The Big Apple persists, despite climactic disasters that have flooded the lower floors of New York City's buildings and turned the metropolis into a so-called “SuperVenice.”
Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City meets George Turner’s Drowning Towers in this series of interconnected narratives concerning the residents of the Met Life tower, a historic skyscraper converted into a co-op. The head of the co-op board and the building’s super fend off an offer to purchase the building from a shadowy corporation so determined to buy that they’re willing to sabotage the building’s infrastructure. Two coders living in an inflatable structure on the building’s farm floor are held prisoner in an underwater container after one of them hacks the financial system. A tough cop investigates the coders’ disappearance and links it to a wide-ranging conspiracy. An ambitious trader tries altruism and civic improvement to impress a woman. A pair of “water rats” (homeless boys with a boat) search for sunken gold in the Bronx. And a media star famous for her “assisted migrations” tries to transport polar bears in her dirigible from the warming Arctic to cooler Antarctica. This offers parallels to Robinson’s previous novel, Aurora, which also featured an ecosystem in distress (in that case, a generational spaceship). Of course, this being Robinson, there are plenty of infodumps, mostly on climate, finance, and history, with some trenchant commentary on both gentrification and the perils inherent in ignoring human damage to the environment. But he also lightens the mood with a heavy dose of witty epigrams, including two delightfully relevant quotes from the children’s classic The Pushcart War. And exploring this vastly changed cityscape, where familiar streets are replaced by skybridges and subways by vaporettos, is great fun.
A post-disaster fairy tale that’s light on plot and heavy on improbable coincidences but a thoroughly enjoyable exercise in worldbuilding, written with a cleareyed love for the city's past, present, and future.