The final book charts the story of the family’s attempt to deal with the wreckage of the past year and their struggle to help rebuild a city decimated by a year with no power.
What they encounter when they return to the city is beyond anything they could have imagined. They can smell the stench of corpses as they approach the city on abandoned highways, driven by a neighbour in a bio-diesel fuelled car. A year without power has devastated the city. Houses have been stripped of wood and car tires have been removed, trees along streets and in parks have been felled – all burned over the course of the winter. Everywhere there is broken glass and garbage. The streets are generally deserted, except for the downtown core where barriers have been erected to separate the buildings heated and cooled by Lake Ontario’s deep-water system from the rest of the city. Even with the power restored, outside the barriers, there are few lights on at night for fear of robbery or worse.
Against this backdrop, Karen, Brian, and even Robin get to work, trying to salvage whatever is worth salvaging, trying to rebuild what needs rebuilding. Brian connects with his old friend Ali and they begin work re-imagining how the city’s infrastructure can provide for the population in the new world order. Karen struggles to find meaning in a city that is no longer meshes with her old self. And Robin discovers a love of the theatre as she spends her days at a collective daycare/arts hub while her parents go to work.
More than anything, they are trying to find hope and a new understanding of who they are and how to be together as a family in this new life.
Explore the world of Book Three: The Beginning
Toronto Streetcar 510 Queen
“He’s gearing himself up to try to explain a riot, human nature, how it can all go sour when people are angry, when they are startled by a familiar-sounding Ding Ding! as a bright red streetcar trundles past, the inside filled with people standing, holding the poles as if headed off for another day at the office.”
Five Mass Extinctions
“In school, we studied the five great extinctions. This may not be number six, but close.”
Discovery of The Cause of Cholera
“Your field, wastewater treatment was largely a response to the cholera epidemics that swept the world.”
Ashbridge’s Bay Waste Treatment Plant
“The other is methane produced from biowaste at the Ashbridge’s Bay treatment plant.”
“But when they reach the outer perimeter of the downtown core, they are confronted by an enormous fence that runs as far as the eye can see. The base is made of concrete road barriers and chain link fence rises above it, far above their heads.”
Production of Methane from Wastewater
“We’re using some of the methane to power the steam turbines which means the site powers itself, but mostly we’re just burning off the excess gas. If we could capture that methane and use it at the Hearn site, that could provide a lot of the heat for the steam.”
Use of Microorganisms in Sewage Treatment
“The problem is going to be getting things started again. The solids have probably hardened at the bottom of the tanks. The microorganisms may or may not be dead.”
Winston Churchill on Arts Funding
“During the war, Winston Churchill was apparently asked if he planned to cut funding to the arts to support the war effort, to which he responded, ‘Then what are we fighting for?’ I loved that the first time I heard it.”
Nisga’s and Haida Crest Poles of the ROM
“There are two stairways that mirror each other, each one curling around enormous three-story totem poles from the Nisga’a and Haida nations. They feel watched by the grotesque faces and figures carved from the wood of enormous West Coast cedars.”
Daily Bread Food Bank
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
Photo from Globe and Mail coverage of 2011 G20 protests.
“The mansion, which houses two separate theatres, one upstairs, one down, is built of yellow brick, ivy climbing the walls. Here and there, windows of different shapes and sizes, many covered in black paper, peek out haphazardly from the foliage. A long set of rickety metal fire escape stairs run to the ground from a metal door on the second floor. A bright glass vestibule has been added as an entrance to the smaller studio theatre on the lower level, but despite the modern addition, the building is old: flaking, rotting, listing, leaking, groaning, creaking old.”
Ontario Power Sources
“Our base load used to be nuclear. Gone. Then there’s coal and natural gas. Gone. We might be able to continue to drill for oil and natural gas, since most of the drilling rigs are solar-powered, but again it needs to be refined and shipped from out west. So, that leaves Niagara Falls.”
Enwave Deep Lake Cooling System
“Do you remember the Enwave deep-lake cooling system we have downtown?”
Hearn Generating Station
“If we can get Hearn up and running again, we can convert the lake water to steam to heat the downtown core.”
“About 89% of Canada’s land area (8,886,356 km2) is Crown land: 41% is federal crown land and 48% is provincial crown land. The remaining 11% is privately owned.”
Biodiesel from Waste Cooking Oil
“Every restaurant in the city of Toronto probably has a vat of cooking oil sitting behind it. If we could access all that oil, get a big enough processing facility, then we could probably produce enough biodiesel to fuel a fleet of dump trucks.”
Good to Great
“When I was doing my MBA, we read a book called Good to Great, on how to build a great organization. And one of the ideas that stuck with me is that before you change anything, you have to know what not to change.”
Leslie Spit History
“Next to the plant, there is a finger of land that stretches out into Lake Ontario, a spit made of the rubble from torn down buildings as the new city replaced the old.”
Passenger Pigeon De-Extinction
“I read about this. They were working on bringing back the passenger pigeon. They were able to isolate the DNA. It was one of the first attempts to bring back an extinct species.”
“She unfolds a tourist map, the underground passages called the PATH that link the downtown buildings to each other shown in bold red lines.”
“There! I got us some reading material while we wait!”
She hands one of them to Karen. T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.
Hearn Generating Station
“You know, you could apparently fit twelves Parthenons inside there.”
Bicycle Powered Band
“Well, I guess there used to be a music band in Toronto that powered their shows with stationary bikes. People would ride the bikes, which would charge car batteries, which powered the lights.”