I just can't believe that civilization is going to get off the hook that easy. 'The end of civilization'—what end? What civilization, for that matter?...the kind of trouble we got, they aren't allowed to have any end.
It's the year 2031 in Heavy Weather, and perhaps unsurprisingly, things haven't gotten better. Global economies have crashed. Governments hardly function. Currency, communication, and borders have rapidly changed due to the massive changes heavy weather has caused. Once lush and fertile land is now ravaged by drought.
...so that's really what you're doing, huh? You chase thunderstorms for a living these days?
Oh, not for a living.
The book alternates between Jane and Alex Unger. Jane makes her way to Mexico to break out her younger brother Alex from a clinica. Alex is billed to the reader as having a lot of problems, not entirely uncommon after the collapse of 1st world nations as we know them. Alex ostensibly suffers from a myriad of retroviruses and Jane, believing the clinica is ripping him off and not curing him at all, decides to bail him out.
...the code was cryptware—it reencrypted itself every goddamn month and demanded a payoff before unfreezing.
During the State Of Emergency, when the heavy weather first became a huge problem for mankind after constantly disregarding climate problems, almost all data and information systems went down. Society collapsed as countries were not prepared to deal with massive climate swings, some people decided to take matters into their own hands. Calling them "Structure hits", people would take down buildings that contributed to global warming and other systemic problems. Hell had a structure. It had a texture. The spinning inner walls were a blurry streaky gas, and a liquid rippling sheen, and a hard black wobbling solid, all at once. Great bulging rhythmical waves of hollows of peristalsis were creeping up the funnel core, slow and dignified, like great black smoke rings in the throat of a deep thinker.
The concept of hacking has undergone a bit of a change as well. "Hacking" seems to refer to any modifications to anything at all. From kites to ornithopters and especially--to heavy weather. After Jane breaks out Alex they return to the Storm Troupe. This band of misfits chase "spikes" in weather in an attempt to gather more information on it. Still little is known about it, apparently, but this troupe, each with their own way of hacking something, aim to find the mother of all tornadoes: the f6.
I hack kites...Balloons, chaff, ultralights, parafoils...chutes are my favourite though, I like to structure-jump.
Throughout the novel, we find out that there are still spooks working for what is left of a functioning government. There are still border guards but they don't really care about the imaginary line on the ground anymore. Technology is still somewhat futuristic but not typically cyberpunk, ie, there are no cybernetics. There is no Internet, either. People live poorly and barely survive. All that is left is the individual drives people have. These punks only care about money in so far as how it can help them better hack heavy weather.
...all workable standards of wealth has vaporized, digitized, and into a nonstop hurricane of electronic thing air.
This is where the book really shines. The world building, the technology, and the fiction specifically about these storm chasers and how they hack them is very cool. They use ultralight manned drones to scout out ahead. There are ornithopters with tech that casts the cameras feed into the helmeted view of people piloting them back at camp. When they send these into the tornado to "punch the core", they gain even more data. It's exciting and interesting.
As the Emergency had deepened, the packing Regime had rammed its data nationalizations through Congress, and with that convulsive effort, the very nature of money and information had both mutated beyond any repair.
Things lag a bit with character work, which is for the most part good. Marrying speculative climate change fiction with cyberpunk is genius and the characters mostly do the premise justice. Jane is a pretty well realized female protagonist but also used as the main vehicle for communicating her main drive, hunting these storms, is really the only thing that defines her. The troupers all substitute some aspects of their lives and only feel like truly functioning human beings when they are being adrenaline junkies, all other wannabees who don't feel the same way never stay.
There is no more alternative society. Just people who will probably survive and people who probably won't.
This idea that Jane can only be whole while she is pursuing something only somewhat works due to the books ending, which I was pretty lukewarm about. The sins of the previous generation are visited upon the next generation of people. There are too many people in the world for it to sustain it. You're still only useful if you can contribute the way they want you to, despite it being post-capitalism and a mostly dystopia world.
It's me alright, it's very much part of me, but it's not something I'm in command of and I don't control it. It's like a force, a compulsion, that tears at things, and shreds them, and chops them up, and comprehends them, and I don't control it, and I never have. I can't. You understand?
Yes. I do understand. It's like a spike, inside.
These are all somewhat interesting things to explore but they always end up on the peripheral and feel a little bit weird when injected. It wants to say so much more and sometimes comments on misogyny in organizations like the Texas Rangers, as well as what is expected of women like Jane. But this is mostly Twister with cyberpunk aesthetic and an interesting bit of speculation. It doesn't have the deep questions good cyberpunk fiction often has along with the action. It's too bad because it does dip its toes, it just never gets in.
We were just trying to kill the machinery. Get rid of it. All that junk that had killed our world, y'know?
The world and the action is worth the cost of admission and it is a fast read. This concept inspired a whole new game design I've been working on, in tandem with other fiction. More speculative fiction on climate issues married with post-cyberpunk is something I would love to see more of.
You can nab the hardcover of paperback cheap these days, interestingly though, you cannot get it digitally.
Even the blackest cloud has a chrome lining.