Thursday 4 May 2017

New York 2140 (Kim Stanley Robinson)

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It's only May 3, and 2017 is already deluged with great SF novels

It's a bit early to start talking about the 2018 Hugo Awards, but we're going to start speculation off already. 

2017 has already been a very good year in SF. Between the new Charles Stross, the highly touted Scalzi space opera, Doctorow's return to form, and a few other high-profile releases, there's already a fairly crowded field of contenders for the top award.

But for at least two members of our book club, Robinson's latest book has to be a clear frontrunner for getting on the Hugo shortlist.

KSR at his best

The short summary of the book is that it's a series of intertwining stories about people surviving in a flooded New York, decades after the oceans rose because of global warming.

Kim Stanley Robinson
photo by Kanaka Rastamon via Flickr
(CC Attribution-NonCommercial licence)

The quick description of the plot doesn't do the book justice. KSR plays with ideas around global capital, investment funds, urbanism, global climate change, ecology and human survival. But he also weaves several narratives about people working together to survive major environmental events, about different classes of people (from the upperclass super-wealthy to homeless orphaned youths), and about different philosophical approaches to global problems.

The book isn't without its flaws: Some point-of-view characters are portrayed with too broad a brush, or with too little understanding of their points of view, and excessive extraneous details about irrelevancies turned off at least one of our book club members. But on the whole, those flaws are eclipsed by a richly textured setting that is almost more important than the characters.

Urban Futurism

The imagined future city of New York 2140 is deeply explored in concept, economy, social relations, technology, and implications. It's one of the most satisfyingly consistent imaginings of a truly plausible future that many of us have read in the past few years.

Sea-level rise is depicted as a world-changing semi-apocalyptic event, and is described convincingly, but also hopefully, because something amazing is built in the aftermath.

The book club's resident KSR superfan lists New York 2140 as possibly the best of the author's works. It's hard for me to disagree with him. Seriously consider this for your Hugo nominations next year.

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