Thursday, November 21, 2013


By Kim Stanley Robinson

Swan lives on Mercury. Wahram lives on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. They are "spacers," people born and raised off of Earth. Out there in the solar system life is pretty good. Advanced technology enables humans to live almost anywhere they desire. And with the advanced technology comes advances in medical care too. Both Swan and Wahram are in their 100s but have the vitality and well-being of people in their thirties.
Swan's grandmother Alex is the "Lion" of Mercury. She is the de facto leader of the people of Mercury. She is quite old but in good health yet dies suddenly. Swan is devastated by her death.  She is even more upset when she finds out that Alex had secrets she kept from Swan, secrets that involve the whole solar system. Wahram, one of Alex's confidants, arrives on Mercury just in time to be nearly killed in an attack on Mercury's largest city, Terminator. The city is destroyed and Swan and Wahram barely survive and spend many long weeks waiting for rescue in an underground passage.
But they are rescued and together they carry out Alex's secret mission and try to discover why Mercury's main city was targeted for destruction.

This was an interesting story and also a boring story. Over 600 pages long, it just goes on and on. What is interesting about it is the author's depiction of humanity free to wander the solar system, settling in the most unlikely places, like Mercury, the hottest planet in the system. The main city of Mercury, Terminator, moves on a track that keeps in constantly on the dark side of the planet and out of the burning sunlight. The attack that destroys Terminator is not directed at the city but at its track. Unable to maintain its trek in the shade, Terminator is caught in the light and burns up. Fortunately the population has plenty of time to evacuate.
Not only are people living on most of the planets of the solar system, they have also colonized the asteroids, hollowing them out and building small ecosystems that also serve as refuges for the Earth's endangered and even extinct (on Earth) species.
Robinson's vision of the future is quite appealing and that is what captured my interest. I didn't really care for the main character, Swan, who seems to be a bit unstable. I also didn't really understand the whole attack on Mercury plot of the story. I understand who but didn't get why. That part either didn't register with me or maybe it isn't fully explained. Anyway, my main problem with the book was its length: it's too damn long! That would be OK if it was an exciting, gripping story. But it's not. Interesting but not very exciting or engaging.

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