reading: termination shock

termination shock

  • author: neal stephenson
  • ISBN: 0063028050
  • personal rating: 4/5

misc. notes

i burned through this about as quickly as a grown-ass man with other responsibilities is able to. it’s a pretty solid and fun stephenson ride. as far as fiction goes, i enjoyed it immensely.

there’s quite a bit to dig into. but frustratingly, for me, it falls a bit short on the range of impacts and options out there. i suspect this might be a function of having read more world building cli-fi from kim stanley robinson. even so, there are some reasonable projections and thought-provoking stuff that emerge from this latest tome.

random bits

  • the united states is relegated to a dysfunctional also ran on the world stage, with limited ability to project any useful international influence other than to pull out the odd lead-lined bulldozer. this is useful in allowing rogue texas billionaires to do their thing. we’re really not too far off from this.
  • multi-copter drones are everywhere and their use in military applications is a forgone conclusion. battery life is, predictably, a continuous problem.
  • live-streaming soft conflict for political aims is also a source of sport, both for fantasy sports as well as gambling sport.
  • much of what we assume is solid and durable engineering in low-lying countries is really no-longer up to the task for which it was initially intended. this seems obvious, but we hold up the great barriers outside the thames and the netherlands as shining examples of massive scale engineering that may save life and property.
  • much like in “ministry for the future” countries will take matters into their own hands in order to try and minimize the effects of climate change locally.
  • we will likely see the emergence of some really odd (political) bedfellows as the climate starts to to wreak havoc on the world at large. the emerges in the book as function of local/national politics, but if folks start tinkering with the world’s climate the ripple effects could make for some interesting alliances.
  • the economics of some geoengineering schemes are surprisingly compelling. you can see why folks would find this so appealing, particularly from the right.
  • there’s little / no discussion of the potential for eco-terrorism to influence things in the world more broadly.
  • like most of stephenson’s books, this is a book focused on doers. in this case executing on massive scale with an odd and acutely limited take on the political landscape that would emerge from the actions of the protagonists. this is assumed to be swirling around the actors in the book, ok.
  • there’s something compelling about someone with sufficient resources attempting to cut through the morass of inaction that we see from world leaders today. i’m not saying it’s a good idea, but it seems like a domain rife for exploitation by less scrupulous actors on the left, where people are jonesing for something to get done here.


none. skimming through the reviews more broadly, it seems clear to me that folks take sci-fi and cli-fi a little too seriously in terms of their expectations.

i enjoyed the read as a piece of really entertaining fiction. it doesn’t change my mind on the conclusions i’ve personally reached on the topic, but it’s totally worth reading for its entertainment and brain-food value.


  • location: minneapolis,mn
  • weather: ☁️(Shower in vicinity) +28°F