The heart of this novel is a love affair with the universe itself… People that haven’t lost their sense of wonder and amazement at the splendor of existence, and who also like to learn and discover as much as they can about the vast reality we live in, will find a lot to rejoice in this breathtaking and brave book.
That plenitude is one of 2312‘s strengths. It covers a very broad spectrum, and people with a keen interest in non-fiction will see that Robinson has incorporated lots and lots of stuff from various scholarly domains. It was a boisterous, joyous feast of recognition that broadened my horizon at the same time.
As every more or less enlightened person nowadays thinks in the wake of Darwin, Robinson is a writer of evolution as well, and his bold speculations of how things might evolve in the near future is depressing and hopeful at the same time. As such, 2312 is a very realistic, hard SF book, and utterly mind-blowing at that.
Robinson has found a really interesting narrative voice, funny at times, revealing things at the right time, switching between 3 main different modes, without it ever being confusing. The way the novel is structured elegantly solves the info dump problem. While it drags a wee bit around the halfway mark, and it suffers a bit from too much description at times, generally, it’s a fast paced book.
2312 sometimes reads as a giant, original 540-page summary of other contemporary SF, as it touches upon so many themes. It feels a bit like the true Hard SF variant of Bank’s utopianism, as if we were witnessing the very early stages of the birth of a human Culture, confined to this solar system. And what Reynolds did for the realistic, lonely portrayal of interstellar space travel, Robinson does for the portrayal of life on the other planets, moons and asteroids of this solar system. I’m interested if Stephenson will equal this in his upcoming Seveneves – a book with a similar setting, albeit part of it in a much further future.
This was the first book of Robinson I’ve read. I guess most of his other stuff will end up on my TBR-pile, so there you have it.
One more thing… Over the course of a small week, this book made me look up at the sun, the clouds and the sky multiple times, and made me deeply appreciate our biosphere, not really for the first time, but this time with a new sense of wonder and awe – we are actually walking and living on the surface of a planet, without space suits at all.
Highly recommended, especially for fans of Hard SF.
originally written on the 17th of May, 2015
My other Kim Stanley Robinson reviews are here: The Wild Shore (1984) – Icehenge (1984) – The Memory Of Whiteness (1985) – The Gold Coast (1988) – A Short, Sharp Shock (1990) – Pacific Edge (1990) – Shaman (2013) – Aurora (2015) – Green Earth (2015, the revised Science In The Capital trilogy (2004-2007)) – New York 2140 (2017) – The Ministry For The Future (2020) – The High Sierra: A Love Story (2022).