Tuesday, April 11, 2017
REVIEW: NEW YORK 2140 BY KIM STANLEY ROBINSON
This book overwhelmed me a little. I loved it, but it felt like work. There's hardly a topic that isn't addressed- whether it be global, financial, cultural, ecological, or political.While highly intelligent, my main issue was the characters. They felt like secondary props to Robinson's mission of warning against our current societal behavior. It was frustrating because I wanted them to bolster this message, not seem like flimsy examples of the the main point (Example: shallow hedge fund manager who might not be so awful...but really just annoyed the heck out of me through most of the book). The setting of New York City was perfect for this scenario, and the message was spot-on- the story to exemplify this simply felt problematic because it lacked emotional connection.
While this sounds negative, it doesn't detract from the fact that this is an extraordinary work of science fiction. It's so inventive that the detailed description of the boats, infrastructure, and new technology was hard for me to envision. 2140 put me in mind of my Seveneves experience (by Neal Stephenson). I'd love to hear about Robinson's writing process, and wonder how long this story simmered in his brain.
We follow many narratives, with one perspective simply titled "that Citizen". This allowed for additional facts about life after the Second Pulse....such as a bird's eye view of the new economy, and the perils of global warming. It's clear Robinson has expertise and passion in this area. I agreed with his arguments entirely, and his observations felt eerily plausible, with references to our rate of pollution and the 2008 Financial crash. And what if sea level rose an additional few feet due to a storm surge?
If you struggle with books that are preachy, be forewarned. He doesn't hide his intention to drill these points into your brain. A sample quote from "that Citizen":
"Because life is bigger than equations, stronger than money, stronger than guns and poison and bad zoning policy, stronger than capitalism, Because Mother Nature bats last, and Mother Ocean is strong...."
This is a sweeping saga about the ramifications of a changed world, and how we must keep carrying on and trying to do better, even in the face of hopelessness. History is everchanging, greed only takes people so far, and sparks can create revolutions. The section on the success of non-violent civil resistance, either in the form of protest marches, or even more influential, financial resistance (stop buying the things) made it feel especially pertinent in light of our recent Presidential election. This book is meant to hit close to home, spark thought, and hopefully help convince you to change a behavior or two.
I'll probably buy a copy of this book, as this is on library loan. Weighty words, and what do I know, but I have a feeling this could become a classic. And also terrified it might come true.