Tuesday, March 21, 2017

SF writer N.K. Jemison reviews NEW YORK 2140 by SF legend Kim Stanley Robinson

In the NYTimes, she writes:
''It is altogether peculiar to immerse oneself in a story of New York written by a near-lifelong Californian.
Then again, Kim Stanley Robinson’s NEW YORK 2140 (Orbit, $28) is a novel of contradictions.
It explores capitalism but addresses class strife only obliquely; it makes predictions for Harlem and the South Bronx yet relegates racial and ethnic dynamics to the background; and in an age when local real estate agents already toss around terms like “Anthropocene” and “flood zone” over brunch, its audacious futurism arrives feeling a bit obsolete.
Still, New York is among other things a city of immigrants, as Robinson recognizes, so it’s only appropriate that an outsider should be the one to bring fresh perspective to its streets.
Or its canals, I should say: In Robinson’s post-icecaps future, Lower Manhattan has become the Venice of North America, with subways exchanged for bridges between buildings and business suits exchanged for drysuits.
There are several plots here, the most intriguing of which follows an investigation into two missing computer scientists, and there are memorable characters as well.
Make no mistake, though: The main character is the transformed New York, and Robinson gets it more right than wrong.
The novel deftly conveys its unnerving strangeness through interludes and asides: “New York, New York, it’s a hell of a bay” does have the ring of a culture adapting itself. (It’s also the quintessential outsider’s touch, since it riffs on a 1940s-era Broadway musical. Romanticizing the past and predicting the future while eliding the present: This is what tourists do.)

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