“Termination Shock” is not just a sci-fi thriller, it’s also considered a “climate thriller” and “techno-thriller,” revolving around the issue of global warming and climate change in the not-so-distant future.
Author Neal Stephenson, based in Seattle, sets the more than 700-page novel in Texas with a cast of characters ranging from the Queen of the Netherlands to a Texas cowboy. Stephenson will speak as part of a Wisconsin Book Festival event later this month.
Q: What type of research, or where did you have to go intellectually or creatively, to picture the world you describe in “Termination Shock”?
A: It was very interesting because of COVID. I had a program of places I wanted to visit because of this book and I was able to hit a few of them in 2019 because the project was getting started. But then COVID just made it impossible to travel to some of the places I wanted to go. And that kind of ended up feeding back into the story of the book. I ended up crossing some of the locations off my list and making other decisions.
Q: COVID seems to play a small but consistent part throughout the book — multiple variants and mentions of deaths. How did you decide how large of a roll to give the virus?
A: I sort of went back and forth on that a little bit. At the very beginning of (writing) the book (it was) pre-COVID, no one had heard of it. It started to take on a bigger role as I was working on the book in 2020, but as time went on I felt that I was sort of over-doing and beating a dead horse in a certain sense. Not that it’s not hugely important, I didn’t feel as though it was adding anything that people didn’t already know. The main way it informs the book now, it’s a thing that happened to some of the characters. One character loses a spouse, another character who participated in relief efforts for COVID patients and got the disease himself and lost his sense of smell. I think that’s a reasonable and accurate response to how people will (view the virus) five to 10 years down the road.