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2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson Book Review

2312 is a bad book by a bad writer. It’s a pretentious book by a pretentious writer which is why it has a Nebula.

Kim Stanley Robinson can write well about terraforming. That is his whole career. Unfortunately he can’t write 11830394characters that you don’t want to punch in the face or come up with plots that are any better than those of a bad movie and he tries to disguise that with the usual scifi hack’s toolbox of orientalist references and random scientific terms.

2312 is the kind of book that John Varley’s Steel Beach should have killed. Not only did Varley thoroughly cover every new idea that Robinson holds up as if it’s a trophy he won at the fair, but he also showed why these neo-futuristic societies in which everyone sits around using super-technology to play with themselves in every sense of the word are dead. Kim Stanley Robinson didn’t get the memo. Neither did the writers who keep farting out the same crap.

But 2312 is worse than most of the bunch. David Brin’s Existence was deeply flawed, but it had new brilliant ideas in the mix. Kim Stanley Robinson doesn’t have those. 2312 has some great terraforming descriptions and that’s it.

Its plot makes so little sense that it would be unfair to blame it on drugs Its main character Swan is the most obnoxious main character in a novel ever. She’s either whining or throwing tantrums for hundreds of pages. The destruction on Mercury and the qubes aren’t a grand conspiracy, but petty fallout from something completely unrelated. There is no reason for most of the novel and its events to even exist. At one point the characters decide that the problem is income inequality on earth and so they dump a lot of wild animals on it. The wild animals eat some people in villages, but the characters explain that it’s okay and the animals also fixed all the poverty somehow.

You really have a problem when Philip K. Dick novels have plots that make more sense than yours.

To distract you from this, Kim Stanley Robinson inserts “lists” after every chapter to seem literary. But it would be more “literary” for him to construct a new plot instead of engaging in lit gimmicks that are as mediocre as his novel.

There’s not much to write about 2312 because despite its size, there is nothing there. There are some pretty descriptions of sunrise on Mercury. But if you want anything more than terraforming ideas and descriptions of sunrises, you’re out of luck. 2312 takes the kind of society Varley wrote about decades ago, subtracts anything that might be interesting and throws in annoying characters who still somehow lack the personality to be memorable.

2312 is a terrible book. By a terrible writer. I might have mentioned that.

The Unincorporated Future by Danni Kolin and Eytan Kollin book review

The Unincorporated Future by Danni Kollin and Eytan Kollin is an unimaginative mashup of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars the unincorporated futureseries, Tron and bits and pieces of Metaplanetary. Reading through it and John Varley’s Slow Apocalypse was a reminder that a talented writer can make a story where not all that much happens readable and untalented writers can take a war spread across the solar system and the destruction of entire planets and make it every bit as exciting as watching paint dry.

There were a whole lot of Unincorporated volumes before The Unincorporated Future that I didn’t read, but going by what I did read, I haven’t missed a whole lot. The story is one of those incredible never-done-before tales about outer planet colonists fighting the tyranny of evil corporations on earth. The blurbs compare this to Heinlein, but The Unincorporated Future has as much in common with Heinlein as Kevin J. Anderson has in common with Isaac Asimov.

The outer colonists are religious, not in the sense that it’s really a part of their lives, but every now and then they mention Allah and there’s a Rabbi who wanders around but does nothing useful. This gives them moral superiority when destroying planets. Moral superiority that the evil earth corporations lack when they’re destroying planets.

The Unincorporated Future is one of those showdowns between different Space-Hitlers, both of whom kill billions of people, but some of whom we’re supposed to root for, because they occasionally feel bad about it. Not bad enough to stop doing it. But bad. There’s also a Tron element in it that feels more like World of Warcraft, but that’s so lame it’s not even worth mentioning.

Some of this could be forgivable if either or both of the Kollins could actually write. They can’t. The dialogue is terrible. The cliches are rancid. And they can make destroying a planet every bit as interesting as ordering lunch. Most of the action manages to happen off-screen, even though it’s the only thing keeping the narrative going.

The characters are so one-note that they might as well be made of cardboard and hopelessly undeveloped. The dead savior is named Justin Cord. No, seriously. J.C. The villain does everything but twirl his mustache and rape his way around the novel.

What is truly sad is that someone made the decision to publish four of these, even though they would have barely passed muster in the 80s. It’s a sign of how poor the Science Fiction part of the field has become that this didn’t get tossed out the door. And you can’t even blame the Kollins for that.

The state of Science Fiction is so poor that John Scalzi is considered a major writer even though the only thing he can write is scenery descriptions. Once he starts writing people, he’s operating at Kevin J. Anderson’s level. Cory Doctorow is now considered a writer, not a punchline. So why not the Kollins. They can’t write and they’re recycling things that were cliches 40 years ago. They’re not even hacks, because hacks can at least write.

Bring ’em on.

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