There were many things I loved about 2312. It was filled with imagination and a foretelling of life from the most basic level to the grandest. It had the potential to sweep the reader up and carry them off into a world that was richly detailed in all the right places, and yet left the perfect amount to the imagination. Below are some of my favorite things.
Post-Binary Gender. I loved the idea of a society at ease with post-binary gender. How do things change when toxic displays of masculinity and ridiculous femininity are no longer present? When we’re no longer held back by even the simplest expectation that only ‘girls’ can have the babies? Imagine being able to experience being a parent from both sides of the equation. But even better? Imagine being able to be with large groups of people that don’t judge someone because of their gender or lack thereof. For some of us that would be like heaven. I hope that people that fall into that group one day get a chance to experience it.
Turning asteroids into terrariums. The idea fascinates me. There is estimated to be between 1.1 and 1.9 million asteroids in the asteroid belt alone that are over a half mile in diameter. It might be a long time before we have the capability to terraform asteroids, but imagine what we can do once we can. Kim Stanley Robinson focuses on the ability to save animals from extinction by breeding them in asteroids. Notice I said “in”. He makes a very good point in 2312 that it would be much easier to hollow out an asteroid and create a protected space than it would be to try to protect people or animals on the outside of one.
While I absolutely love the idea of saving endangered species (and yes, being able to experiment with evolution on different ones), my first thought wasn’t about animals. It was about me. I would love to have my own asteroid that I could go to when I needed to get away from people. Wouldn’t you? Even if it was only a half mile in diameter, I would be fine with that. A half mile with no people besides myself is perfectly fine.
Terraforming the planets. This one just made me do a happy dance because I love Robinson’s visions. A massive city on Mercury that moves on tracks around the center of the planet so that it’s never directly in the sunlight? While it’s one of those things that really only seems like it would be done just to say you can do it, it sounds so cool!! Or putting the much-needed nitrogen into Mars’ atmosphere by freezing chunks of it on Titan, and booting it to Mars? And his speculation about ways to make Venus livable? I absolutely love this man’s mind.
There’s even a huge thread running throughout the book that talks about the evolution of artificial intelligence. That is pretty much a staple of science fiction classics, but the way Robinson puts the pieces in place in 2312 keeps it interesting. After all, there are good and bad humans, so why not the same for artificial intelligence? Even just the possible development of pseudo-emotions is something to set your mind to chewing on.
At the end of 2312 Robinson brings everything together with a timely reminder. That though we may not see the change our actions are making now, decades from now, we will. There will be stumbles, trips, and falls. There will be times when things look hopeless, but as long as we keep pushing forward, things will change. We will enter a new age.
In my opinion, if Kim Stanley Robinson would just learn to throttle back on his output per book, there would be no disputing him as the best science fiction writer alive today. Unfortunately, his tendency to try to do a little too much in each book leads to an unfortunate case of bloat which can put the casual reader off. 2312 was a book full of fascinating ideas and breathtaking visualization. But it was easy to lose sight of that. Especially about halfway through the book where things slow to an ungainly crawl. His imagination is wonderful, but I don’t think the man is capable of writing a book with consistent, good pacing.