“All landscape art reminds us: we live in a tabula rasa, and must write on it. It is our world, and its beauty is entirely inside our heads. Even today people will sometimes go out over the horizon and scuff their initials in the dust.” (2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson)
‘Strange’ is the word that must be most often used to describe this book. Yes, it is beautiful and entirely unexpected, but mostly, it’s strange. It is a science fiction epic set in the years leading up to 2312, where all the people who could left earth and populated each planet in the solar system. Mars is a snobby upper-class planet, Mercury an artistic haven, and Venus worked by the lower-class, endlessly moving enormous piles of snow; humanity travels space on beautiful asteroids hollowed out and terraformed to resemble earth or something entirely new. The plot, such as it is, centers around a small group of ‘spacers’ trying to fix earth’s environmental and political quagmires in the hope that it will stop holding back the human race.
Not only are the characters strange, each being one of 20 possible new genders and having lived for over a hundred years, but so is the writing. Robinson spends a lot of his time following the perspective of only three to four characters, but in between each chapter he gives the reader an excerpt or a list , which serve as a complex and fragmented background of the world. Some of the excerpts are written in second person, as if the book were instructing the reader on how to create a terrarium, or life itself: “You have cooked up life from scratch! Eat it with gusto.”
2312 is a difficult read, technically classified as ‘hard sci-fi’, so carefully evaluate how much time and effort you are willing to put into the book before picking it up. The way Robinson combines art and technology in his vision of the future is absolutely stunning and it somehow strikes me as more real and plausible than any other sci-fi I’ve read. Though it is slow paced, and sometimes off-putting in its extreme weirdness, I could not put the book down because of its pristine originality: this is not the same science fiction that has been written and rewritten for decades.
Buy – Borrow – TBR – Avoid
Ending: Happy and hopeful
Further Reading: I feel as though I’ve stumbled upon a whole new branch of science fiction here. I’ve never read anything like it before. Robinson isn’t a first-time novelist, though, so if you liked this book you might want to read his mars trilogy.