Friday, April 19, 2013

#FridayReview #8: 2312

Well guys, it's arrived. The review of the Hugo-nominated 2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson. I have to say, I was really excited to write this one, but now, to be honest, I haven't even finished the book. And at this point, it doesn't matter what the ending is. I'm honestly not even going to give it the big text this time.

Okay fine, I will.

by Kim Stanley Robinson

2312 takes place around the year 2312, and starts strongly hinting that some shit goes down in that year, but has not yet in the character's lives. He never specifies what date it is in the book, mostly for good reason, since a day and date mean little between Earth, Mars and Saturn. The setting of the book is quite excellent: a climate ravaged and poverty stricken Earth held down by ancient traditions and primitive beliefs and greed still remains the dominant power in a fully-populated solar system. Mars is terraformed and independent, Venus is being terraformed by a mostly Chinese population, Saturn and Jupiter and their moons are independent as planetary leagues, and all the major iron-nickel asteroids have been hollowed out as giant terrariums to hold the lost biospheres of destroyed Earth.

Oh and there's some jazz about quantum computers called qubes that all spacers have but few have implanted; they're "totally not sentient" i.e. totally are, and are super intelligent and powerful but supposedly harmless and slaved to humans.

There are two major plots and two major POV (there's a third semi-major POV that reminds me of the comic relief POV I had to throw away in the first draft of Leylined because he didn't fit and was just there to add fluff) and to tell you the truth, I don't even care about them anymore. KSR certainly doesn't seem to. His characters certainly don't. I don't ever see them caring. They just do things and go places and see stuff for KSR to describe, which, don't get me wrong, is cool. He is a descriptive master, and the solar system he has created is really beautiful and interesting, and real. The future he describes is one that seems totally plausible!

For a little background, KSR wrote a trilogy of novels about terraforming mars called Red Mars, Green Mars and Blue Mars, and they ruled. They were great political dramas about planetary independence, the old world, and climate change, while having sweet hard sci fi about terraforming a planet.

And he used a lot of big words. He uses a lot of big words in 2312, too. A lot of them my Kindle dictionary doesn't even know. Fortunately, I know many of them, but there are still quite a few that I don't. 

This is a political book, too. Very political, and very derogatory of our planet's current administrations and cultures, and how we treat the planet and are just setting future generations of Earthlings up for a big ass shitshow. And you know what? I agree with it, all of it. This book jives with my personal political beliefs almost to a tee (except about qubes). It illustrates a universe I think is totally awesome and interesting. I should love this book. This should be my favourite book of last year, hands down. But you know what?

I haven't even finished it. It's too boring. It is too boring. I can't read it quickly enough! It's like molasses in my brain. There were about 20 straight pages of WALKING THROUGH A TUNNEL while that POV pondered the iterative versus the pseudoiterative life. And then they just get out through a happy coincidence, and nothing else bad happens to them.

Honestly, I got fed up at 70% and just put it down because the moment that should have been dramatic as fuck was like "okay whatever now this junk happens." Somehow, the dramatic situations he creates are transformed into piles of grey sludge by the narrative and his POVs.

Remember the two main plots I talked about? One is fixing Earth, and the other is "dealing with the qube problem." There was a single chapter devoted to the qube plot in this 70%, and I have the feeling it's going to blow up soon, but I can't bring myself to go any further. It's boring. It's stale. This book isn't telling a story, it's making a point. A point I agree with, but one that's made so staidly and obtusely that I can't even bring myself to support it.

Even if the last 30% of this book is a dramatic pulse pounding adventure, it's not worth it. It's bad writing. There are full chapters that are just X went here, X did this X saw that X did this X saw that X saw this thing which I will now describe in detail with full history for 2000 words. X goes somewhere else. Many people offering advice to writers say to cut down on the dialogue; people don't talk that much. This book cuts down on it to a point where these people may as well be mute. One of the POVs fell in love with the other POV and I couldn't even tell, his emotional state is so bland. The other POV is crazy, but when she really has a psychological break, you're never in her head. When you are, she's just a whiny girl, even though she's supposed to be something like 130 years old, and a super famous professional.

This book makes some good points about how we treat our world, and illustrates the potential for human expansion and the power we have to change our world and others. It is an "important" book. It is a "good hard sci-fi" book. That's why it got nominated for a Hugo. But I wouldn't tell a first-time scifi reader to read this book. Honestly, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who hasn't read KSR before, or isn't a heavy Stephen Baxter fanatic. And even then, that recommendation would come with caveats. Number one of which is: it's boring as hell, and farily badly written from a directorial standpoint. His actual mastery of the English language is not under question. But dramatic vision for this book is sorely lacking. The exciting things that do happen are like battles in LOTR -- briefly mentioned and often little more than a paragraph long.

I'm going to for real finish this book sometime, and I'll let you know if the ending changed anything for me, but right now, I'm going to read something else.

ONE WORD REVIEW: YAWN                                                                                      B/W/D: WAIT

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