2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
I loved this book. I felt that the pacing, writing, world creation and characters were all well done (to a greater or lesser degree). Robinson chose to have a mix of mystery, romance, classic sci-fi, and just a bit of philosophy, which in my opinion worked well for the book.
Before I discuss the characters, I would like to talk a bit about world creation. To me, creating a convincing and interesting world might be the most difficult thing to accomplish in writing. If you can sell me on your world, you’ve sold me on your book. Most authors will have detailed descriptions and/or exposition as a main way to show the reader their worlds. This is often forced and unconvincing. Robinson gets around this in an interesting way. Rather than just narrative chapters, he included “Excerpt” and “List” chapters as well. The “Excerpts” are collections of one paragraph clippings, presumably from textbooks in the 24th century. These clippings cover subjects like technology, psychology, bionic augmentation, sociology, etc. and show more of the world than exposition can manage. The “Lists” are just that; lists of things that can be from any subject at all. Both of these supplementary materials adds a richness to the world that I deeply appreciated.
On to the characters. Swan is simultaneously a very complex and a very simple character. She is highly unpredictable as a person and does not seem to know herself what she will do. She is wild. Feral. She glories in embracing her animal side to the point of physical and mental augmentation. On the other hand, she is insecure in who she is and seems to dislike herself rather vehemently, making her relatable. Swan is the epitome of the flawed protagonist. I didn’t always like her or understand her, but I wanted to get to know her. The one thing that didn’t work in my opinion was how naïve Swan was. She is supposed to be 135 years old; she should not be surprised that people do very bad things.
Wahram is the exact opposite of Swan. He is quiet, steady, and calm. As a character in and of himself, he is slightly dull. But when played against Swan, he comes off looking good. Far less time is spent in Wahram’s head than Swan’s. I feel like that may have been a mistake. The reason for this is I don’t know why Wahram falls for Swan. It just seems to have happened without the reader seeing the process of it. Personally, I would have liked to see a bit more of Wahram’s thoughts as I didn’t get to know him as well as Swan.
Nonetheless, 2312 is possibly the best sci-fi I have read this year. I highly recommend it to everyone.