on 23 April 2015
This was my first taste of KSR, & what an experience it was. I can understand some of the negative reviews, especially where the plot is concerned, but if, like me, you've read a lot of Iain M Banks' stuff, then you'd not consider it comparatively to be a big problem. Essentially it turns out to be a love story, although this is far from clear until quite near the end (not dissimilar in this aspect to Jane Austen's Emma, which I've just re-read). The projected state of the Solar System in 2312 is utterly convincing, as is the future science that underpins it. This is proper 'Science-fiction' & it's where the book really excels. There are also thought provoking ideas about gender engineering, extending human longevity, AI, & preserving/re-introducing endangered animal species. The man can definitely write, & takes no prisoners with his (sometimes) challenging prose & ideas. Personally, I liked the 'Extracts' & other various interludes, but then I'm a big Jack Vance fan, & he frequently used similar techniques (see his incomparable Demon Prince series). I found myself reading 2312 in quite small chunks towards the end, as the amount of ideas & information to digest was frequently so vast, but also I didn't really want the book to end, as I found it true escapism, & a comfortable place to be. So, overall, far from perfect, but I loved it.
on 18 September 2013
I am an occasional hard-core Sci-Fi reader so maybe I don't have the right "wiring" to fully appreciate such works. 2312 is full of well-realised technology, concepts and ideas with a stronger and more recognisable socio-politico-philosophical slant than other recent sci-fi works I have come across. However, I found the central plot a little random at times and without clear purpose for the first third of the book although there are a couple of segments that concentrate more on a plotline and allows the characters to develop and interact more constructively. I also found the sudden interspersion of the main text with lists and supposed extracts of documents to be disruptive and annoying - a literary device that feels artificially quirky and contrived. For me, this book was rather too much hard work and wasn't all that satisfying, although I appreciated the imagination and scope of the book.
Swan Er Hong, a notable performance artist native to Mercury, has her life abruptly changed by the death of her grandmother, Alex. As Swan is asked to investigate the project her grandmother was working on, her home city is subjected to a brutal terrorist attack. This sparks a series of journeys back and forth across the Solar system, from Mercury to terraformed Venus to drowned Earth and out as far as Io and Titan, as Swan and her allies attempt to discover the threat nature of the threat to humanity.
2312 is Kim Stanley Robinson's first widescreen, big-budget, blockbuster SF novel in some considerable time. His recent novels (such as the recent Galileo's Dream or his near-future Science in the Capital trilogy) have been modest in their ambitions, but 2312 trots out the same Robinson who charted the colonisation of Mars in such fascinating, exacting and sometimes-frustrating detail over the course of three books in the 1990s.
The novel works on several levels. On one, it paints a portrait of life in the early 24th Century where the bulk of humanity lives on Earth (and, increasingly, Mars) but the 'spacers' who have settled the rest of the Solar system hold increasing amounts of power, despite their small numbers. This portrait is vivid, rich and compelling. It shows Robinson's imagination at its most fertile, as he depicts Terminator, a city which rolls over Mercury's surface, permanently trying to stay on the nightside of the planet out of the fierce rays of the nearby Sun. Elsewhere he shows the terraforming of Venus as its thick atmosphere is stripped away and politicians debate on slamming giant asteroids into it to increase its rotation. Another section takes us to Greenland, where a huge damming project is underway stop one of the Earth's last few glaciers from melting into the sea. On Io people have to live in settlements which act as gigantic Faraday cages (to hold the immense radiation of Jupiter at bay), whilst in orbit around Saturn people go surfing on plumes of ice pulled out of the rings by the passage of the shepherding moonlets. As a grand tour of the Solar system, 2312 is constantly inventive and fascinating.
On the second level, the book is striving for literary credibility. Robinson has always been one of the finest writers of prose in hard SF (not, it has to be said, a densely-populated field), and that continues here. He may be fascinated by science, by technology and by visions of the future, but he's much more fascinated by people, as individuals and as collective societies, and how they operate. As such the characters are richly-defined and textured, showing surprising depths as the novel develops. The prose is also finely-weaved but Robinson's long-standing tendency to interrupt it with infodumps remains an issue, although much less so than in his Mars Trilogy. Most notably, Robinson's writing keeps two potentially dull sections (one featuring characters having to hike along a thousand mile-long tunnel, the other featuring a character adrift in space) from flatlining and in fact elevates them to two of the strongest sections in the book.
The third level, the actual plot, is where the novel hits the most bumps. In the Mars Trilogy Robinson portrayed a vision of the future where the characters had to deal with scientific hazards and the simple realities of day-to-day life in a hostile environment. Whilst there were antagonists, these were shown to be part of the naturally-arising problems of colonisation and the eventual need for independence. In 2312, however, Robinson has a much more overt and traditional thriller storyline in which mysteries need to be investigated and explored and a resolution reached. To put it mildly, this plot feels half-arsed at best and the novel improves dramatically when Robinson completely drops it for much of its middle third, instead focusing on his grand vision of humanity's possible future.
2312 (****½) is a credible and somewhat optimistic vision of our future, highly detailed and constantly inventive. Coupled with some rich characters and enjoyable prose, this makes for his finest novel in many years. However, some contrived plot twists and a dull thriller element weaken the narrative a little. The novel will be published in the UK and USA on 24 May.
NOTE: The first half or so of the novel strongly indicates that 2312 is set in the same continuity as the Mars Trilogy. However, a detailed timeline given later in the book reveals this is not the case and the two works are separate, although 2312 does borrow a few names and terms from the older work.
on 19 December 2012
I was a big fan of the Mars trilogy and not having revisited any of his subsequent books I started 2312 with high expectations and great enthusiasm. Quarter of the way in to the book I was beginning to hope that it would just be a late starter, but by 3/4s of the way through I knew that this would not be the case. Yes the writing is good, yes the science and universe is good, but there is simply no plot. Well, not completely, there is a semblance of a plot that could be summarised in just a paragraph or two. He doesn't really sell what plot there is, there is no tension, excitement or any emotion other than just following a couple of characters through some very bland adventures. Its as if he had a number of scenarios about terraforming or future society and needed something lose to link them together.
Would I read it again? No. Would I recommend it? No. Did I have to make myself finish it? Afraid I did, though I very nearly gave up on a few occasions and that is not something I ever do lightly. Overall, a real shame. It gets 2 stars because the future premise was good but that is it.
on 6 September 2013
This novel is a glorious vision of the Solar System a few centuries hence. Mars has been terraformed. A sunshield is being built for Venus as a precursor to terraformiing it. On Mercury, a moving city keeps its inhabitants out of direct sunlight. The gas giants and associated moons etc are inhabited. 'Terraria', self-contained ark environments, spun to maintain gravity, provide homes for a massive living archive of plants and animals, as well as people. Humans come in all shapes and sizes, live much longer and change gender and other physical attributes at will. At Pluto, special terraria are being fitted out to journey to nearby stars.
The big blot is Earth. Sea level has risen there drastically,and coastlines have shrunk. Only a few ice sheets remain. Despite harnessing the resources of the Solar system, Earth is even more overcrowded than ever and its people as hungry as ever. There is tension between Earth and the rest and national rivalries still smoulder on.
There is a problem here as the background scenery is much more interesting than the miniscule plot, which involves quantum computers. Things are not helped by the cryptic notes/lists that interrupt chapters. These are sometimes obscure, contribute little and give the (probably wrong) impression that the author got bored and decided to leave as notes ideas for more narrative/background development etc. There is a love story here of sorts between the main character, Swan, a headstrong Mercurian and Wahrum, an easy-going music lover from Saturn. But the main character here is our Solar System itself, which is what really makes this novel special.
on 18 August 2013
This is my first KSR novel, and might be my last, although I am aware that many of the people wrtiing reviews here say his Mars series is better. It's not that it's bad,in a way it's brilliant, but it's brilliantly dull. The guy is obviously clever, and very knowledable, if all the future science is as credible as it sounds. The problem is the story is thin to the point of near nonexistence, and the whole thing feels like a lecture on the perils of climate change. Plus, as with a lot of scifi unfortunately, it suffers from the protagonist seemingly having lots of relationships and ties to others, but there's nothing really substantial there. I know this goes with the territory, but all the same I kept feeling like I wanted to tell her not to be such a self indulgent little minx.
Anyway, two stars, five for the size of the guys intellect - obvious, significant, and zero for the story - back to basics please
on 1 February 2014
I had mixed feelings about 2312. On the one hand, Kim Stanley Robinson has clearly put a lot of effort into thinking up his various worlds, on the other hand, he sets them in such a lazy narrative it's difficult to really care about what happens on them from one chapter to the next.
Generally speaking, the narrative follows Swan Er Hong, a resident of Mercury's city, Terminator, as she bangs around the solar system from one mission to the next. There's a whole bunch of stuff going on; mysterious dealings involving the recently deceased leader of Mercury, unexplained attacks on people and planets, strange half-human half-computer beings flapping around everywhere, and sex, lots of sex.
But none of it really holds together very well, and I was left with the impression the author just smashed together a few different story ideas, and ended up giving none of them the full attention they deserved. Example: there's a promising parallel between a guy Swan picks up on Earth and some semi-sentient characters called Qubans (haha). It struck me there was plenty of space in 560-odd pages to explore the meaning of consciousness, and how future societies have to balance their dependency on mature AI technology. Instead, the Qubans just get naked and Swan "beats the s*** out of them". Nice.
Similarly, there's a long stretch of narrative where Swan and Wahram (another important character) have to try circumnavigating Mercury in a tunnel just under the sun-side surface. The monotony of the experience, combined with growing radiation sickness and the threat of a slow and painful death, brings out references to existentialism and the nature of mortality - big themes you'd think. Instead, the author gets his characters to whistle to each other before they unexpectedly get picked up by some gang in a jeep.
By the end only some plot lines are resolved, some are left by the wayside. Personally, I agree with the Guardian's review that the ending is contrived, but I'll leave you to decide which of the two denouements disappoint the most. Ultimately, 2312 is a good read for its description of the future. Perhaps it should have stayed as just that, a vision, and not bothered with trying to be novel at all.
on 16 December 2014
This is a adifficult book to read. One has to mentally translate to the worlds of 2312 for the, many, interludes to make sense.
The basic premise is that the dying earth has seeded the solar system with habitats; enormous hollowed out asteroids forming their basic structure. Mars, Venus, even Mercury are colonised. The moons of the gas giants have their own politie. Humans are transcending evolution and are becoming gender-combined chimera. A new form of sentience embodied in artificial bodies, based on quantum processing is emerging.
Some of the other reviewers have described this as being plotless. I disagree; but much of the story line is there to immerse the reader in the worlds of 300 years hence which KSR believes will be very different to the present. However, the moral of the story is one familiar to many: that mankind, mired on Earth, is unwilling and unable to save itself, requires the intervention of a "higher" power to save itself and destroys the enabler of its salvation through ignorance and fear. Only the enlightened artists keep the faith.
on 13 November 2014
This is probably a good book, and many people seem to think so. However it represents a kind of science fiction which doesn't interest me. It seemed abstract and i couldn't relate to many of the characters. I am listing a review because the book description attracted me to buy this but I felt that the story failed to live up to the blurb. It didn't come across as technically interesting or exciting in its plot-line. Enough said; perhaps it was just not my cup of tea.
on 17 September 2015
Very hard going - even for a sci-fi enthusiast. I'm still slogging through it. The good bits are good, the bad bits are dull as dishwater while I can give or take the rest of it. I'm still only 45% of the way through. It's not in my nature to give up on a book so here's hoping for a good run towards the end.
Made it to the end, but boy why did I bother? Absolute rubbish.