Saturday, May 6, 2017

Book Review: New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Hardcover, 613 pages Published March 2017 by Orbit

My favorite read of the year last year was KSR's Aurora and 2312 was a masterpiece to me, so as you can imagine I consider Robinson to be on quite a roll. I just finished a eco-horror novel and decided to go on ecological horror/ Dystopia reading kick. It was cool after the Water Knife to go somewhere totally different farther into the future. The title tells you the setting but lets explain the world a bit deeper.

Robinson is no stranger to ecological themed books...He wrote a trilogy that was recently repacked as a epic single novel called Green Earth, and he explored these issues in his early series The Wild Shore (1984), The Gold Coast (1988) and Pacific Edge (1990). I reviewed the Wild Shore here.

As for this book. The sea levels have risen over that time including two planet wide "pulses" known and the first and second pulse. After the second pulse the sea level has encroached 50 feet from where it is today. That is enough to create what the book calls ten thousand Katrina's. New York City has become a super venice, the sky line growing taller and certain parts of the city are just gone.

The story centers mostly around the inhabitants of a building called the Met. 2,000 or more people live in this co-op building that has investors interested in buying it. All the Characters are connected to this building. There are several characters and POV's that range from two hackers living on the farm roof-top, to the super and a woman who has reality TV flying ina airships rescusing endangered species. There are probably eight characters we follow and their chapters form the basis of the shifting narrative. In Between we have chapters titled Citizen that appear to be a history lesson speaking directly to the reader. The citizen chapters majorly violate one of the so-called rules of writing science fiction by information dumping but here in this novel it was one of the more interesting parts.

Story kicks off with Mutt and Jeff the hackers who have this idea for undermining global finance by hacking the global money networks. KSR uses this story line to shine a light on the failures of Capitalism. This appears to be inspired by the too big to fail bailout that the banks got themselves. I didn't find this story as interesting as I think it was meant to be. Bot we geta full spectrum of stories from a wall street romance, to a look at reality culture via the woman in the airship saving polar bears( to me the most interesting of stories) and the best character in the book the building super Vlade.

For the most part I enjoyed reading this book and seeing how KSR weaved these story lines together. While some may see the concept as alarmist, I think a story that casually takes a look at a future adapting to incredible change is important. So why am I so meh about the book. I think it was two hundred pages too long for one thing. I was really ready for it to be done by the time I closed the book.

The Characters are hit or miss. Some like Vlade were fun, others seem cardboard like Inspector Gen, I didn't even realize was black or a woman until I have read half the book. Her character didn't feel rich enough for me. I was interested in this because of the climate change aspects to the story. Robinson has said in interviews that was not his intention at first. He had told his editor that he wanted to write about global finance and suggested in set in the flooded NYC we got a glimpse of in 2312.

I get it, he wanted to make a statement about capitalism. He could've done that in 300 or 400 pages in my opinion. Did I like it? Yes I did. Did I love it like the last two I read. Not at all.

Kim Stanley Robinson on the topic of Sea level. from 4:00 minutes to 22 minutes in this video, from a lecture here in San Diego:

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