Kim Stanley Robinson’s style is unusual . And his style of breaking up paragraphs with droning technobabble and lists and excerpts make this book a tough read. So tough that it’s hard to read. Because it does not flow as I expect a book to read and of course every writer wants to be “unique”, its uniqueness is its error.
Despite its occasional convolution and use of highly technical words in biology, chemistry, physics, etc. that only a biologist, chemist or physicist would really understand, despite all this babble and convolution, it’s the story of a woman. Or who’s mostly a woman. Even she is unsure of who and what she is.
Her name is Swan. And as her namesake she flies across the solar system looking for creativity, people and places that are both unusual and stimulating. Over her 100+ year lifetime, she’s become a woman with some male body parts thrown in. Apparently in this society sub-genders are many and it’s often a task to use the proper pronouns he or she.
She lives on Mercury and in her travels she finds her hometown there destroyed by a pebble storm .
Her mentor recently died under unusual circumstances and so did her city. In all this she travels to an Earth that has no animals (she helps reintroduce them) and still struggles with factions and politics, as the oceans rise and many coastal cities are flooded or underwater such as the state of Florida.
She travels to hollowed asteroids which are worlds in themselves, each one specializing in some society no matter how bizarre. She has a “qube” in her head – artificial intelligence – that she constantly tells to be quiet yet this AI, Pauline, reflects Swan’s persona.
Mars has its independence, the moons of Saturn and Luna have theirs, and a newly terraformed Mercury and Venus. Her adventures are many and varied and sometimes hard to read through as it is trying to figure out her personality and lack of predictability.
Then there’s Wahram. He’s Swan’s opposite in many respects. And there’s Inspector Genette, a small but important character in figuring out the murder of a city and the potential murder of an entire planet. Who is planning it, and who is instigating it?
I won’t spoil it, but it was an anticlimactic ending.
Kim is a hard author to get through. But when you have run the marathon of getting to the end, and slog through the nomenclature of several subjects, you somehow have faith that Swan and Wahram will make something of their long and crazy lives.
Not bad, Kim. Not bad . Unfortunately the book is so intent in explaining Man’s societies that the plot lines grow thin to nearly forgotten!