Cover image of "The Days to Come," a novel about an effort to address climate change

People as diverse as Bill Gates, Greta Thunberg, and Paul Hawken, among many others, have advanced scores of ideas about how to address climate change. But is there a single idea that holds the greatest promise of quick, large-scale action? In author Tom Rosenstiel’s fast-moving political thriller, The Days to Come, a newly elected US President believes he has the answer—and both the will and the means to act. By pouring billions of dollars into research to develop a battery that will hold its charge for six months rather than a couple of days, he’ll make it possible to convert the US economy to solar and wind power within five years—and eventually reduce the country’s carbon emissions by two-thirds. But is this a pipe dream? And does he have any idea what trouble he’s unleashing?

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

A disruptor in the White House

David Traynor has just been elected President of the United States. A high tech billionaire and a Democrat, he soundly defeated the Right Wing Governor of Michigan, Jeff Scott. And he enters the White House determined to address all “seven crises” that the government has ignored for decades. Like his brethren in Silicon Valley, Traynor is a disruptor. He and his advisers have developed a strategy to force Congress to work across party lines and take the first, small steps toward solving each of these crises within the first months of his administration. Meanwhile, working in secret with billions redirected from national security funds, he and his team will undertake to engineer a breakthrough in battery storage. Is it a workable strategy? No. Of course not. But Tom Rosenstiel makes it seem plausible in the context of this high-octane political thriller.

The Days to Come (Peter Rena #4) by Tom Rosenstiel (2021) 368 pages ★★★★☆

Photo of a researcher seeking to improve battery storage life to address climate change
A technician in the artificial intelligence lab at Stanford University monitors an experiment underway in an effort to develop a battery with long-term storage capacity. Image: Stanford University

An extensive cast of characters

In The Days to Come, two pages worth of characters become involved. Peter Rena, Randi Brooks, and their colleagues in the consulting firm they run. Half a dozen key members of the Traynor administration. Three leading United States Senators. And a passel of battery company executives, venture capitalists, and other characters. You can’t follow the action without a program. But a handful of individuals stand out in the story. President Traynor, of course. Plus five others:

  • Peter Rena, a former US Army investigator and Senate staffer, who is a Republican.
  • His partner, Randi Brooks, an outspoken Democratic operative.
  • The Republican Vice President, Wendy Upton, a client of Rena, Brooks & Associates.
  • Scientist and climate activist Kim Matsuda, counselor to the president for environmental affairs and manager of the battery project.
  • Peter Rena’s long-time girlfriend, Victoria Madison, daughter of the US Supreme Court Justice Rena and Brooks had eased through confirmation.

Meanwhile, someone has launched a cyber-attack on Peter Rena

As we’ve learned through the three novels that precede The Days to Come in this series, Peter’s backstory is complicated. A West Point graduate, he had set out on a military career. As one of the Army’s top investigators, he had held the rank of major and could see the path clear to stars on his shoulders. Then he was tapped to do a routine last-minute check into the past of a war hero, one of the Army’s leading generals, who was at the top of the list as a candidate for the Chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Unfortunately, Peter uncovered long-suppressed evidence that several women had complained the general had sexually harassed them. Instead of reporting his findings, he had gone to the general, who resigned from the military rather than create a scandal that would embarrass the Army. And now that incident appears to be the source of the cyber-attack that has driven Peter from his office and made him persona non grata in the White House.

And, to make matters even worse, Peter has somehow managed to undermine his relationship with Vic Madison. Now, for weeks on end, she won’t even speak with him—and she’s “seeing someone else.” Between the cyber-attack and the potential loss of the woman he loves, Peter is despondent—and effectively out of action for far too long.

An overall assessment

The Days to Come, implausible elements notwithstanding, is a great read. The action leaps from chapter to chapter. Surprises abound. If you enjoy reading political thrillers—or if you’re looking for an interesting take on how to address climate change—you’ll enjoy this novel.

About the author

Photo of Tom Rosenstiel, author of this novel about how to address climate change
Tom Rosenstiel. Image: Poynter

Tom Rosenstiel teaches courses on the future of journalism as a visiting professor at the University of Maryland. He is also a non-resident senior fellow of the Brookings Institution. Previously he served as executive director of the American Press Institute, and he is co-founder and vice chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists. Rosenstiel is the author of at least seven nonfiction books on journalism as well as the four novels published to date in the Peter Rena series. He earned his BA from Oberlin College and his Master’s from the Columbia University School of Journalism.

You’ll find a detailed bio of the author at his website.

For related reading

Check out The five best novels about politics and Good books about billionaires.

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