Robinson, Kim Stanley.  2312.  New York: Orbit, 2012.  ix, 561 pp.  $25.99.  Hardback.  ISBN 978-0-316-09812-0.

Robinson, already famous for his Mars and Environment Trilogies, tackles the questions of returning to a degraded environment on Earth after the human species has been living in space habitats and colonies around the solar system for several centuries.  The universe is the same as the Mars Trilogy setting, but that is never made explicit.  Oblique references to historian Charlotte Shortback (aka: Charlotte Dorsa Brevia in Blue Mars) and the unlikely rescue of Peter Clayborne (Red Mars) from the space elevator’s fall make it fairly obvious for the attentive reader.  However, no previous knowledge of Robinson’s writing is needed to understand this story, nor is any knowledge of the sciences and arts he includes, but both expand the experience for the reader.  This story has distinct similarities to the previous novels in terms of how it is structured, the social setting, economic schemes, ecological concerns, and the psychological factors involved.  Even some of the characters share major traits.  Swan Er Hong seems a blend of Maya, Anne, and Hiroko.  Fitz Wahram reminds one of John, Michel, and Sax; he is also 111 years old when the story begins, much like Bilbo was in The Lord of the Rings.  That said, just as the story’s progression of the conceptual universe is distinctly vibrant in its own right, so too with the characters.  Though they have some traits in common with previous personalities, Swan even using an AI device named Pauline, they are their own blend of archetypal features and are both delight and challenge to get to know.  These two and other major characters are real people looking for meaning, whether in tunnels beneath Mercury or “there in the gloom, somewhere in New Jersey” (100).  Overall, this is an excellent addition to the story begun with Red Mars.

– Prof. J. Holder Bennett, Collin College