2312


2312 CoverYou may have noticed a quote from 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson go up on the blog earlier this week. That was a sign that I had finished the book, and was thinking about my responses to it. The quote itself is from near the end, as the book ruminates on the events that transpired over the preceding 500 pages, though divorced from those events I thought it was an interesting passage about the process of writing and creation. Which…is a good summary for the book. It’s about the process of creation, it’s about art, it’s about revolution, and it’s about what all of those things actually mean. It’s a book willing to take it’s longest chapter to follow two characters stuck in nearly endless tunnels as they walk and whistle.

And, in the end, it’s a book I’m still trying to make my mind up about. This review may reflect that. I may even come to a conclusion over the next couple hundred words.

It’s a book of impressive breadth. It travels through a solar system massively transformed over the next three hundred years, as mankind escapes an earth left scarred and flooded by The Dithering (a damning description of the modern era), and terraforms those worlds suitable, turns asteroids into great pleasure cruisers, and saves what they can from their home in hopes of one day helping earth fulfill her promise. If that all sounds very philosophic to you, well, you’re not wrong. The book concerns itself with the smaller revolutions. Though excerpts from history books, we see the Martian revolution, an invisible civil war on Venus, declarations of freedom coming from the moons of the outer solar system. The main character, Swan, has an extended discussion about the very nature of revolution, breaking down to the definition of the word, with her literal minded personal computer.

In the end, it’s a book about a revolution. It’s a book about creating change within a society, and seeing that society coalesce better around a new threat. It’s by no coincidence that this threat comes from coalescence itself, attacks made on the inhabited worlds of the solar system by thousands of tiny rocks flung with precision so that they come together at a decided point of impact at a decided time.

So it’s a book about revolution and coalescence. It’s in some ways an origin story for the Great Human Empire sub genre of science fiction, about how humanity can come together into one cohesive unit strong enough to then push its will beyond the solar system.

I like those kinds of novels, the ones that tell the implied stories that other novels stand on the backs of. The bits that we might be curious about while reading about rip roaring adventures through the outer darkness of the galaxy. But that means that 2312 is the book for sitting down on the beach and getting lost in the story. It’s a novel that requires some work from the reader, coming along on the ride. In this way, it’s a very different book from the first three Hugo nominees, and I suspect a very different book from Blackout. It’s a more cerebral science fiction.

Appealingly so, mind you. There is a place for thoughtfulness within science fiction. It just meant 2312 was a slower read, it took a little more work than the other books to date. It’s a book with a smaller payoff, too. Perhaps that’s not the best combination, and perhaps that why I liked the book a lot, but I just can’t now put it at the front of the pack of the four Hugo nominees I’ve read thus far. It’s a worthy nominee, and I would even say a worthy winner of the Hugo. It’s probably the novel, of the four, that has the highest chance of staying power. If that’s the right metric for deciding the Hugo, then 2312 should probably be the winner.

I suppose that’s what makes the Hugo Award interesting. It brings in a diverse voting population, so it brings in diverse opinions about what metric should be used to decide the award. I’m personally not sure if trying to guess the future is the right way to hand out the Hugo, who’s to say what will become a classic in the end. For that reason, 2312 actually falls to second on my hypothetical ballot-to-date, behind Redshirts, with one book left to read.

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