Book Review: Star’s Reach, by John Michael Greer

Link to Kindle version.

This is one of the best global warming fiction books I have read.

It is set in what is left of the United States a couple of hundred years in the future. All the fossil fuel is burnt, all the ice is gone, sea levels are much higher, and there is not much left of modern technology.

People walk long distances to travel, or ride horses if they are rich.

The main character Trey is a “ruinman”, which is the profession of going into old buildings and trying to find scraps left over from the collapse of civilization. Mostly metal.

And the story is a quest for “Star’s Reach”, which is the most famous ruin yet not found by anybody. Every ruinman’s big dream is to get a piece of this dig.

Eventually Trey finds the Star’s Reach. And he finds that humans have successfully communicated with multiple alien races too far away to ever actually visit, or have them visit Earth.

One interesting point was that in those communications, some of the aliens mentioned the “usual mistake”, which seems to be burning all the fossil fuel. And some of the alien civilizations are even worse off than humanity as a consequence of that usual mistake.

The humans are not off too bad. They disapprove of burning fossil fuel (there is a scene where someone is buried alive for burning some natural gas). But their society is functioning. People can walk the roads without being robbed. The ruinmen are organized in guilds and have excellent relations with each other. People have a great time every year when the rains start falling, with lots of parties.

One of the characters wants to make sure that the old errors are not repeated. And much of society is wired against the ways of the old civilization.

I am not quite sure that there is a need for that. If all the fossil fuel is burned, it will take millions of years to form again, and it will be impossible to repeat the “usual mistake”, even if there were no objections.

All in all, this is a rather optimistic view of the future after the carbon party is over.

The story proceeds in a non-linear way. The order of pages and the order of things happening in the story is not the same. It jumps all over the time line. It is as if the author, who holds the title of “archdruid”, was writing the book in the order of the things he wanted most to write, and didn’t bother to change the order back to a linear progression once he was done with that.

But that worked rather well for me with this book. I may want to try this myself for one of my next novels.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

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