Review of 2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson

cover of 2312

More from the Nebula Award Review series!  2312 is up for best novel, and I can see why – it’s amazing.  This is not a book to whiz through while you’re in a hurry, or tired, or bed-ridden with the flu.  2312 requires your full concentration, but it’s worth it.

As you may surmise from the title, 2312 is about the future, when the Earth has been severely impacted by global warming.  Humans continue to live on Earth, but they have also set up colonies in asteroids and on other planets.  When a city on Mercury is attacked, Swan, Wahram, and Inspector Genette have to figure out who was behind the attack.

This is a fascinating book, but it’s not focused on character or plot.  Really, it’s a travelogue and a catalog of ideas about what the future might look like.  It’s fascinating reading as it goes into great detail about how each planet and asteroid is terraformed or otherwise adapted, and how humans have changed as they’ve lived away from Earth.  Here’s an example of what the writing is like, taken from the first paragraph of the prologue:

The sun is always just about to rise.  Mercury rotates so slowly that you can walk fast enough over its rocky surface to stay ahead of the dawn; and so many people do.  Many have made this a way of life.  They walk roughly westward, staying always ahead of the stupendous day.  Some of them hurry from location to location, pausing to look in cracks they inoculated earlier with bioleaching metallophytes, quickly scraping free any accumulated residues of gold or tungsten or uranium.  But most of them are out there to catch glimpses of the sun.

The book suffers from having Swan as its main character.  She is over a century old and yet she seems trapped in some sort of permanent adolescence.  She was interesting, but you can only stay interested for so long in someone you have no reason to care about.  This is a book about ideas, not people.  That’s a hard sell for me, because I tend to focus on characters, but I couldn’t deny that the ideas were fascinating.  I’m glad I read it, but I have to admit that I’m ready for lighter stuff.

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