By Kim Stanley Robinson
SF writers aren’t prophets, and they tend to dislike it when their imaginings are read as forecasts of things to come. That said, some of them do take care to construct plausible futures that are interesting projections of current trends. The epic space operas of Kim Stanley Robinson fall into this category, imaginatively blending “hard” SF technology with a personal, left-leaning take on today’s pressing political, economic, and environmental issues.
Brief interchapters bring us up to speed with what has been happening in the last 300 years. Global warming has melted most of the ice caps, turning Manhattan into a Venice of skyscrapers. The population of the Earth has hit 11 billion, but luckily the human race has found room for them by colonizing the rest of the solar system. “Spacers” can even take asteroids terraformed into taxicabs shuttling between Mercury and the moons of Jupiter. And yet people still visit art galleries to view original Tintorettos, read Proust, and whistle Beethoven to themselves!
The main story, which has an odd couple trying to save the Earth from itself while at the same time trying to deal with a conspiracy involving renegade “qubes” (quantum computers), is well padded with scenery and talk, with only a couple of dramatic high points. But most readers will still find a lot to enjoy in Robinson’s often fascinating as well as hopeful look ahead.