Angeles Times. As I wrote there, the novel is often profoundly moving while
also being very clever about extrapolating the future: "By the year of the book's title, humankind has (just barely) survived global warming, in part because of terra-forming technologies that have made possible the colonization of Mars, Mercury and
Venus. Asteroids and moons have been transformed into a bewildering variety of
biospheres"¦Against this backdrop, Robinson introduces readers to the remarkable
Swan Er Hong, a creator of biospheres who"¦is attending the funeral of Alex, her
grandmother"¦When Swan discovers secret messages from Alex in a wall mirror, she
is quickly caught up in a deadly conflict against unknown forces."
These forces seek to destabilize
the solar system by destroying cities and whole colonies. As compelling as the
plot is, however, the characters are even better, featuring "one of the
greatest odd couples in the history of science fiction." Robinson finds the
foil for Swan in the person of diplomat Fitz Wahram, also at the funeral. He's
ponderous (although sharply intelligent) and toad-like to Swan's"¦well,
swan-ness. They're an unlikely duo, especially as a romantic couple, but
Robinson does an amazing job of bringing them, and their relationship, to life.
As they together seek answers to
the mystery of who is behind a series of devastating attacks, they're drawn
ever closer to each other. Some scenes, like a long sequence with the two
escaping down an underground tunnel, can easily be described as "classic" in
the best sense. Another, with the two alone in deep space, has a grandeur,
loneliness, and warmth most authors would kill to achieve in just one scene.
Although the novel lingers with
readers long after it's put down because of the chemistry between these two
misfits, the decision to balance intrigue with a love story seems to have split
Amazon readers down the middle. Some even seem not to notice the romantic
element at all. The complexity of the novel---the way it successfully does
several things at once"”is mirrored in its opening. Rather than start with
either the love story or the interplanetary adventure, Robinson instead begins
with Swan by herself, followed by the funeral of her grandmother. Some
novelists might have started with one of the disastrous attacks that fuels the
mystery, or foregrounded Swan and Wahram. But he's wise enough to know that for
everything to be in balance he has to more or less not commit to any one kind
of story. Instead, his approach allows the reader to become acclimated to his
future setting rather than become confused by it"”and to adapt to a more nuanced
but no less entertaining story.
Most reviewers seem to agree that
it's a great book as a result. Personally, as I wrote in my review, I found the
novel to be "a treasured gift to fans
of passionate storytelling"
and one of Robinson's best. It doesn't hurt that the author's plot includes at
least two jaw-dropping moments of utter audacity.
Meanwhile, Robinson's publisher,
Orbit, has backed up 2312 with an
ingenious PR campaign that includes a webpage where you can build your own
biosphere on an asteroid. You not only get a cool science lesson"”it's fun too!