Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson ***

It's 2312 and the billions still on Earth would be starving and worse were it not for the imports of food and resources from the settlements stretching from Mercury to Neptune, especially from the hollowed out asteroids called terrariums. The threat is from robots with qubes (quantum computers) for brains that pass the Turing Test, and planet killing attacks from space. The heroine is Swan, 113 years old, with her own implanted qube among other modifications.

Too clever by half. This newest novel by Kim Stanley Robinson - 2312 - is an ambitious work  of wide-ranging cultural and literary references along with creative imaginings of our possible technological future. True to much science fiction, the novel features long discussions among the gods (after all these characters are 300 years smarter than we poor readers) on history, philosophy, and human nature.

With a nod to Heinlein, 2312 presents some new answers to the sexual mysteries. Group marriages, separation of sex, child rearing, house keeping, etc. Since were 300 years in the future ... anatomical flexibility. Swan has been both a father and a mother. Warning: there is one big sex scene ... but true to the genre, most of the energy is expended on the engineering considerations of coupling two partners who have both male and female parts.

In addition to numerous erudite references to literary (Emily Dickinson is a favorite) and musical (classical is favored) references, the (unnumbered) chapters are interspersed with (numbered) Lists and Extracts - fragments on some topic which I imagined can be plumbed for some mystical knowledge. I skimmed them.

I highly recommend this book for its creative view of the future, but as a novel, not so much. The plot is totally predictable and just a framework for the technology and pontification.

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