REVIEW: Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, Genre: Fiction, Pages: 230, Reading Level: Easy

Book Description:

“Seventeen-year-old Penelope (Pen) has lost everything- her home, her parents, and her ten-year-old brother. Like a female Odysseus in search of home, she navigates a dark world full of strange creatures, gathers companions and loses them, finds love and loses it, and faces her mortal enemy.

In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.”

WARNING: THIS BOOK CONTAINS HOMOSEXUAL AND TRANSEXUAL ELEMENTS. IF THAT BOTHERS YOU, I RECOMMEND YOU SKIP THIS BOOK.

Definitely an interesting book. However, the summary will not prepare you for some of the details. It is obviously inspired by Homer’s The Odyssey, but the moving around from post-apocalyptic scene to post-apocalyptic scene kind of reminded me of Escape from L.A. I LOVE that movie!

Pen has survived an apocalyptic event and eventually finds it necessary to leave her home, venturing out into the unknown. At that point, she discovers that there are genetically engineered giants in the world along with a whole host of individuals with supernatural abilities- nothing super hero-ish, more subtle, like being able to mesmerize a giant with musical abilities, seeing the past of others’ lives, etc. There are a couple of more powerful ones, but most of it is rather tame.

So yes, Global Warming is absolutely based on The Odyssey. The main character’s name is Penelope, which is also the name of Odysseus’ wife. The dog’s name is Argos, the same city where Perseus was king. The bad guy’s name is Kronen, obviously derived by Kronos, the youngest of the Titans, who overthrows his father and is in turn overthrown by his son, Zeus. The Sirens sort of make an appearance. There are many more references, and most likely many I don’t recognize because it has been a long time since I have read The Odyssey.

Onto the story…

Right away, I found a haunting quote:

Had my friends run screaming, barefoot in their pajamas, from their houses into the street? If I listened, could I have heard their voices beneath the crash of the surf? Had they been killed in their sleep? Were they conscious when it happened, were they in pain? p9.

The reason I find that quote so compelling is because that is exactly what I imagine would go through my mind. I wouldn’t be able to keep me thoughts away from that. It would seep into my dreams, creating nightmares. Indeed I am sometimes haunted by those thoughts now, about total strangers involved in disasters. Block successfully captures this particular torment.

I found the writing to be quite good. It flows well; I did not notice any choppiness. The character development is good and I liked the characters. There was one aspect I found interesting but about which I have not yet made up mind exactly what I think- The book begins with a scene that occurs later in the story; I mean word for word. Block took a couple of pages from later in the book and duplicated them at the very beginning. It is like after the beginning scene of a movie, words appear that say something like, “3 days earlier…” As I said, it was interesting.

I do have one small criticism- sometimes Block gets a little preachy. Not often, but you’ll be reading along and then something tickles your neck. Most of the time it is quite subtle, for example:

When I wake up my whole body hurts, like poison has been injected into my veins. I wonder if the planet feels like this after everything we’ve put her through. p71

I guess that should not be unexpected; the title of the book is Love in the Time of Global Warming, after all. But then you run into something like:

And I do not know what it’s like to be angry. I used to get so angry at Congress and the banks, the bankers fighting with my father on the phone, the racists and homophobes on TV, the slaughter of animals, the poisoning of the water and the air, the burned-through ozone, the refusal to legislate on behalf of the helpless planet. Sometimes I’d take that anger out on my mom and my brother, the people I loved the most. But Then, during Then, I never picked up a weapon; I never harmed anyone, not even bugs. p149

Subtle as a sledgehammer, right? And then there’s the Bank of the Apocalypse, which:

…balances atop a pile of ruin-rubble and clean-sucked human bones. p198

Come on, I can’t possibly be the only person who sees what’s going on with that one. That one is quite obvious, don’t you think? It’s even less subtle than the sledgehammer. I wonder if Block was part of that march on Wall Street.

Moving right along…

There is a lot in here I am sure I am missing. For example, why the twins are named after T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, but the Eliot twin dies while the Ezra twin lives. I’m sure there is some statement in this detail, especially since Ezra Pound was the poet who was a fascist sympathizer during World War II, although Eliot was accused of anti-Semitism. Is Block implying that in a post-apocalyptic world, might is now necessary? Or is it just intended to be a contrast between Ezra Pound’s fascism and Ez’s gentle nature? Or I am just imagining a hidden meaning? That’s always possible.

Love in the Time of Global Warming is an intriguing and intelligent story. I will eventually purchase it so I can read it over and over, gaining more insight with each re-reading. Keeping the warning above in mind, I do recommend this book.

Reviewed by Christina
October 5, 2013

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