Author/s Kim Stanley Robinson http://kimstanleyrobinson.info/w/index.php5?title=Kim_Stanley_Robinson
Robinson was born in Waukegan, Illinois, but moved to Orange County, California, when he was two. As a child he loved to play in the orange groves stretching out for miles around his home, so when suburban sprawl began to encroach and the groves were torn out and paved over, the rapid change of modern life hit close to home. It was not until college in 1971 that he would stumble upon new wave science fiction and find in it an expression of that very sense of rapid change that had made such an impression upon him growing up, at which point he knew almost immediately that he would be committed to science fiction from then on.
Robinson is still the stay-at-home parent, giving him plenty of time to write, while his wife continues to work full time as a chemist. As a result, much of the couple’s social circle is made up of her friends and colleagues, giving Robinson ample material with which to write about scientists. As can be gathered from above, Robinson enjoys inserting personal life experiences or autobiographical elements in his works.
Publisher Orbit http://www.orbitbooks.net/
Where did I get this book? Amazon.co.uk
Date read 11th-13th June
Rating 5 stars
Gut Feeling This book is verging on Hard Science and, therefore, I am afraid that some of the nuances may have gone over my head. But, having said that I still love the ideas, the story, and the characters that lie at the heart of this planet jumping book
Summary/plot arch /World building/ Characters
This book contains; A city on tracks that is constantly running away from the sun, artists who create bio domes, individuals who can change sex at any time (mothering and fathering children), People who chase the sun, an earth that is dying, colonies that feed off it, and terrorists who want to destroy the whole system.
Earth has been written off by its’ colonies and is dying. Its’ environment is polluted and its’ government, as much as there is, is in tatters. Most colonists have given up trying to fix Earth a long time ago. They are now focusing on their new home planet. A group of individuals disagree. They argue that the only way to ensure their own safety, and stop terrorism/crime, is to fix earth. Spread throughout the galaxy, this group of individuals work together to achieve this end. We can see hints of the real world situation in this story. How many people argue that our safety relies on solving the problems of the ‘the middle east’ or ‘Africa’? And how many others argue that we should ignore the problems of these countries and look after our own home?
One of its’ key members, Alex, has died. Alex was the pivot on which the group moved. It was her energy and motivation that drove the enterprise and her ambassadorial skill that pulled people towards it. Under her magnetic influence even enemies were pacified. We meet her first at her memorial service. We find that she is a much loved and much missed individual. We find that many rely on her and she seems to be the mainstay of any group of which she is part. One such individual is the troubled, augmented, artist Swan.
When we first meet Swan, she is solitary part of a group who chase the sun. This is a genius move on Robinson’s part. We learn so much about Swan in this section. We see that s/he is part of this group and, at the same time, a stranger within it; an isolated troubled individual who has lost the ability to communicate effectively with others. We, also, get a glimpse of her personality in the fact that she is running towards the sun while the rest of the civilization seems to be running away from it. They are that eager to escape this scolding sphere that they have built their habitation on tracks. They Travel on the city, as if on a train, away from the ever encroaching sun. If you want to get somewhere you travel on the city and exit it, as you would a train, when you reach your destination. Then, when you’re ready to leave, you wait for the city to pass by and hop on again. Swan goes against the trend and like a moth she is drawn to the sun.
We soon find that, in this instance, Swan is not simply chasing the Sun but is travelling to Alexis’ memorial service. Here Alexis’ partner gives her a package that was left for her by his ‘spouse’ before h/er death. This package contains; a computer file, a list of contacts and a command to carry on her mission. This command is complicated by the fact that Swan, at first at least, is not told what the mission entails. It is further complicated by the fact that the mission is clouded in secrecy.
Swan must travel far and wide to meet up with these contacts. One of whom is an ex-partner and another, Warham, will play an important role within the book. She will face many dangers. The most extraordinary being when the city is destroyed just as she and Warham are waiting for it. They are left stranded in the ‘desert’. They must contend with heat, desperation, dehydration and life threatening ill-health. They return to a destroyed city. Swan must help repair her own home world and then take part in the fixing of earth. S/he must find out who destroyed her home. After many false starts, she and a team of colleagues decide to bring back the animals to the Planet. Animals, now extinct on earth, have been bred off planet and are now re-introduced to earth. Gradually Swan, partially, repairs the earth and finds herself.
Themes Of course, the main themes centre on earth and its relationship with its colonies. It asks the question; how much should the colonies intervene in the affairs of earth. It’s not too difficult to draw parallels with the situation in Syria and the ‘West’s’ dilemma concerning how much we should intervene. This book also gives a stark warning concerning what will happen to earth if we don’t do something about global warming soon.
Issues of identity and gender, while not being the main focus of the work, lie quietly at its’ heart. People in this world can change sex/gender several times in their long life journey. They can augment their bodies; making them live longer and changes their very nature. This contrasts with the more rigid gender relations that exist on our own world. In fact, it’s difficult to speak of the book’s various gendered identities. In fact, we do not have the language to describe Swan’s or Alexis’ gendered identities.
Conclusion I really liked this book.