New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley RobinsonNew York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson
Published by Orbit on March 14th 2017
Genres: Sci-Fi
Pages: 613
Format: Ebook

It is 2140.

The waters rose, submerging New York City.

But the residents adapted and it remained the bustling, vibrant metropolis it had always been. Though changed forever.

Every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island.

Through the eyes of the varied inhabitants of one building, Kim Stanley Robinson shows us how one of our great cities will change with the rising tides.

And how we too will change.

I had, and still have, very mixed feelings about New York 2140. I suspected going in that I would not be dealing with a traditional narrative, and I was not disappointed from that point of view. This is the story of a group of individuals who are living in New York in the eponymous year, after two major ice cap melt events, and after the flooding of the city. The lives of the characters are intertwined and very separate, but they are brought together through a common purpose, and desire for a community amidst the chaos which has ensued.

I was struggling with how to categorise this story, and I realised that it reminded me of the show Friends. There are a group of characters who are each living their lives, with their own goals and passions, but they are all united together by friendship. The novel is a story of their lives and loves, and how they band together to solve the inevitable problems and hardships that face them in a world which is partially submerged, but not what I would categorise as a post-apocalyptic or dystopian society.

The characters are all very individual, and well fleshed out through the story. There are the financial advisors, the quants, the treasure-hunting teenagers, the police woman, the airheaded “internet star” who flies around in her airship carrying animals from place to place, and the list goes on and on. Whether it is for good or ill, they are all given their time to shine, although there is a definite hierarchy of main characters. Robinson paints an interesting picture of the kinds of people who survive and thrive in this new kind of environment, and his world-building is spectacular.

The book is not without its problems, however. There is a very definite overtone criticising the current attitude towards climate science, the financial markets, and capitalism in general. The author lays it on thick and heavyhanded with his own views of what happened to society through the 20th and early 21st Century, which ultimately lead to world being in the fucked-up position it is in the story. I am not against books having a ‘message’ I suppose, and to some degree that has always been a function of the science fiction genre, but this is not subtle and is rather odious in places. The book also is a bit too clever, or aware of itself, as the author deliberately breaks the fourth wall at times out of deep satisfaction at his own cleverness. And I was not okay with that.

While I don’t want to stray too much into spoiler territory, what the residents of the tower do at the end of the book is extremely utopian in nature, and almost drove me up the wall.

Overall I enjoyed the characters and the world which Robinson has created, and the story he has told through a more leisurely slice-of-life style. This is not plot-heavy science fiction, the plot swirls around the characters like the ever-present tides, but it is secondary to the personal relationships that they share. There were some very entertaining moments in the book – mostly involving the airship pilot, including a very memorable scene involving polar bears gaining control – and the treasure hunting teenagers always brought some levity to the story.

I can see how this book will divide readers who are looking for straight up science fiction. I enjoyed the style as a whole, and did not mind some of the philosophical elements, but this ultimately felt too much like the author was beating you over the head with a book on Marxism at times.

Rating Report
Overall: four-stars

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