2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

cosmith2015's review against another edition

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There wasn't anything wrong with this book.. I got half way through and realized I didn't really care what happened. I read it at the wrong time.

I did like the inserts that didn't pertain to the story (things like lists, a few paragraphs about how to turn a meteor into a home, etc) and I liked the concept of taking planets/ meteors/ etc and making them habitable places for earths creatures.

atagarev's review against another edition

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2312 is a sweeping tale of the Solar system's future crammed full of great sci-fi ideas and homages to classics in the genre but I had a rather hard time getting through it. It is certainly a very ambitious novel that takes risks and attempts to present a holistic and detailed view of the future. Unfortunately, the key word here is attempts.

To start with the good, there are some gloriously imaginative moments in the book. Robinson describes some gorgeous locales although I have to admit those started wearing rather thin after a while. Beyond landscapes, the culture of sunwalkers on Mercury, the image of perplexed animals gently floating down a gravity well, the idea of a post-capitalist social structure developing among spacers, a few others.

Actually there are many more intriguing ideas bandied about but that makes the focus on quantity over quality. This is an issue in two ways. The narrative posits new sociopolitical structures, the impossibility of breaking from the old sociopolitical structures, extensive genetic modifications in humans leading to artificial speciation with major physiological differences, universal equality irrelevant of biology, general machine intelligences that have potentially reached singularity, strictly limited AIs that are nothing more than fancy tools, powerful large-scale finely-controlled nanotechnology, inapplicability of technological solutions at scale or with fine control, a post-scarcity world, a world dominated by starvation and poverty and so much more. These inherent contradictions are not exactly accidental but fundamentally we end up with an incredibly broad world that is everywhere sadly shallow- there is no time or effort put into examining any of these ideas in depth and they don't actually interact in meaningful or interesting ways. Effectively we end up with a lot of science trivia (presented as dozens of dry wikipedia-like lists or technical description out of a popular mechanics article) but no real understanding of how these drastic changes actually affect the world or why they came to be.

Another aspect of that shallowness is that we never see anyone ever do anything. Everything from space travel to large-scale terraforming projects to detailed forensic investigations just happens behind the scenes. "Hey, let's do this very resource-intensive decades-spanning thousands-of-experts-working-full-time-requiring thing" says one character on a whim and in the next chapter it has been completed (except the book spans less than a year making this even stranger). This is especially egregious because all our character are part of the Mondragon Accord which is supposed to be some kind of democratized collective underlying the social order of the future. Showing how it works should be the whole point but we never get more than the briefest glimpse of the edge of the shadow of how this futuristic organization actually functions.

The plot and characters, insofar as there are any, were rather a let down.

Swan Er Hong is a 137-year-old with the emotional maturity of a 13-year-old and the critical thinking skills of a 7-year-old. She is a brash and impulsive artist,
Spoilerhas (possibly untreated) ADHD, an AI implanted in her head, experimental song bird structures grown in her brain, alien bacteria in her gut and a history of having her eyes regrown after she burns her ocular nerves by staring at the sun.
In short, she is rather fascinating on paper and intentionally written to be quite grating to be around. Unfortunately, this means she's really two separate unrelated characters- the person that made all these fascinating decisions and the experienced terrarium biome-engineer with connections to important people and political influence. These two aspects do not overlap at all and while we always observe the first one, the plot keeps insisting she's actually the second.

Wahram is meant to be her counterpoint in personality and temperament but also musically. She's mercurial, he's saturnine. Unfortunately, he gets less time than Swan and ends up less development for that same reason. Obsessed with "The Subversive Potential of the Pseudo-Iterative", part of a crèche (a six-adult child-rearing family unit on Iapetus), a lover of classical art, decent at whistling... These things are repeatedly mentioned about him but I don't think he ever develops much of a personality beyond "saturnine."

The other characters- Genette, Wang, Kiran, Mqarret, Zasha- are probably much more important to the central events but are also paper-thin cutouts that are just occasionally used to deliver information. The plot itself happens almost entirely in the background (refer back to the paragraph about us never seeing anyone do anything) and is almost entirely nonsensical to boot. Both the "good guys" and "bad guys" believe things and take actions that are deeply illogical. Really the initial promise of a murder mystery is just there to (theoretically) hook the reader but it never goes anywhere.

In summary, a very ambitious work that pulls in fascinating ideas from many places but doesn't do much beyond just piling them up in a single location. It would have been much better served by some focus and a lot more depth, both of character and of examining the ideas presented but that would have required cutting out most of what's in here to pick an actual focus.

treylathe's review against another edition

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I can sum up all the other < 4 reviews I read, which I began reading when I was about 60% done.

1) you want to give up at around half way through the book
2) you could barely care any less about the weak characters
3) the plot is thin and, like the characters, you aren’t that invested in it
4) filled with made up words with little exposition

And yet the world-building is fascinating.

I started this book over a year ago, got about 30% of the way done, put it down. Picked it up, read to about 60%. Put it down and decided not to read any further. Then read a few reviews, decided to finish.

I did.

Was it worth it? Yes, the world building is fascinating and well done. Would I read it again knowing what I know now?


bawdycorvid's review against another edition

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It was very different from Aurora - did not find myself excited to open it up.

kat_fields's review against another edition

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I wanted to love this book. But Robinson spends so much time trying to show that he's smart that he forgets to be a storyteller. 

jenlaughs's review against another edition

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I got fifty pages in before my brain begged for me to stop. The writing was just so disjointed. I wanted to like this book, the premise was fascinating. But the storytelling left quite a bit to be desired.

blrosene's review against another edition

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Very atmospheric which some people might find slow but I really enjoyed. A lot of the low scores seem like they're coming from babies who can't cope with the idea of capitalism destroying the planet.

samtast1cal's review against another edition

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"Maybe to say that someone was 'like this' or 'like that' was just an attempt to stock a memory to a board where you organized memories, like butterflies in a lepidopterist's collection."

This book was like LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness influenced by Philip K. Dick. The world-building was on the scale of Dune or larger, but within our familiar solar system. If this was the only SciFi book I'd ever read, I would think that 2312 was the most brilliant book ever written. It's at least a little genius, probably, and a little poetic too.

I did not know what was happening until I got through about 65% of the book. It's a mystery that may involve murder, perhaps genocide, and what may be rogue artificial intelligences hosted in humanlike bodies.

The main character is. strange, and perhaps not human.

What I don't understand even after finishing the book is
Spoilerwhy the bowler attacked Mercury and Io. I don't understand why they didn't punish the Venusian crime lord. And I didn't understand the lists, unless they were the thoughts of an A.I., perhaps even Pauline. Plus, personally I felt like it was building up to something more. The reanimation of course was huge. Enough to write a book about. But I thought that mystery would involve at least one conscious rogue A.I.

I need to join a book club so I can discuss these things with people who have read the book...

brian9teen's review against another edition

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challenging mysterious tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes


rainweaver13's review against another edition

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Still chewing it over. It's very chewy.