Thursday, May 21, 2015

Review:: 2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Title: 2312
Author: Kim Stanley Robinson
Format: Hardcover
Rating: ★★★☆☆

As I read 2312, I went, "Huh, I can see why this won the Nebula and was a Tiptree nominee." Unfortunately, while there was a lot I did like about it, there was also quite a bit that just didn't work for me. The ideas and worldbuilding was fabulous, but I never felt a connection to any of the characters, the plot was slow and clunky, and the writing just didn't hold my interest.

In 2312, humans have moved out to occupy our solar system, using a variety of terraforming techniques. Humans have also figured out how to drastically increase their lifespan, how to fiddle around with brain matter and other human parts, and how to create quantum computers. We learn that there is a lot more gender diversity in the human race now and non-standard genitalia is common and accepted in most spacer communities.

The story is told in third person, in lists, in extracts... I actually really appreciated it because I don't honestly think it would have been possible to "show not tell" a lot of this worldbuilding. However, when it was given in snippets in extracts, it didn't feel like I was reading a manual.

And the gender stuff... honestly, this is the best representation of gender shattering I've ever seen from a (presumably) cis dude. There are a few moments where I rolled my eyes (seriously dude, you think in 300 years English still won't be comfortable with more pronouns than he or she, especially when non-binary identities are becoming more and more the norm?) but for the most part they were good. I really liked the fact that he vaguely explored the fact that our standard ideas of sexual orientation kind of fall apart when most folks are not binary-gendered.

But ugh. What I didn't appreciate: a 135-year-old protag who acts like a whiny 17-year-old. I could not bring myself to care one iota about anything about her. Also, the weird nonsensical romance subplot. Actually, just the plot in general. I'm not sure the plot was meant to be anything but a vehicle to get the worldbuilding out there. The book was way too long for the plot itself. I kept actually forgetting what was going on in the plot, never mind caring about it. Also, there was never really a sense of urgency, which made it even harder to care about the plot.

It's hard to say if I'd recommend this book. There's some really interesting stuff in there. But it's packed in almost six hundred pages of Kim Stanley Robinson's writing. I'll let you make your own choice.

Edit: Oh, I meant to add that while I've meant to read this book for a while, it's also the book my biohacker book club is reading. Not only does Counter Culture Labs provide a great place for citizen science, it also is a kind of meeting-point for people with shared interests... hence the book club! If you'd like to help Counter Culture Labs provide more to the community, please check out their Kickstarter. Everyone should have access to science!

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