Review of 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

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Rating from TwistedSciFi ★★★☆☆ 

– A bold vision of the future and the individuals who will shape it.

Kim Stanley Robinson is widely regarded as a master of modern Science Fiction. His much acclaimed and Hugo award-winning Red Mars series set the benchmark on subjects as diverse as future economics and terra-forming. His ideas are often utopian and comprehensive in scope and are spoken with such authority you could argue that as a guide to terra-forming a planet, Red Mars and its sequels make for the de-facto starting point. Similarly, if you were interested in how we may come to colonise the solar system then you could do a lot worse than pick up his latest novel – 2312 – in which he plausibly lays out a colonised system three centuries from now in which humanity is thriving. And not just in the places you’d expect.

In this future asteroids have become hollowed out and turned into habitats called Terraria, some of which contain species and ecosystems now found to be extinct back on Earth. Our home planet is largely ruined thanks to years of dithering and a subsequent crisis but thankfully hope and wonder abound elsewhere. On Mercury a domed city runs from the sun on a track that encircles the globe whilst on Venus, radical terra-forming is under way to make the planet habitable. Mars already is whilst sealed domes exist on the moons of Saturn and elevators and harnessed orbits govern transit between the planets. Qubes – small quantum processors embedded in the brain – have been used to create the first artificial intelligence and people of trans-gender now widely exist throughout society.

Within this expertly realised future we’re introduced to Swan Er Hong, a hundred and thirty five year old artist distraught at the unexpected death of her grandmother. It turns out that her deceased relative left her a series of encrypted messages for her and others which she must deliver. This leads Swan to Saturn to meet a friendly diplomat and inspector whose investigating the strange circumstances that led to her grandmother’s death. After unexplained disasters occur, both on Mercury and then Titan, it becomes apparent that these can be related back to the Qubes. To get to the bottom of this mystery, the groups travels take them on a host of missions dotted throughout the solar system and it’s this central premise which serves to drive the narrative forward.

This is a post capitalist future with no crime or fear, in fact with none of the accompanying tropes that permeate much of modern science fiction. Kim Stanley Robinson goes to great lengths to make his world stick together convincingly and his elegant descriptions of the Terraria and such like are a pure pleasure to read. It has to be said though, any action or human drama is often pushed back in favour of this constant fanfare of ideas and whilst this might prove to be appealing at first, after awhile it all begins to feel quite hollow, as though all these locations are for show somehow and there’s no one actually living or breathing within them!

Eventually the main characters garner your sympathy but by then it’s too late, especially after a lifeless opening that lacks any punch or sense of motivation. Its left to the set pieces and special effects to hold your attention and this works well up to a point, especially with the mixed multi-media reporting style that’s so reminiscent of John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar. In the end though, despite all the interesting diversions and sights along the way, the plot feels very contrived, the whole more a speculative essay on future technologies with an added story stapled on to make it hang together.

It’s a shame because despite this, 2312’s positive and original future makes it an important work that deserves attention. It offers hope and a tantalising glimpse of humanities way forward amidst all the doom and gloom so readily forecast by many writers, myself included. So if you wish to look to the future with a sense of renewed confidence, 2312 could just be for you. Just don’t expect to be on the edge of your seat when you finish it.

Have you read 2312 or any of  Kim Stanley Robinson’s work? Please share your comments below, and don’t forget to click on the yellow stars at the top of this post to share your rating (1-5 stars) of 2312.

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About Reviewer, Ol Wilson
Originally from Nottingham, Ol has been living in London for two years. Writing comedy in his youth, he went on to study Drama and Art at A-Level and then an honours in Film & Television from Aberystwyth University. Moving back to work in Nottingham, he tried his hand at film scripts whilst working a variety of jobs and trades before he realised a passion for writing prose and fiction. Covering everything from horror to sci-fi, he started submitting short stories late in 2011 and has since managed to get two published in Short Story Me. Many more are in the pipeline, along with a novel and a re-draft plus outlines and loads of sketches for future works.

During the day you can find Ol enforcing environmental law on the dodgy land owners of West London or breaking into council houses deemed unfit for public health. Failing that, he’s either reading or writing, jogging in the park or messing about drinking beer. A keen football fan and follower of Nottingham Forest, he also enjoys a passion for film and music and is known as “The Hustler” in his ten-pin bowling team.

Ol currently shares a flat in North London whilst he awaits the finishing touches to be made to his underwater biome.

You can keep in touch with Ol at his blog, on Twitter, or you can click here to read Ol’s free three-part Science Fiction short, The Sleeper.

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