The Wandering Island Factory
by TR Nowry.
The title has shades of Roald Dahl about it, that deceive the inner eye. In the grand science-fiction tradition of Jules Verne, the hero of the story is a new technological marvel, conceivably just round the corner, if not completely round the bend, from present engineering capabilities. The 21st-century Propeller Island, to which the title might allude, is a manufactured floating island of lava piped into solid interlocking blocks of pumice, lighter than water but immensely strong.Eventually, even pumice will sink and break up, unless somehow impregnably water-proofed and reinforced against hundred foot waves. Like every good science-fiction writer, he knows how to sweep past the main practical objection, in a sentence, buried amongst all the plausible circumstantial construction details of this prestige project.
The story takes its time, thru a long slow development of man trying to get by, and get along with a mate. Will patient devotion pay off? Will the jobs and the money and the relationship run out? Jules Verne would never get us down with such mundane considerations.
Like TR Nowry, Verne (From The Earth To The Moon) was aware of the shortcomings of the solar science of his day, before solar fusion was understood. Whereas Nowry picks up on the respectable alternative science hypothesis that climate change is mainly dependent on fluctuations in solar radiation, connected with sunspot activity. (Veteran popular science writer, Nigel Calder co-wrote a book with one of its leading scientists.)
As the seas rise, under global warming, a sort of Swiss family Robinson embark on a miniature version of floating volcanic island, in a basalt block of a boat. In this way, they seek to avert the worst effects of the solar apocalypse. They are perhaps as much a danger to themselves as is global warming. The heroine has a “morning cough.” All of them are more or less heavy smokers of “cancer sticks,” as cigarettes are aptly described in the story. It will transpire that the author is as addicted to those cancer sticks for the planet, of uranium fuel rods.
The heat from the volcanic rock of an artificial island can be harnessed (with steam turbines) to generate electricity. More permanently, geothermal (or hydrothermal) energy can be created by the difference in heat between surface water and cool ocean depths. (The thermodynamics of the Carnot heat engine.)
The author suggests that the resulting surface cooling effect might prevent the onshore devastation of hurricanes.
However, the author or narrative character deprecates wave power. Wind turbines, he insists on calling “unsightly” “windmills,” like any propagandist for nuclear power.
Of a rising sea level, drowning nuclear power reactors, needing water cooling by sea or river, all the narrator can say is that he doesn’t see any three-eyed fish.
While politicians are regarded as totally unscrupulous as money sharks, and no cynicism is spared for human folly, the narrator promotes uranium reactors - forever poisoning the planet to drive turbines a few decades - instead of allowing the wind to drive turbines for free. People are indeed strange.
(review of free book)