336 of 370 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Review for the Haves, and the Have Nots
Two separate reviews in one, here: one for people that have read Kim Stanley Robinson (KSR) before, and one for those who have not.
Review 1: For those that have read and enjoyed KSR in the past (e.g. veterans of the massive Red Mars, Blue Mars, Green Mars trilogy), the message is simple. Get your hands on this book, kick back, and enjoy. KSR is at his...
Published 18 months ago by Daniel Murphy
161 of 179 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong asteroid building, weak story development (3.5 stars)
"Worldbuilding" has been a popular buzz word in the modern era of science fiction, and Kim Stanley Robinson has always scored points for his detailed construction of alien environments. In 2312, he turns his attention to asteroid building: asteroids are captured, hollowed out, fitted with propulsion systems, made into terraria that double as transport vehicles, and...
Published 18 months ago by TChris
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336 of 370 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Review for the Haves, and the Have Nots,
Review 1: For those that have read and enjoyed KSR in the past (e.g. veterans of the massive Red Mars, Blue Mars, Green Mars trilogy), the message is simple. Get your hands on this book, kick back, and enjoy. KSR is at his terraforming best here; the Solar System a fabulous playground for the relentless expansion of Earth's most potent primate species. If you liked what KSR did with Mars, you'll find what he does with the rest of the Solar System breathtaking. And, you'll get, almost as an afterthought, a plot involving the elements of murder mystery, romance, political intrigue, and thriller all in one. 2312, in several senses, outdoes the Mars Trilogy, and builds on it. There is not a trace of succinctness in the entire book. But, fan, you already knew that about KSR.
Review 2: Never read KSR? KSR is a must read, if you think of yourself as a sci-fi buff. Not doing so would be like claiming to be a fan of English literature, but not having read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (or if length is a criteria, George Eliot's Mill on the Floss). And if you're going to read KSR, 2312 is a wonderful place to start.
KSR writes hard sci-fi. Virtually nothing included in this deeply imaginative exploration of what mankind's expansion throughout our solar system might look like by 2312, is without scientific foundation. KSR is a modern day polymath, with a knowledge base that is spectacularly broad, and not lacking in depth. What you'll be treated to in 2312 is page after page (after page, after page, after page) of KSR's informed and spectacularly innovative vision of where the marriage of technology and the human genome is headed. And if such speculation fascinates you, stop right here and order the book: if anyone does it better than KSR, I haven't yet encountered them.
Plot? Ah. You're one of those: you want a STORY along with the spectacularly high-tech scaffolding. Hmm. Well, there IS a story here. And a good one. One that could have been related in about one third of the 576 pages in this book. There is a romance, and a mystery, and an AI thriller that triggers recall of Asimov's I Robot. KSR is an excellent writer, and his opening scene of going for a walk on Mercury as the terrifying, searing light of the oh-so-close Sun creeps over the horizon is flat out astounding. But plot is not his predominant strength, providing in this book just enough cohesion to graft KSR's stunningly visionary prognostications together. I liked the plot. Enjoyed it thoroughly. But if plot is your most-prized quality for choosing a sci-fi novel, on the stellar scale, think white dwarf rather than supernova here: it sheds light, but won't vaporize you with its intensity.
Overall? KSR fan: do it. You won't regret it. KSR on steroids. New KSR reader: great place to start, and if you're a sci-fi reader, you most definitely owe yourself a KSR novel at least once in life.
161 of 179 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong asteroid building, weak story development (3.5 stars),
2312 gets off to a promising start as a terrarium designer and cutting edge artist named Swan Er Hong, rocked by the unexpected death of her elderly mentor Alex, discovers that Alex left her a message to be delivered to Wang Wei. Accompanied by Saturn's liason, Wahrum, Swan travels to Io where she learns that Alex had a plan to revivify a moribund Earth. Alex was also worried that the quantum computers (qubes) that run everything appeared to be going rogue. Another of Alex's friends, Inspector Genette, enlists Swan's help as he tries to complete the investigation he started with Alex. On a visit to Earth, Swan arranges for a kid named Kiran to escape his dreary life (the reader knows, of course, that Kiran will eventually reappear and play a crucial role in the story) before she returns to Mercury, where either a natural disaster or (more likely) a devastating attack briefly energizes the novel.
The energy, unfortunately, fizzles out, reigniting in spurts from time to time but never sustaining. When the plot moves along -- when things happen -- 2312 is an imaginative and entertaining novel. When, for long stretches, nothing happens, 2312 is a mediocre novel. Most of the text in the initial three-quarters of the book does little to advance the plot. It's a long slog through a deep bog to get to the final quarter where the story finally comes into focus.
Throughout his career, Robinson has demonstrated a tendency to explain his many thoughts -- ranging from physics and geology to economics and politics -- at length, resulting in novels that are needlessly wordy. That's the primary fault that weakens 2312. I often had the impression that Robinson was worried that his plot would get in the way of his ideas so he relegated plot development to the last few chapters. I also had the impression that Robinson was more interested in showing off his considerable knowledge than in telling a tight, compelling story. Knowledge, like worldbuilding, is valuable, but tedious discussions of seemingly random ideas that do little to advance the plot reflect a sort of self-indulgence that detracts from the novel.
Robinson doesn't write with literary flair; sometimes, in fact, his prose reads like a dry textbook. Explanatory sections of the novel entitled "excerpts" are a thinly disguised excuse for the sort of expository pontification that kills a fictional narrative. Fortunately, most of them are mercifully short. Robinson also throws in a few meaningless lists (e.g., names of craters ... who cares?). Breaking up the narrative with these frequent digressions seriously disrupts the story's flow.
Swan is the only character with any personality at all. Robinson takes a stab at human emotion by putting Wahrum and Swan together, but the effort isn't convincing, and the sex scenes (complicated by extra parts) are more silly than passionate. Robinson is clearly more comfortable with ideas than people.
For all the worldbuilding, Robinson is at his best when he focuses on Earth as it exists three hundred years from now. His vision is bleak but credibly grounded in environmental, political, and economic trends. Even here, however, his writing sometimes devolves into a scolding lecture. Some of his chapters would make excellent essays or editorials; as fiction, they are too disconnected from plot or characterization to be riveting.
Alex's creative plan for a revolution and an imaginative means of launching an interstellar attack give the novel its best moments. A shorter, tighter novel that focused on those elements would have been a great read. As it stands, 2312 leaves the reader drowning in ideas and fails to deliver a truly engrossing story. I would give it 3 1/2 stars if I could.
39 of 46 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars just barely a novel; as a collection of worldbuilding essays, decidedly so-so,
This review is from: 2312 (Kindle Edition)This is an awful book. It’s funny: Kim Stanley Robinson uses the word “autistic” as a mild pejorative in the opening pages, but that might be the single best description of this book’s aesthetic. The author consistently ignores the things that make a novel worth reading — excitement, interesting characterization, original ideas — and instead hangs little essays filled with thoughts (by turns implausible and banal) about terraforming, economics, gender and governance onto a novel-like framework.
As others have noted, nearly all the action occurs outside the narrative, and is simply mentioned off-handedly as having occurred. This might be for the best, since the plot makes absolutely no sense: a seemingly low-stakes real estate dispute on Venus somehow accidentally gives rise to a multi-step mass-murder plot hatched by a new class of artificial beings? But it’s not clear that there’s any intentionality behind this–perhaps it’s just a screwup. Certainly the villain (if there’s a villain?) is barely named and never confronted, seemingly because the author is tired and wants to wrap things up. Then the perpetrators–a new race of beings, maybe, who are somehow detected, surveilled and rounded up from across the solar system in a massive police action that is mentioned but not even slightly described–are shipped into exile by the inspector who was working the case, who gets to declare judgment and sentence because…?
I would like to to bag on the characters, particularly the endless, hammer-it-into-your-head repetition of Wahram’s froggy eyes as his defining trait. But the truth is that I did find that Wahram and Swan eventually emerged as distinct entities. This was particularly true of Swan, whose pervasive neuroticism was both off-putting and fairly believable. This showed the way to the most promising potential theme in the book, I thought: the cultural claustrophobia and exhaustion faced by humanity as it finishes developing the solar system’s resources and realizes that what they’ve built is a prison. Alas, Robinson flirts with this idea briefly and and then abandons it. Instead he sprints toward ridiculous nostalgia, implying mystical spiritual renewal through communion with (wholly manipulated!) nature, along the way spewing a lot of bulls*** about “our horizontal brothers.”
Still, though Wahram and Swan were decently developed, the idea of romantic chemistry between them seemed absurd, and the larger treatment of relationships in the context of massively extended lifespans felt superficial.
Absent a source of excitement (plot) or emotion (compelling character mechanics), we’re left with KSR’s thoughts about the evolution of human civilization.
His musings on speciation and blurring of gender are fine, but never really deployed in a way that made me squirm, which felt like a missed opportunity. It’s all reasonable enough, but kind of boring. When Wahram and Swan finally have their weird and unnecessarily graphic hermaphroditic sex, my reaction was less about alarm over the plumbing that KSR was so anxious to explicate and more a basic dismay at having to read about a boring nebbish (Wahram) sleeping with a sure-to-be-trouble headcase (Swan). Ick.
There is a LOT of time spent talking about terraforming. And there’s a place for that kind of hard sci-fi stuff. But KSR seems to expect to be allowed to waste my time with technical minutiae the way Clarke does in, say, Rendezvous with Rama. Sadly, he doesn’t have the chops. Randall Munroe has helpfully demonstrated the impossibility of one of KSR’s schemes — making Venus rotate faster through planetary bombardment — but there’s plenty more fishiness throughout the book when it comes to masses, energy levels, speeds, distances, problems related to acceleration and docking, venting waste heat and the quantity of astronomical objects in the solar system. I haven’t done the math, but it seems pretty obvious that the author hasn’t, either. He sure pretends like he has, though.
His soft-science ideas are worse. The Mondragon, a cybernetic economy run by AIs that perfectly allocate resources, is laughably utopian — particularly when he introduces a sudden real shock into the economy by destroying the city of Terminator, but never discusses how the system responds. The ideas about governance are incredibly vague. There are plenty of allusions to human civilization’s balkanization. But the only form of government that seems to exist outside of Earth consists of tiny, tiny oligarchies — say, a dozen people on Venus, and maybe a few dozen more throughout the rest of the system. Through robotic, exposition-filled meetings and the occasional conference call these groups are somehow able to organize resources sufficient to terraform planets or stage immensely complex logistical operations (the “reanimation” of Earth). This is all the more ludicrous when one considers how implausibly dependent on human labor much of this hi-tech future activity seems to be. Seriously: Wahram, that tedious milquetoast, would be among the humans with the most governing power in history if he could do what he’s described as doing. It makes absolutely zero sense.
So yeah, it’s just a complete mess. The thing is long and boring, and the ideas on offer are either bland or half-baked. Terrible.
163 of 209 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Warning--Poorly written,
I was disappointed.
In the first part, "The dialogue looks like this," he said. "You mean a statement with a simple attribution in the tag?" she said. "Yes." he said. "And it goes on like that for quite a while I suppose," she said. "Yes," he said. "So he doesn't even bury the tag in the text, then" she said. "No, just hangs it on the end," he said. Etc.
"Later in the book, the dialogue tags become infested with adverbs," he said, critically. "Really?" she inquired, doubtfully. "Yes," he said, forcefully. "Are there any Tom Swifties?" she asked, quizzically. "Close," he said, knowingly. Etc.
The characters aren't adequately described. Swan, the key POV character, isn't physically described at all until about 20% of the book has been read.
There are beautiful, lyrical descriptions of some settings, but some of the settings thus described have no bearing on the plot.
The author inserts John Dos Passos-like lists here and there in the text. Not quite sure that works, however (These lists are distorted and truncated in the Kindle edition). John Brunner did that sort of thing much better.
I do not recommend the book.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Novel or collection of stories?,
My second issue was the 137 y/o central character was basically written to have the personality of a petulant teenager, yet be a world renown figure. This seems unlikely, but maybe I just don't know enough moody self absorbed adrenaline junky centenarians.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I normally love Kim Stanley Robinson,
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars KSR needs a new editor,
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Pretty Picture Without a Caption,
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A string of interesting ideas with a lot of filler and a little plot.,
First, the ideas. There are many beautiful and almost poetic descriptions of sceneries: sunrise on Mercury, body surfing on rings of Saturn, all the interesting terrariums (that's a word!..?). I find myself wadding through page after page just to get to another scenery. There are chapters on the moons, planets, history up to the 24th century as well as lists of things, some times random verbs, other times lists of craters or other names, and yet others like space propulsion (!!) or other interesting things. Overall these chapters are by fall the most interesting and are good stand alone articles. However...
Then there are the non-plot fillers. These include philosophical quibs, mostly lectures delivered from one character to another that would make sense if only the intended receiver isn't 140 years old and has done everything there is to do and most definitely should've known or thought about by then. Other fillers include random musical related descriptions (not that big a fan of classical music, at least not interested enough to read pages of descriptions that means nothing to the non-initated, though same could be said about the descriptions of space, but why would you read this book if you weren't interested in space?).
Third, there is the plot. A trio of events occur in the first third of the book, all with easily linked yet the protagonist (Swan) thinks nothing of it and proceeds to do all sorts of random things, traveling across the solar system on a string of random pretexts, and then 40% through another person mentions the possibility that the events are not accidents and freaks Swan out. Only she doesn't do anything about it and makes no real moves to figure it out, only spending her time chilling and doing random things (going to concerts, body surfing) while languidly traveling from one astro body to another.
And then there are the characters. Neither of the two 100+ year olds act particularly wise. One acts spoiled and confused, filled with angst like a teenager while the other just tries to not get bored because apparently he's been alive for so long.
On the up side, I'm learning to skim.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring Ramblings,
This review is from: 2312 (Kindle Edition)I've never stopped reading a book before finishing it until this one. I love sci-fi books and I was excited when this one was recommended by NPR as one of the best of 2012. But now I'm really sad that I used a Xmas gift card to buy this one. Reading this book, you can tell the author is smart, and that he knows it. But as I was reading, it felt more like he just wanted to give lectures on economics, politics, gender, and the human condition generally...and the pesky story line kept getting in the way.
The characters are flat and boring. You know how they're going to react to things (when there's action to react to), but again, the characters are side shows to the author's monologues about whatever comes to his head. I found myself flipping through several pages when I realized I had entered a lecture, looking for where the story picked up next. But I got tired of doing that, threw a book mark in there, and put it on the shelf. Maybe after I've had a break, I'll have enough energy to plow through the rest of it.
Because what little story is there has potential. (Someone, or something, is making attacks all over the solar system, and it's up to an inter-planetary task force to find out who's behind it and why the system's quantum computers are acting so strangely....I know, piqued your interest, right??? Too bad that's about as much info I could get out of the book when I was already half way finished).
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