Monday, 22 August 2016

600ppm: A life changing novel by Clarke W Owens, reviewed by Diana Milne

Arguably the most stunning, far reaching and influential book I have ever read, 600ppm is told in a simple, friendly way but has a hard hitting punch of a message that has thumped me where it hurts.

The protagonist (from Ancient Greek πρωταγωνιστής (protagonistes), meaning "player of the first part, chief actor") is twenty six year old Jeff Claymarker and he tells the story in an intimate manner that made me feel that he was talking with me over coffee. I immediately warmed to him and felt I could trust him, a trust not misplaced, as I discovered when events unfolded.

The author Clarke W. Owens lives in Ohio, USA and writes fiction, poetry and prose. His work has appeared in a number of literary journals.

600rpm is an unusual choice of book for me to read as it probably would go under the genre of Science Fiction, something that I generally avoid, but Owens presents this story, which is set in the future as something that will happen - and indeed, it, or a variation of it, is very likely.

It is 2051. Global warming has flooded eastern U.S. coastal cities. The West is a waterless desert. Refugees migrate northward. Food and water are tightly rationed amid endless war. When Jeff Claymarker's friend is wrongly convicted of murder, the only clue to the truth comes from a stash of flash drives belonging to Jeff's late uncle, a Washington climate scientist. As Jeff unravels the crime, he stumbles across a state secret that threatens to topple the government.
Twenty-five years previously, the U.S. Congress, at the behest of corporate oligarchs, deliberately stifled scientific information warning of the catastrophes of global warming which have now come to pass: flooded southern and eastern U.S. coastal cities, a desertified West, northward-migrating refugees, rationed food and water, endless war with the Caliphate. Naive Jeff Claymarker, watches extinct species on Wild Beast World and listens to right wing broadcasts from the charismatic loud mouthed Wesley Wright, whose arguments seems compelling to many people until forced to face the fact that the truth was not what the populace were being led to believe.

Despite all the trials and tribulations that happen to Jeff and people he knows, Jeff remains positive and does his best to ensure a better future for the little daughter he unexpectedly finds himself with custody of.

What other people say:

This is an important book, and it has helped me to shift my own thinking about Climate Change. Set in Ohio in 2052 (sic), it paints a realistic future of what will happen if we ignore todays' climate trends: Wildfires have destroyed the west; the south is a desert wasteland, the east coast is disappearing as oceans advance, and refugees are streaming north. Thunderstorms darken the sky's of Ohio and torrential rain it the normal weather. And yes, life goes on...and a man is framed for murder. Placing a murder mystery in the middle of this grim future USA was a brilliant idea. And if hope lies anywhere, it is with decent people who are resilient. Please read this book, and share it with your friends! We need to talk about these things.
Although I have been an avid reader all my life, in recent years I have gravitated more towards non-fiction, with a concentration on history, politics and travel essays. Nevertheless, I recently finished a novel that made such an impression on me that I am compelled to write this review. The book is 600 ppm: A Novel of Climate Change by Clarke W. Owens.
It is obvious that the author is a big believer in global warming being caused by man’s negative impact on the world’s atmosphere. I do not necessarily agree entirely with this hypothesis. I believe that climate change is cyclical in nature and has existed for thousands of years. The author does, however make an excellent case for the exaggeration of normal climate change being caused by the human race’s thoughtless practices of conducting business without regard for anything other than the almighty dollar. By crafting a suspenseful, intriguing storyline, the author is able to “force feed” a skeptical reader an enormous amount of evidence regarding climate change that would otherwise be boring if presented in the form of a statistics report.
600 ppm is a thrilling “who done it” that also describes the effect of climate change on future generations. The reader is forced to imagine and consider the food shortages, water rationing and diminished sunlight hours resulting from climate change, regardless of what may be causing it. The future of mankind living with such extremes was ably described by the author thoroughly and convincingly with his story telling abilities.
This passage taken directly from the book seems to speak directly to me:

“...the truth is not what it appears in news sources. It’s hidden away. It flashes to the surface once in a while, like a fish rising to suck up a water fly. But then it descends again, down into the deep. And if someone wants it they have to look at yesterday’s stories...
The truth is not a thing for Everyman, Mr. Claymarker. Everyman doesn’t want to do any work to get it ...
I was the only one who cared about the truth coming out. That was important to realize because I knew ... I was Nobody. And that meant Nobody was interested in the truth.”

With echoes of Twain, Vonnegut, Dickens, and Salinger, Owens’ book has changed my view of global warming entirely. After many years of friendship with the late Dr Dick (Richard) Morgan of Nova Scotia, Climatologist and global warming skeptic, I have never read anything that has convincingly made me question my beliefs and reappraise scientific evidence, for and against before.

After reading this masterfully told story, my views have been altered radically.

About the author:
Clarke W. Owens' first serious publication was in 1977, when a poem won a contest prize. MA creative writing from UC Davis 1976, studied fiction with Diane Johnson (Le Divorce; screenplay for The Shining, etc.) and poetry with Pulitzer winners Karl Shapiro and Richard Eberhart.  Later, PhD, JD. Many publications in literary journals, member of Academy of American Poets, listed in Poets & Writers Directory. Short story, "Survivors" will appear soon in anthology of climate fiction by Sunbury Press. "600ppm" is first novel, second book. Two more novels in pipeline. is his web site, which has buy links.

About the reviewer:
Diana Milne is an avid amateur historian and erstwhile author, better known as d.arcadian, letterpress seller extraordinaire.

1 comment:

  1. Great review Diana, I'd love to win a copy of this book!