Blue Skies: A Novel (Hardcover)
"Boyle’s satire has lost none of its edge over the course of a nearly half-century literary career . . . [Blue Skies is] an expert blend of suspense, terror and, occasionally, very black humor . . . this fiercely honest writer shows us what he sees and invites his readers to draw their own conclusions." —Wendy Smith, Washington Post
From best-selling novelist T. C. Boyle, a satirical yet ultimately moving send-up of contemporary American life in the glare of climate change.
“Boyle has long been one of the most exciting and intelligent storytellers in the United States.” —Ron Charles, Washington Post
Denied a dog, a baby, and even a faithful fiancé, Cat suddenly craves a snake: a glistening, writhing creature that can be worn like “jewelry, living jewelry” to match her black jeans. But when the budding social media star promptly loses the young “Burmie” she buys from a local pet store, she inadvertently sets in motion a chain of increasingly dire and outrageous events that comes to threaten her very survival.
“Brilliantly imaginative . . . in a terrifying way” (Annie Proulx), Blue Skies follows in the tradition of T. C. Boyle’s finest novels, combining high-octane plotting with mordant wit and shrewd social commentary. Here Boyle, one of the most inventive voices in contemporary fiction, transports us to water-logged and heat-ravaged coastal America, where Cat and her hapless, nature-loving family—including her eco-warrior parents, Ottilie and Frank; her brother, Cooper, an entomologist; and her frat-boy-turned-husband, Todd—are struggling to adapt to the “new normal,” in which once-in-a-lifetime natural disasters happen once a week and drinking seems to be the only way to cope.
But there’s more than meets the eye to this compulsive family drama. Lurking beneath the banal façade of twenty-first-century Californians and Floridians attempting to preserve normalcy in the face of violent weather perturbations is a caricature of materialist American society that doubles as a prophetic warning about our planet’s future. From pet bees and cricket-dependent diets to massive species die-off and pummeling hurricanes, Blue Skies deftly explores the often volatile relationships between humans and their habitats, in which “the only truism seems to be that things always get worse.”
An eco-thriller with teeth, Boyle’s Blue Skies is at once a tragicomic satire and a prescient novel that captures the absurdity and “inexpressible sadness at the heart of everything.”
About the Author
T. C. Boyle is a novelist and regular contributor to The New Yorker. He has published eighteen novels, including World’s End and The Tortilla Curtain, and twelve collections of short stories. A Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at the University of Southern California, he lives in Santa Barbara.
Boyle’s satire has lost none of its edge over the course of a nearly half-century literary career . . . [Blue Skies is] an expert blend of suspense, terror and, occasionally, very black humor . . . this fiercely honest writer shows us what he sees and invites his readers to draw their own conclusions.
— Wendy Smith - Washington Post
Blue Skies is less a novel about what might be done about the climate crisis and more an accomplished family drama with a climate-crisis setting . . . Boyle doesn’t offer his own clear answer. Maybe he doesn’t need to. At this stage of the climate game, it shouldn’t take much prodding to convince us that there’s plenty of work to do if we don’t want our own families to be forced to answer Boyle’s thought problem.
— Matt Bell - New York Times Book Review
If our overpopulated and overheated planet is said to be approaching its terminus, as many nervous prognosticators believe, don’t say T.C. Boyle didn’t warn us… In Boyle’s world, insects are the de rigueur foodie alternative, and why not? As the most abundant life form on Earth, there are plenty to go around, and, given the right culinary sleight of hand, they make a dandy, nutritious meal. But now they, too, are quietly dying off, and no one is really paying much attention. In Blue Skies, nature’s slow death is humanity’s blind spot…. Entertaining… He has certainly got it right. As we become more estranged from the natural world, so we are becoming strangers to ourselves, that crucial aspect of us that is enriched by a keener understanding of how the nonhuman world works.
— Marc Weingarten - Los Angeles Times
T.C. Boyle is one of our greatest living writers, and ‘Blue Skies’ is one of his greatest books. It is a climate fiction novel, but Boyle doesn’t beat you over the head with idealistic philosophies. Instead, he weaves the catastrophic details into the narrative (for example, oceanside property owners have to park their cars on ramps so the tides won’t carry them away). Like the television series ‘Succession,’ there are no redeeming characters in ‘Blue Skies,’ but the narrative is one that you will not be able to turn away from. And because T.C. Boyle has been blessed with a comedian’s pen, you can’t help but laugh at his characters’ misfortunes.
— Jason Jeffries - Colorado Sun
There have been entire shelves of non-fiction books written about climate change . . . But somehow none of them are quite as devastating as T.C. Boyle’s latest novel, 'Blue Skies'. . . . And yet just before Boyle drives his characters over the edge, he eases off the accelerator long enough to find a little hope . . . 'Blue Skies' could be a very influential book indeed.
— Rob Merrill - Associated Press
Satire has often been an important element in his work, and environmental disaster a running theme, and both are at play in this ironically titled, beautifully crafted novel…. Boyle does a brilliant job of writing about an enormous subject in utterly human terms. He draws the Cullens with all their flaws but with tender affection, too. Amid the climate apocalypse, life goes on, which is, maybe, a sign of hope.
— Colette Bancroft - Tampa Bay Times
Boyle’s writing is descriptive but sparse, with surprising outbursts of hilarity . . . Blue Skies is a leisurely ramble along the edges of destruction in a world where knowledge is snatched thoughtlessly from Google and everything, no matter how silly, is marketable.
— Dave Luhrssen - Shepherd Express
[An] ironically titled, beautifully crafted novel . . . Boyle does a brilliant job of writing about an enormous subject in utterly human terms. He draws the Cullens with all their flaws but with tender affection, too. Amid the climate apocalypse, life goes on, which is, maybe, a sign of hope.
— Colette Bancroft - Republican American
Boyle, long a fervent proselytizer for environmental and animal rights, strikes the perfect satirical note to illustrate the nonchalance and obliviousness many otherwise intelligent people display…. Boyle’s genius lies in his ability to blend the horrific and the humorous, to slowly ratchet up the tension while crafting a gripping yet eerie narrative that forecasts a disaster of our own making.
— Booklist, starred review
Spirited... Boyle remains a vibrant stylist, with fondness for his complex characters and a knack for zany details... Equal parts entertaining and anxiety inducing, this dazzles.
— Publishers Weekly
A tragicomic novel of environmental apocalypse in which no matter how bad things get, there’s worse to come . . . the breathless momentum matches the tonal command, which walks a tightrope between darkest humor and truly horrifying . . . Yet so much of this is so funny, in a twisted sort of way. At one point, a character describes the novel he’s reading as cli-fi, and this novel might fit that category as well. Yet it doesn’t so much imagine a climate future as awaken us to today’s.
— Kirkus Reviews
Is climate change funny? Yes, in the brilliantly imaginative T. C. Boyle’s hands, in a terrifying way. Blue Skies is both comic and wrenching. . . . A black arrow of unimaginable horror shoots through the novel’s center, and Boyle leads us to contemplate the ‘inexpressible sadness at the heart of everything’—and a morsel of the world’s inexpressible beauty.
— Annie Proulx
Boyle writes with a youthful and sustained energy that parallels the zeal of his dreamers, and that ultimately attenuates their failures. There are few writers who seem more American.
— Chris Bachelder - New York Times Book Review