New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Nominated for a Hugo Award in 2018, Kim Stanley Robinson’s thick novel brings together musings on climate change, capitalism, fiscal policy, and buried treasure.

  • Format: Multiple characters tell their stories in individual chapters, a la Game of Thrones style. (I’m seeing that more and more these days.)  Robinson uses this well.  He divides the novel into several major sections, cycling through various characters in each section to move the plot forward.
  • Sci-fi subgenre: Hard cli-fi with a big dollop of social sci-fi   Are those legit terms? Fight me.
  • Plot teaser:  Would NYC still be the most interesting city in the world if it were half-drowned by rising oceans and dealing with all the normal problems of the City?  Short answer: Absolutely. Or, in New-York-ese: Fuck, yeah, and fuck you for thinking otherwise.
  • Size: Hefty. Nearly “daunting.” But the book always pulled me forward, and I didn’t mind the heft. Some reviewers have complained the book starts too slowly or that particular characters’ stories aren’t engaging. *shrugs* I liked everybody and was willing to let Robinson tell his story in his own way. But I don’t disagree that some characters were more critical to the plot than others.
  • Characterization: You know how most “hard sci fi” gets panned for poor characterization? (Cixin Liu most recently reminded me of this.)  I felt like Robinson’s characters were legit examples of New Yorkers just trying to get by. I’d love to know what my actual New York friends think of this book.
  • New York: You can’t keep a good city down, or the corruption and graft of a big city, or the peculiar New York combination of cynicism and undying pride in their town. Also, it’s pretty fascinating to think of an urban an intertidal zone and imagine life continuing using the upper floors of some of Manhattan’s most famous skyscrapers.
  • BIG IDEAS: climate change, economic and fiscal policy, stick-it-to-the-man critique of capitalism. Smaller but important sub-ideas: insider trading, video blogging and YouTube stardom, city government and politics, the joys of treasure hunting in a drowned landfill.

Conclusion:  I genuinely enjoyed the book. It’s not exactly a “summer beach read,” but Robinson’s book will probably make climate change real for people who are otherwise happy to let our grandkids deal with the fallout.  Read my longer review here

Pick up a copy of the book now! (Opens to Amazon.com, an affiliate)

New York 2140