Friday, August 02, 2013

Kim Stanley Robinson - 2312

With the recent death of Iain M. Banks, few left wing science fiction writers remain. Ken Macleod and Kim Stanley Robinson are two that spring to mind, and most socialist SF fans will buy and read pretty much everything they release.

So I have to admit that I am a bit disappointed by 2312. It is different to much of KSR's former works. Less explicitly about revolution for instance, when compared to Icehenge or the Mars Trilogy. While the future solar system that KSR imagines in 2312 is fascinating and well thought out, the story doesn't hold the different imagined worlds together well and some bits of the plot are frankly, illogical.

Lets look at the good bits. For most people (certainly those off planet Earth) life is post-scarcity. On Earth, most of the population lives in a post-capitalist world, thought quite how this works is not really explained much. Earth itself is badly damaged by global warming. The methane hydrates are on the verge of melting and having already experienced major sea level rise, the population of the planet faces future rises.

Out in space things are better. Venus and Mars are in the process of being terraformed. Humans have footholds on the major moons and asteroids, utilising solar polar lasered in from Mercury and "vulcan" asteroids. The post-scarcity economy means that technology is utilised to hollow out the solar systems bodies which are used to create self contained environments packed full of Earth's plants and animals. Some might be complete oceanic eco-systems, others African savannahs filled with lions and their prey.

Into this mix KSR throws a convoluted plot centred on a minor revolt by artificial intelligence and the solar system spanning investigation to work out what is going on. The reader could benefit from some clearer pointers, not least because there is SO much to the novel. Why do SF writers feel they need to produce 600 page blockbusters these days? 2312 would have benefited by being edited down by 200 pages. My other complaint is that KSR's hero, Swan, is so unlikeable that I kept hoping she would die and leave the author spending more time describing his ecological aware future. In addition, the AI's seem anything by intelligent, and the plot is very shallow for such a long book.

Frankly I wouldn't bother with this unless you are a KSR fan, and stick to his earlier work, or re-read the Culture novels.

Related Reviews

Robinson - Years of Rice and Salt
Robinson - Icehenge
Robinson - Shaman

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