Ian McDonald’s “Hopeland”

A novel so eerily good it almost made me angry.

Cory Doctorow
8 min readMay 30


The cover for the Tor Books edition of ‘Hopeland.’The cover for the Tor Books edition of ‘Hopeland.’

Tonight (May 30) at 6:30PM, I’m at the NOTTINGHAM Waterstones with my novel Red Team Blues, hosted by Christian Reilly (MMT Podcast).

Tomorrow (May 31) at 6:30PM, I’m at the MANCHESTER Waterstones, hosted by Ian Forrester.

Then it’s London, Edinburgh, and Berlin!

Have you ever read a novel that was so good you almost felt angry at it? I mean, maybe that’s just me, but there is one author who consistently triggers my literary pleasure centers so hard that I get spillover into all my other senses, and that’s Ian McDonald, who has a new novel out: Hopeland:


Seriously what the fuck is this amazing, uncategorizable, unsummarizable, weird, sprawling, hairball of a novel? How the hell do you research — much less write — a novel this ambitious and wide-ranging? Why did I find myself weeping uncontrollably on a train yesterday as I finished it, literally squeezing my chest over my heart as it broke and sang at the same moment?

Hopeland is a climate novel, and it’s not McDonald’s first. Hearts, Hands and Voices (published in the US as The Broken Land) is a climate novel (that also happens to be about the Irish Troubles). So is his stunning debut, Desolation Road, which I picked up at a mall bookstore in 1988 and lost my mind over:


But those were climate novels written in the early stages of the discussion of the gravity of the anthropocene, and so climate change was more setting than anything else. In Hopeland, the climate is more of a character — not a protagonist, but also not a minor character.

The true stars of Hopeland are members of two ancient, secret societies. There’s Raisa Hopeland, who belongs to a globe-spanning, mystical “family,” that’s one part mutual aid, one part dance music subculture, and one part sorcerer (some Hopelanders are electromancers, making strange, powerful magic with Tesla coils).

We meet Raisa as she is racing across London in a bid to win a rare, open…



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog: https://pluralistic.net; Mailing list: https://pluralistic.net/plura-list; Mastodon: @pluralistic@mamot.fr