Kim Stanley Robinson – 2312


8th – 22nd July 2012

I read 2312 because I was intrigued about the idea to write a book in 2012 about our world 300 years later. Of course, this is a Science Fiction novel, but since it is Hard SF, there is some likelihood the world building could be possible.

In this book’s universe humanity has colonized the solar system. Mars has been terraformed and is now inhabited, Venus is in the process of being transformed to a livable and breathable world. People live on Saturn’s and Jupiter’s moons. Material from the outer moons is used for terraforming, e.g. frozen water ice for cooling and air generation.
Mercury can never be terraformed since it is too close to the sun. But it is inhabited. There is a giant city called Terminator, which travels on rails along the terminator of day and night, always in the cooling and protecting dark.

Humans live all over the system and have adapted to their respective environment, helped by genetic engineering. They are primarily mining and trading raw material. Because of this, many small factions sprang up everywhere, coppering with each other. From time to time, war breaks out. Trade barely hold everything together. It is a fragile peace.

Travel is very fast using space elevators to the orbit, or shuttles and then so-called terrariums between the worlds. These are hollow asteroids, traveling on predetermined orbits. A bit like a modern subway. Artificial intelligence has been developed in tiny devices, called quantum cubes.

The main protagonists of the story are Swan, living on Mercury. She is a terraforming architect. Then there is Wahram, born on Titan, a frog-like creature and envoy for the Saturines. Finally, Kiran, an Indian from Earth, whom Swan helped migrating to Venus.

Swan’s grandmother Alex dies. She was very popular and a close friend of Wahram. He and Swan come together for the funeral on Mercury. Shortly after, Terminator is attacked and devastated. Swan and Wahram survive and make it back to safety in a 40 day march in a tunnel below the surface of Mercury. These days bind them together.
They set out to investigate who is behind the attack, and thus the story unfolds. Kiran later is the person to find one of the major clues.

The book is structured in chapters, titled with the main protagonists. Then there are inserts with “Extracts”; notes and half sentences explaining the background of the world. They almost look like the author’s notes and slotted down ideas. Then there are “Lists”; comparable to a mind map around a specific idea. I found these rather disturbing. They do not add to the story and should have been left out. It is not really clear why they are there.

The story itself is quiet ok, but there are no surprises in the end. I think this is more a book about world building and an interesting universe, than a story driven book. That is fine and the world building is superb.
However, I felt that a more compelling story could have made so much more out of the book. It reads after all, interesting, but not more.