Kim Stanley Robinson
The year is 2312. Scientific and technological advances have opened gateways to an extraordinary future. Earth is no longer humanity’s only home; new habitats have been created throughout the solar system on moons, planets, and in between. But in this year, 2312, a sequence of events will force humanity to confront its past, its present, and its future.
The first event takes place on Mercury, on the city of Terminator, itself a miracle of engineering on an unprecedented scale. It is an unexpected death, but one that might have been foreseen. For Swan Er Hong, it is an event that will change her life. Swan was once a woman who designed worlds. Now she will be led into a plot to destroy them.
This is the first real science-fiction book that I’ve read. I mean, I’ve read the Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy, but that doesn’t even come close to being as immersive as this book was. So I can’t really say that I have anything to compare this book to, but in general it was an okay book. Perhaps that doesn’t sound too enthusiastic, but that’s because I’m not. There were some aspects of this book that weren’t quite to my liking. This novel was a very slow read for me and this actually bothered me. there was never a point while reading this, that I just felt that irresistible pull to keep on reading. I’m used to being a faster reader and I did miss making headway with this book, but this book just didn’t allow for very fast reading for me. Overall I also missed a more extensive plotline, because there are over 500 pages I just expected a bit more substance that was related to the main plot lines at hand.
Swan was the main character in this book but we don’t fully get to know her. In fact I would even say that we don’t really get to know her at all. Yes, we certainly get acquainted with certain sides of her, but we don’t get much more than that. She was definitely a very special character but I didn’t find her likeable and often a bit too out there (without there having been a real reason to be). perhaps if I had known more about her, there would have been more of a bond? Sometimes it just felt like she was doing odd stuff just to be unconventional. Wahram was a very character, we never got to know him at all, he was just sort of there. Some snippets of information about him were present in the story, but never enough to get anywhere close to a connection to him. Jean was also a character that kept popping up throughout the book, and once again we knew close to nothing about him. There’s barely anything personal about him all through the book. Kiran is yet another character in the book and once again we have no clue who he is. Same goes for Alex, who only gets a short description at the start of the book and is referred to a couple of times (mostly just dropping the name in random conversations). The fact that there wasn’t any character in the book that we really got to know really left me feeling disengaged from the book. I just did not connect with the story because I never felt any sort of connection to any of the characters. The inter-character-relations were special which could be expected seeing as they were all native to different planets and most were alterations of the same race. But once again I miss any sort of profound connection between these people. At times there might have been talk about certain characters having a connection, but I never felt it. There were moments in which they connected, but never in depth, or it was only hinted at. But I want to feel included in the story, not being some observer from very far away. I have to say that this aspect of the book really left me wanting more. I wanted to feel a better connection to the characters and between themselves as well. I think this is the prime reason why this book was such a slow read for me. I’m in it for the people (though just characters and no story is no good either).
Something I really did enjoy is the world building. It was just through the roof amazing! I loved the way all of the cities and the planets were described. There was a wide variety of technology, modes of transport and what-not described in high detail and it just made this world seem more real. you could really imagine these places and things. I for one was an absolute sucker for the terraria, they sound amazing! The passages depicting the world were so beautiful to rad. But at times they might have lacked a bit of a connection to the story. Sometimes it felt like the focus of this novel was on us getting to know this universe and all that was in it, instead of us finding out more about the main plot. As I mentioned above, this book really has more than enough pages to explore the storyline further in a more detailed manner, even inside this beautifully written world. The book was written in different styles of chapters. Sometimes we got lists, other times excerpts, and sometimes just a narration of things that are happening. I wasn’t a fan of all of the different sort of chapters, the quantum walks, for instance, they didn’t appeal to me. But in general I really liked the diversity in writing styles throughout the book. Ho gorgeous the descriptive writing was, so disappointing were the dialogues. They often felt forced (as if these characters were just having these chats to explain something to us, the reader, instead of having actual things to say). There was certain lack of flow during most dialogues and could feel pretty void of emotions.
In my eyes there were two main storylines being actively pursued throughout the book, both of which I was enjoying. But there were certain points in the book where these storylines seemed to fall asleep for about fifty pages or so. After that it would pick up again, but always at a moderate to slow pace. While these plotlines were put on hold the focus would be mainly on things very unrelated to it. This just really slowed down the book as well. Lastly I would like to bring up another thing that lessened my joy in reading this book. This was just because it was just a bit too out there for me to be enjoyable as reading material. I’m talking about the sexuality thing (that’s as specific as I will be in this review). At first it was just casually mentioned and I wasn’t a huge fan but I didn’t really mind. But here and there it would resurface, and every time with increasing details about certain aspects of it. And while this might be personal preference, for me we just got to a point where I kept getting more information than I wanted about these things. If it had been kept in a more scientific light, this would definitely have been better in my eyes. That the whole concept of a relationship changed when everything became interplanetary, I understand. It really could be written of as an understandable result of life changing so drastically. Though I don’t really understand why certain things had to come back like polygamy. It’s not that I have a problem with this, it’s just that I don’t really see the reason as to why this is coming back in style? But that might just be me. But while I didn’t get this, it didn’t really bother me, unlike the sex thing.
The ending of this book just left me wanting more of an explanation. Or perhaps just something more satisfying. I really had to push myself to keep picking up this book and if it had been just a bit thorough ending I might have ended this book in a more fulfilled manner. After reading so many pages I can honestly say that I would not have minded reading about 50 more to get a fuller ending, one that left me with more gratification at actually having stuck with the story. And it’s not as if the main storylines didn’t allow for a more full ending, it just sizzled out without any real reason in my eyes.
So in general I can say that this was not one of my favorite books. I really loved certain parts of this novel, but others just left me waiting for something, anything to happen. The balance between the world building and the action was a bit off and this did affect my feelings towards the book. and me being a very character-relating person really missed that aspect in this book. But it really wasn’t a bad book, it just written in a style that wasn’t for me. Also, I find it very hard to believe that 300 years from now people will still be so into all the great artists from now. I know that some of these things have already been around for a long time. But how long could that possibly last?