To say that this might be the most important book to emerge about each of the twin emergencies of the climate and politics may sound hyperbolic, but what Stephen Markley has been able to accomplish with The Deluge is nothing short of brilliant. Opening in 2013 and setting a course over the next quarter century Markley traces seven characters (and a few dozen important additional players) as they attempt to turn the tide on the climate crisis, which also is inherently tied to the crises of democracy in the final throes of the carbon lobbying industrial complex (which, obviously, is purely directed by late-stage capitalism).
There are obvious real-world touchpoints to previous cli-fi books like Richard Powers’ The Overstory, and Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, but as I finished this book the most apt corollary that I could find was to Alan Moore’s The Watchmen. Like Moore’s text, The Deluge feels overwhelmingly prescient in detailing the collapse of a society on the edge and the rise and rise of fringe groups that run the gamut of extremes.
At times in this book the climate was a stand in for much of the current ills of humanity (sub in any topic making headlines from school shootings to racial injustice and it would be just as poignant); that Markley is able to make climate emergency both a metaphor and a pillar of the story is just one of many virtues of this powerful work and part of it’s staying power. It dives into the intricate workings of how the government, scientists, non-profits, the oil industry, and radical environmental groups all seemingly at times have the same end goal: curbing climate change, but beyond their differing approach, their methods are simply madness to each other’s points of view. The reason why no one can come together and agree on even the simplest of matters is a large part of what Markley is exploring here: how the Left does nothing better than eat its own and the Right can only foment violence to support its inherent goal of maintaining the “founders” vision of Christian white supremacy; meanwhile lobbying groups, Wall Street, businesses, and banking continue to veneer their image while creating an ever deepening well of indifference as long as the capital keeps flowing.
While reading this book you will think that Markley is exaggerating or being hyperbolic to make his point, and then you’ll spend five minutes doom scrolling social media and realize that he is not at all - that real life is just as much a nightmare as parts of this book depict. He is just allowing us to view into the future to see what will most likely happen in the next 15 years with increasing technological innovation feeding the polarizing attitudes of billions of people. And it’s not about “if we don’t do anything” because we’re already past the tipping point; it’s about how can we look beyond our own belief systems to see the larger problems looming on the horizon? The catastrophes he describes in The Deluge are already here for much of the world, it’s just a question of how long will it take us before we decisively act on what scientists have been forecasting since the 1970s?
“Be prepared to get hooked on page one! Markley brings climate change, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and our democracy’s future to the fore. Anyone that loved Stephen King’s The Stand, get ready to be blown away by this epic.”
— Jan Danielson Kaiser, Beaverdale Books, Des Moines, IA
“This book is, simply put, a modern classic. If you read it, you'll never forget it. Prophetic, terrifying, uplifting.” —Stephen King
From the bestselling author of Ohio, a masterful American epic charting a near future approaching collapse and a nascent but strengthening solidarity.
In the first decades of the 21st century, the world is convulsing, its governments mired in gridlock while a patient but unrelenting ecological crisis looms. America is in upheaval, battered by violent weather and extreme politics. In California in 2013, Tony Pietrus, a scientist studying deposits of undersea methane, receives a death threat. His fate will become bound to a stunning cast of characters—a broken drug addict, a star advertising strategist, a neurodivergent mathematician, a cunning eco-terrorist, an actor turned religious zealot, and a brazen young activist named Kate Morris, who, in the mountains of Wyoming, begins a project that will alter the course of the decades to come.
From the Gulf Coast to Los Angeles, the Midwest to Washington, DC, their intertwined odysseys unfold against a stark backdrop of accelerating chaos as they summon courage, galvanize a nation, fall to their own fear, and find wild hope in the face of staggering odds. As their stories hurtle toward a spectacular climax, each faces a reckoning: what will they sacrifice to salvage humanity’s last chance at a future? A singular achievement, The Deluge is a once-in-a-generation novel that meets the moment as few works of art ever have.
About the Author
Stephen Markley is the acclaimed author of Ohio, which NPR called a “masterpiece.” A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Markley’s other books include the memoir Publish This Book and the travelogue Tales of Iceland.
"The best novel I read in 2022 was THE DELUGE, by Stephen Markley... This is what the world is going to look like in the next 10 years, if changes aren't made. More terrifying than THE STAND. Because it's real."—Stephen King, on Twitter
"Immersive and ambitious, [The Deluge] shows the range of its author’s gifts: polyphonic narration, silken sentences and elaborate world-building.”—New York Times Book Review
"An astonishing feat of procedural imagination, narrative construction and scientific acumen."—Los Angeles Times
"A clear-eyed, climate-justice-minded page-turner. . . . Stephen Markley’s new novel is part thriller, part horror, part all-too-real. It’s scary, instructive and also entertaining."—Washington Post
"This book is destined to be a classic and needs to be read by anyone who can get their hands on it.... THE DELUGE is ultimately a feel-good work that will leave readers reeling from the amount of information that has been dissected and shared." —Book Reporter
“Markley’s dark depiction of the near future is filled with vivid descriptions of climate catastrophes, but his intricate network of complex characters balances precision with pathos, offering a kaleidoscopic view of humanity’s fraught relationship with its changing planet.”—Scientific American
"This is a stunning achievement that may earn a place among dystopian and apocalyptic classics like 1984 and On the Beach. And perhaps most of all, it’s an unflinching and utterly compelling call to action to prevent an all-too-possible future."—Library Journal (starred review)
“In this brilliant dystopian epic... [Markley's] nuanced characterizations of individuals with different approaches to the existential threat make the perils they encounter feel real as they navigate cover-ups and lies. It’s a disturbing tour de force.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"An ambitious rendering of a forbidding future and the public and private challenges that will define it."—Kirkus
“[A]mbitious, sprawling… a demanding but worthwhile read.”—Booklist
"What makes you not want to put it down, is you care about the people in the book" —Seth Meyers
“A ferocious, spectacular achievement. A masterful beast of intellect and heart.?Markley should take his place as a visionary of our time.” —Merritt Tierce, author of Love Me Back
“A major achievement, bountifully imagined. Unquestionably one of the best novels to grapple with the climate crisis. I am haunted by it.”— Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Brief History of the Dead
“A stunning and comprehensive view of a future that is both impressively imagined and terrifyingly imminent.”—Fatima Farheen Mirza, author of A Place For Us
“Engrossing and timely. A towering achievement in style and substance that is at once timeless and impossibly urgent.”—Ben Philippe, author of Charming as a Verb
“The Deluge is not just an impressively well-thought-out and all-too-realistic catalog of the ways in which the climate crisis might mutate into something much worse; it's also a page-turner packed with no shortage of thrills or heart.”—Sean Adams, author of The Heap
“A masterclass of climate fiction. This barnstormer of a book is a must-read.”—Nana Nkweti, author of Walking on Cowrie Shells
“A seminal novel and a singular achievement. The Deluge is sure to take a place alongside such great environmental books as The Overstory, The Shell Collector, Barkskins, Flight Behavior and so many others.”—Bill Cusumano, Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi
“An epic work of great ambition, Stephen Markley’s The Deluge is unyielding; it marvels and it mortifies. Few books in a lifetime will make you feel as this one must and while full of every kind of blooming horror, Markley’s magnum opus is as engulfing as it is earnest.”—Jeremy Garber, Powells, Portland Oregon
“A terrifyingly imagined future, made all the more believable by the real characters in the not so distant past and present. An important book.”—Bobbi Irving, Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley, Pennsylvania
“One of those rare novels that manages to be deeply informative and a page-turner at the same time, The Deluge takes us on an intrigue-laden journey into a possible future that is truthful with regard to both the urgency and agency that exists today in addressing the climate crisis.”—Michael Mann, Presidential Distinguished Professor, University of Pennsylvania and author of “The New Climate War”