Tom Nixon's Reviews > 2312

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
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's review
Sep 19, 2012

really liked it
Read from September 16 to 17, 2012

2312 is the story of Swan Er Hong, granddaughter of the Lion of Mercury who gets caught up in a political conspiracy that sweeps up the entire solar system in its wake. By the early 24th Century, humanity has spread out through the solar system, terraforming Mars and settling Mercury (where the only city, Terminator runs on tracks around the planet keeping it just behind the sunrise) and the other planets and hollowing asteroids to travel about the place in and amuse themselves. At the center of the growing trouble is messy old Earth, ravaged by climate change where billions still struggle and many species have long since gone extinct.

When Terminator is destroyed in a surprise attack, Swan and her friend (and romantic interest) Fitz Wahram from Saturn are caught up in a race to untangle it all. From the outer moons of Saturn and Neptune to Earth, the rapidly transforming landscapes of Venus a mystery unfolds that will eventually change the fate of humanity as a whole.

It hard to unpack a Kim Stanley Robinson book. Part of the reason I enjoy his writing so much is that his books are sprawling and absolutely chock full of ideas. Whether you agree with his ideas or not he makes you think about them and I like authors that take the time to challenge their readers in that respect. Robinson's futures- as we saw with his Mars Trilogy are all encompassing though he doesn't drown you with technobabble he builds a portrait- especially with 2312 of what a complete human society would look like in the 24th Century.

Some of it is a little odd (gender differences have blurred and merged) and genetic modifications are common (some people are super tall, some people are super small, some people can purr and have computers embedded in their heads.) But overall many of the problems remain the same. People on Earth struggle with poverty and lack of jobs while Florida is drowned and people tool around the canals of New York City- the old remnants of capitalism remain while the rest of the solar system has organized into a loose collectivized economy called the Mondragón (modeled on the collective economy of Mondragón, Spain- an actual thing!) Swan and Wahram eventually come to the conclusion that unless Earth is stabilized, it's instability will spread out through the rest of the Solar System with who knows what consequences. Eventually, as they push the idea of landscape restoration on the drowned lands of Earth, they bring back extinct species they had been prepared for a return to Earth. The 're-wilding' helps sparks changes in Earth and after one more brush with death and danger, the Conspiracy is unmasked and our heroes emerge... well, maybe victorious, maybe not, you'll have to read it to find out.

The idea of terraformation is probably the most fascinating idea that Robinson plays with. Will such technology ever be possible? I don't know but Robinson elevates the idea into something more grounded in the science of today so the reader is left believing that it could be possible. Ditto with space elevators- though there are actually companies today working on that technology. But the idea of living on Mercury or Venus or taking the barren moons of Jupiter or Saturn and making them places where humans can live- that captures the imagination. Whether we'll all live in the happy collectivist post-capitalist society that Robinson imagines I don't know but he effortless creates sprawling dreamscapes of novels that make it entertaining to imagine.

Overall: Another wonderful brick of a book from Kim Stanley Robinson- packed to the brim full of ideas and with a massive entertaining story to go along with it. Thought-provoking, grounded science fiction at it's best.

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Reading Progress

09/16/2012 page 274

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