Review: 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Title: 2312

Author: Kim Stanley Robinson


Publisher: Orbit

Format: Hardcover

2312 is Kim Stanley Robinson’s long-awaited novel that returns to the milieu that made him popular — outer space; for me, 2312 was my introduction to the author.

A few things were apparent before embarking on this novel.

  1. Kim Stanley Robinson is a well-recognized and award-winning modern science fiction writer
  2. This novel marks a return to a universe similar to his famous Mars Trilogy
  3. The book was heavy!

A brief synopsis: Swan Er Hong is a terrarium designer and artist who lives on a traversing city on Mercury. The unexpected death of her grandmother and mentor, Alex, draws her into a conspiracy that could put the lives of millions in the solar system at risk. As she begins to dig deeper into Alex’s death, she finds her home planet sabotaged by a terrorist attack. But fortune is with her, and after barely surviving, she is reinvigorated in finding out who is behind what becomes a series of attacks.

I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the greater part of the novel. World-building is a key element, as Robinson explores what it would actually mean to terraform Mercury (where citizens can only survive at the brink of dawn), Venus (where a sunshade filter  required), and various moons throughout the solar system. One must enjoy the science as well as the fiction to enjoy this novel. The novel achieved brilliance in many parts and I was especially intrigued in a couple of the survival stories of Swan and Wahram, a wombman with dual sexual organs and a toad-like belly. In the middle of the novel, the action gets bogged down slightly, but it is only temporary and the ending is both exciting and satisfying.

Robinson is an excellent writer, interweaving his scientific pursuits throughout the narrative, while allowing the prose to flow smoothly. The characters are intriguing and there were moments where I was reading at the edge of my seat, avoiding the temptation to gloss over the paragraphs to find out if certain characters survive the subzero environment of deep space or the brutal heat of the sun. In addition, there were many twists to Swan’s pursuit of Alex’s work that kept me guessing.

One thing I found odd was the use of extracts and lists interspersed between chapters.

Extract (1): Take a book, 576 pages to be exact, and fill it with descriptions of planets and moons from our solar system. Add to it a protagonist from Mercury, her pot-bellied partner from Saturn, and citizens from the terraformed worlds in between. Develop a clever plot that takes advantage of the setting and is neatly tied up in the end.

seemed that the extracts were used for information, explaining the setting in a way that the prose could not. Other times, the extracts were somewhat random and I didn’t know why they

perhaps it was an attempt to be literary   tell the story in a way   different   I could have done without    editing is your friend

List (1):
dual sexual organs, sex scenes awkward and read like a science text book

fascinating world-building, particularly on Mercury, where habitation is near-impossible. Terminator on rails.

post-singularity seems probable, but is it possible?

Qubes linked to the human mind. AI companions.

economics, politics, science, climate change, a revolution on Earth, Terra reanimated, extended lifespan, technological integration, terraforming

Despite the novel’s tendency to get trapped in the minutiae and the odd format of the lists and extracts, I found most aspects of it original and profound. The plot was not overly complicated, but kept me interested. I am especially interested to check out Robinson’s Mars trilogy now. For those who like science fiction, this is certainly one of the must-reads for the year.

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