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2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson


by Kim Stanley Robinson

Pub Date: May 22nd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-316-09812-0
Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Another textbook disguised as a novel: the first of a projected trilogy from Robinson (Galileo's Dream, 2009, etc.) set in a future similar to that envisioned in his Mars trilogy from the 1990s.

By the 24th century, humanity has established settlements throughout the solar system on terraformed moons and planets and inside habitats hollowed from conveniently orbiting asteroids. Travel to the most remote destination takes mere weeks; quantum computers, qubes, are ubiquitous but have not yet reached true sentience. Former habitat designer Swan Er Hong makes her home on Mercury, where the city of Terminator crawls around the planet on rails, perpetually keeping just ahead of the rising sun. Her beloved grandmother, Alex, has just died. Two individuals, diminutive investigator Jean Genette and Wahram, a huge, froglike negotiator, wonder whether Swan's recently deceased, beloved grandmother Alex left any information about her work—Alex studied Earth which, despite mass emigration, remains a basket case of environmental degradation, climate change and vampire capitalism. Then Swan, who has a qube named Pauline inside her head and once swallowed a cocktail of alien bacteria from Enceladus, and Wahram narrowly escape when Terminator is destroyed by an undetectable shower of meteorites directed from somewhere in space. Seems Alex, who distrusted qubes and all forms of electronic communication, had good reason for her paranoia: apart from the mysterious group who destroyed Terminator, somebody is building humanoid bodies operated by qubes, for purposes none of the three can guess. Other than Robinson's usual novelistic virtues, the narrative offers a grand tour of the inhabited worlds, often to excess, plus padding with 18 future-factual "extracts" to fill in the background, 15 rather bizarre "lists" (e.g. space accidents, propulsion systems) and three passages representing the mental processes of the humanoid qubes.

A small, clever novel obscured rather than enlightened by philosophy, synthesis, analysis and travelogue.