Fantasy novels captivate me. I could have said, “I like fantasy novels,” but that wouldn’t quite have been right. Rather, a good fantasy novel will entertain me for hours at a time, distract me from work, and even show up in my dreams. Once again, I readily admit how much of a nerd I am.
One of my favorites is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. It’s the first book in a series called The Kingkiller Chronicle, and I just finished listening to it for the second time (I’m an audiobook guy for novels, because they let me “read” when driving and brushing my teeth). I eagerly await the third book in the series, which I hope will be out in 2017 sometime.
I won’t say much about the book, but I do want to share its beginning. The first two lines of the novel are the following:
“It was night again. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.”
Rothfuss goes on to describe those three parts in an almost poetic manner. The first silence was the simple lack of sound, whether from wind or crowd or music. The second silence was the sullen mood of two patrons in the inn, who sat drinking with “quiet determination.” And the third silence was that of the inn’s owner himself (the protagonist of the story), a silence Rothfuss describes as the “patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.”
It’s an ominous beginning, to be sure. This prologue not only sets the mood of the initial chapters of the book, but also offers the foreshadowed whispers of events to come. I think it is a brilliant opening.
My wife recently found a series of three articles that, when I finished reading them, left me with the same ominous feeling that the prologue to The Name of the Wind does. I didn’t care for it.
The article series is called “Carbon’s Casualties” and is found on the New York Times website. You can find each of the three parts here, here and here.
Each article describes a community whose existence is threatened by the changing climate. Native Americans on the coast of Louisiana have seen 90% of their ancestral island wash away since 1955. The tiny Pacific island nation of Kiribati is making plans for how to exist if rising sea levels swallow their country. The Uru-Murato people on Lake Poopó in Bolivia have watched their lake, on which they depend for their livelihood, dry up.
Can scientists declare absolutely that human-induced climate change is the direct cause of the strife in these communities? No, I don’t think so, and in that respect I think the New York Times articles go a bit too far. But I am convinced that there’s a strong chance that climate change is the culprit.
And that’s the real worry to me. These stories are tragically real, regardless of the cause. But with climate change looming as the probable cause, or at least a probable contributor, it means that more tragedies like these are likely coming.
Such a future would be a sad world indeed, and these articles are the foreshadowed whispers of this tragic tale. Fortunately for us though, the story hasn’t been written yet. There’s still time for us to get it right.