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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.

Inflicting Kim Stanley Robinson on the Martians?

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Carl Sagan, Arthur C. Clarke, H.G. Wells, Kim Stanley Robinson and other greats in science fiction hitched a ride to Mars today-in a digital form, at least.

A glass CD loaded with literary, visual and audio science fiction works about the red planet was strapped to NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander, the Planetary Society in Pasadena, Calif. said Friday. Called the “Visions of Mars” library, the 3.2-inch (8-centimeter) disk also contains more than 250,000 names of the organization’s members and space exploration enthusiasts.

Planetary Society representative Amir Alexander hopes that future martian inhabitants will stumble across the little disk.

“Imagine a person … coming across this old relic of a spacecraft, which is what this beautiful spacecraft Phoenix will be in a few hundred years,” Alexander said, adding that they should find the DVD attach with Velcro to Phoenix. “What he or she will hold in their hands is a message from our world to theirs.”

I’m guessing the message from our world to theirs is, here’s the way we got Mars wrong in fiction as selected by committee.

I suppose I shouldn’t be cynical about this but I am. Assuming this time everything even goes as planned, we’re sending Kim Stanley Robinson ahead to future generations? Or Martians? I mean we had better hope there is no civilized intelligent race currently inhabiting Mars because if they’re forced to read through a single Kim Stanley Robinson novel, there’s no telling how violent their response would be. Worse yet it’s Green Mars rather than Red Mars, which at least flirted with being marginally readable. At least we didn’t send them Ben Bova’s Mars or they’d find a way to crawl across space just to beat us with Mars rocks. At least we didn’t send them all of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy or genocide might be justified.

And when did Carl Sagan write anything about Mars anyway? I can only recall Contact, a surprisingly decent SF novel in the range of Arthur C. Clarke (which granted is damning with faint praise) and what did Clarke write about Mars? I can only recall some mediocre sponsored novels about Venus Prime which I never read.

Really if we’re sending Mars related SF then we have to begin with Burroughs and John Carter but that was obviously too wild a choice for the committee. I sure hope the future generations enjoy Kim Stanley Robinson… almost as much as we have (Insert Triumph line here.)

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