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William Michael Ried
Two Degrees: A Climate Change Novel

Dan Lazaro lobbies for big oil in DC but lives in the Texas Hill Country. His firm funnels money to a senator to defeat a methane bill, as he is seduced by the senator’s aide and a flash flood washes away his home along with his wife and daughter. Guilt brings on aquaphobia. He tries to keep working but becomes convinced his work made the flood worse, that he has been promoting greed over the public good. His brother-in-law introduces him to eco-activists, who exploit his grief and new understanding of climate science to convince him to join in what he thinks is a plan to hang a banner from a logging bridge, but the mission is really to blow it up. Eco, the group’s charismatic leader, is killed and his beautiful Romanian partner Mia falls into the river. Dan jumps into save her, curing his phobia. Back in DC Dan comes up with a plan to turn over documents to expose the payment for methane votes. He carries the material to NYC and hands off through Mia to his young associate, who runs the FBI in circles and delivers the materials to The Times. Dan and Mia retreat to a safe house as the scandal hits the press. But Dan hears they have finally found his daughter’s body and Mia accompanies him to the memorial in Texas, after which, neither having a jobs or family, they head on a road trip west to connect with comrades, pausing to spray paint on a billboard “Eco Lives."

Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 6 out of 10
Prose: 7 out of 10
Character/Execution: 6 out of 10
Overall: 6.50 out of 10


Plot/Idea: Ried's environmentally driven plot is timely, and the focus on Daniel—as a character who undergoes a complete change of heart following a devastating climate change related tragedy—is compelling.

Prose: Ried is a master at staging scenes, and the fear of his characters as flood waters rise—or explosions threaten innocent lives—is palpable. 

Originality: The plot feels familiar, but Ried executes eloquent, striking descriptions throughout that give the book added depth while transporting readers directly into each scenario.

Character/Execution: The sheer number of characters makes it difficult to track them at times, allowing less space for readers to deeply connect with the main players. Daniel's internal struggles and guilt are painful to watch, but his eventual success at overcoming his crippling phobia is compelling.

Date Submitted: April 01, 2024

Ried (author of Five Ferries) masterfully weaves a compelling thriller that confronts climate change, corporate greed, and the preservation of the planet. The narrative unfolds with gripping intensity as it delves into the life of Daniel Lazaro, an attorney entangled with a questionable employer and the Big Oil Institute. Daniel is blinded by the pursuit of profits without regard for environmental damage, and his own infidelity risking his marriage.

Tragedy tears Daniel’s world apart when the Guadalupe river floods and rips through his family home stealing away his wife Bree and daughter Annabelle to a watery death. Remorse, guilt, and sorrow traumatizes Daniel so deeply he can barely look at a glass of water without being haunted by the ghosts of his actions. Reeling from these events, he seeks psychiatric help while awakening to the humanitarian efforts of Anthro, a subversive environmental protection group. Anthro challenges the established order of the corrupt oil business Daniel had so faithfully served. Led by Eco and Verde, their discreet clandestine activities permeate Daniel’s consciousness, opening his eyes to the suffering his actions caused to his family, and the entire planet. His soul-searching journey is slow and methodical as he realizes he has already lost his world.

He tries to earn his way into Anthro through small tasks he must diligently fulfill. Working through the chaos of giving up his life and income, his actions threaten those who mentored him yet he realizes there is no going back. Ried exposes the harsh reality of sexist and misogynistic mentalities, the looming threat of global warming, and the formidable power of lobbyists, attorneys, and unscrupulous politicians. Against this persuasively disheartening backdrop, Two Degrees combines suspense, environmental activism, and personal redemption. Daniel’s challenge captivates the reader, prompting reflection on the real-world implications of our choices, leaving no doubt that the ongoing battle to preserve our planet for future generations is in our hands.

Takeaway: Searing thriller of an attorney, big oil, and the planet’s climate tipping point.

Comparable Titles: Ryan Steck’s Fields of Fire, Feargus O’Connor Greenwood’s 180 Degrees.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

B.R.A.G. Medallion Reviews

“After the gripping prologue I found myself hating the main character, until my attitude toward him began to change. At its core the book seemed to me less about climate change and ecology than it was about an individual searching for meaning in a shattered life and what his true role in life could and ought to be. In that regard it does an excellent job.” 

“A fascinating tale of climate change, politics, greed, terrorism, relationships, deception, betrayal, and redemption. Plenty of drama and conflict keep the story moving at a fast pace, especially in the second half of the book.” 

“An intelligently written novel that displays a healthy knowledge (and much research) of the political aspects (in the US) of climate change, which makes for serious reading, but with a well-crafted main character who provides that personal touch all important for readers, thus astutely partnering a personal tragedy and a journey of discovery.”  

Kirkus Reviews

"Ried manages to juggle multiple third-person perspectives throughout the novel, to develop aspects of Daniel’s personal journey… in an earnest and ambitious espousal of climate justice and environmental stewardship, and an intriguing political thriller that doesn’t shy away from difficult topics."

Midwest Book Review Small Press Bookwatch

“Original, exceptional, compelling, deftly crafted, a prophetic story of redemption and the fight for our dying planet, author William Michael Ried's novel, Two Degrees, puts Daniel Lazaro and the fascinated reader at the intersection of power politics and climate change, where a collision is inevitable and tragic. Two Degrees is especially and unreservedly recommended.”