2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I continue to try to catch up on my book reviewing before year's end.
I'm generally a fan of Robinson's work, though lately my reaction seems to be some form of, "I enjoyed that, but..." With 2312, I enjoyed it, but thought some of the digressions just didn't work. He intersperses "lists" or "extracts" throughout the novel. When they give more historical background to the setting, they help. When they don't, they get in the way. Further, as with his Science in the Capital series, he sometimes allows ideas that seem tangential to the plot to have too much prominence. Forty Signs of Rain had too many frisbee golf scenes, for example. With 2312, there are too many musings on a technique of organizing your life he calls the "pseudoiterative". I don't find it interesting enough to summarize. Also, I didn't find the way he incorporated quantum computing at all plausible.
But these are mostly quibbles. When the book works, it really works, and it zips you around the 24th-century solar system with a sense of wonder and a sense that, "Hey, maybe this is how things will really be." There's enough tension and excitement to keep you turning the pages, not just to find out about the setting, but also about how the characters' plans for preserving and improving it turn out.
I still keep expecting Robinson to hit a home run akin to the Mars trilogy, but it's possible that if I re-read those books with the same heightened expectations, I would also come away disappointed.
Aside from my Robinson fan-dom, I read this book to get a head start on next year's Nebula nominees. At this point, I'm not sure it'll quite do well enough to get nominated (it looks like KSR hasn't had a Best Novel nominee since 1995), and I'm not sure if it should. On the other hand, I'm not sure what's out there; I'm looking forward to what the voters come up with.