming from the rapid warming of the earth’s surface and the resulting worldwide displacement of millions of people. A host of secondary characters come and go, and Markley is skillful enough to leave clues to their past involvement in the story.
The novel paints a dreary picture of the economic decay that descends most heavily on the lower and middle economic classes, especially minorities and people of color. And in jarring contrast, those in the more affluent segments of society seem to be affected very little if at all.
This is a book that will require a bit of commitment for a reader to make it through to the end. Some readers will be distressed by the bits of graphic violence that rise up from time to time. And some readers will be disturbed by what appears to be a vast underestimation of the financial cost required to stem the onslaught of global warming. But for those who are able to persist, there is hope in the telling, and a feeling that Markley has confidence in the ability of humankind to rise to the challenge that threatens its existence.