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2312 by [Kim Stanley Robinson]
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Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

2312


By Kim Stanley Robinson

Orbit

Copyright © 2013 Kim Stanley Robinson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-316-09811-3


CHAPTER 1

SWAN AND ALEX


Alex's memorial ceremony began as Swan was straggling up Terminator's greatcentral staircase. The city's population had come out into the boulevards andplazas and were standing in silence. There were a lot of visitors in town aswell; a conference had been about to begin, one that had been convened by Alex.She had welcomed them on Friday; now on the following Friday they were holdingher funeral. A sudden collapse, and they hadn't been able to revive her. And sonow the townspeople, the diplomat visitors: all Alex's people, all grieving.

Swan stopped halfway up the Dawn Wall, unable to go on. Below her rooftops,terrace patios, balconies. Lemon trees in giant ceramic pots. A curved slopelike a little Marseilles, with white four-story apartment blocks, black iron-railedbalconies, broad boulevards and narrow alleys, dropping to a promenadeoverlooking the park. All crowded with humanity, speciating right before hereyes, each face intensely itself while also a type—Olmec spheroid,hatchet, shovel. On a railing stood three smalls, each about a meter tall, alldressed in black. Down at the foot of the stairs clustered the sunwalkers whohad just arrived, looking burnt and dusty. The sight of them piercedSwan—even the sunwalkers had come in for this.

She turned on the stairs and descended, wandered by herself. The moment she hadheard the news, she had dashed out of the city onto the land, driven by a needto be alone. Now she couldn't bear to be seen when Alex's ashes were scattered,and she didn't want to see Mqaret, Alex's partner, at that moment. Out into thepark, therefore, to wander in the crowd. All of them standing still, looking up,looking distraught. Holding each other up. There were so many people who hadrelied on Alex. The Lion of Mercury, the heart of the city. The soul of thesystem. The one who helped and protected you.

Some people recognized Swan, but they left her alone; this was more moving toher than condolences would have been, and her face was wet with tears, she wipedher face with her fingers repeatedly. Then someone stopped her: "You are Swan ErHong? Alex was your grandmother?"

"She was my everything." Swan turned and walked off. She thought the farm mightbe emptier, so she left the park and drifted through the trees forward. The cityspeakers were playing a funeral march. Under a bush a deer nuzzled fallenleaves.

She was not quite to the farm when the Great Gates of the Dawn Wall opened, andsunlight cut through the air under the dome, creating the usual horizontal pairof yellow translucent bars. She focused on the swirls within the bars, thetalcum they tossed up there when they opened the gates, colored fines floatingon updrafts and dispersing. Then a balloon rose from the high terraces under thewall, drifting west, the little basket swaying under it: Alex; how could it be.A surge of defiance in the music rumbled up out of the basses. When the balloonentered one of the yellow bars of light, the basket blew apart in a poof, andAlex's ashes floated down and out of the light, into the air of the city,growing invisible as they descended, like a shower of virga in the desert. Therewas a roar from the park, the sound of applause. Briefly some young mensomewhere chanted, "A-lex! A-lex! A-lex!" The applause lasted for a couple ofminutes, and arranged itself as a rhythmic beat that went on for a long time.People didn't want to give it up; somehow that would be the end, they would atthat very moment lose her. Eventually they did give it up, and lived on into thepost-Alex phase of their lives.


She needed to go up and join the rest of Alex's family. She groaned at thethought, wandered the farm. Finally she walked up the Great Staircase, stiffly,blindly, pausing once to say, "No, no, no," for a time. But that was pointless.Suddenly she saw: anything she did now would be pointless. She wondered how longthat would last—seemed like it could be forever, and she felt a bolt offear. What would change to change it?

Eventually she pulled herself together and made her way up to the privatememorial on the Dawn Wall. She had to greet all those who had been closest toAlex, and give Mqaret a brief rough hug, and withstand the look on his face. Butshe could see he was not home. This was not like him, but she could fullyunderstand why he might depart. Indeed it was a relief to see it. When sheconsidered how bad she felt, and then how much closer Mqaret had been to Alexthan she had been, how much more of his time he spent with her—how longthey had been partners—she couldn't imagine what it would feel like. Ormaybe she could. So now Mqaret stared at some other reality, from some otherreality—as if extending a courtesy to her. So she could hug him, andpromise to visit him later, and then go mingle with the others on the highestterrace of the Dawn Wall, and later make her way to a railing and look down atthe city, and out its clear bubble to the black landscape outside it. They wererolling through the Kuiper quadrant, and she saw to the right Hiroshige Crater.Once long before, she had taken Alex out there to the apron of Hiroshige to helpwith one of her goldsworthies, a stone wave that referenced one of the Japaneseartist's most famous images. Balancing the rock that would be the crest of thebreaking wave had taken them a great number of unsuccessful efforts, and as sooften with Alex, Swan had ended up laughing so hard her stomach hurt. Now shespotted the rock wave, still out there—it was just visible from the city.The rocks that had formed the crest of the wave were gone, however—knockeddown by the vibration of the passing city, perhaps, or simply by the impact ofsunlight. Or fallen at the news.

A few days later she visited Mqaret in his lab. He was one of the leadingsynthetic biologists in the system, and the lab was filled with machines, tanks,flasks, screens bursting with gnarled colorful diagrams—life in all itssprawling complexity, constructed base pair by base pair. In here they hadstarted life from scratch; they had built many of the bacteria now transformingVenus, Titan, Triton—everywhere.

Now none of that mattered. Mqaret was in his office, sitting in his chair,staring through the wall at nothing.

He roused himself and looked up at her. "Oh, Swan—good to see you. Thanksfor coming by."

"That's all right. How are you doing?"

"Not so well. How about you?"

"Terrible," Swan confessed, feeling guilty; the last thing she wanted was to addto Mqaret's load somehow. But there was no point in lying at a time like this.And he merely nodded anyway, distracted by his own thoughts. He was just barelythere, she saw. The cubes on his desk contained representations of proteins, thebright false colors tangled beyond all hope of untangling. He had been trying towork.

"It must be hard to work," she said.

"Yes, well."

After a blank silence, she said, "Do you know what happened to her?"

He shook his head quickly, as if this was an irrelevance. "She was a hundred andninety-one."

"I know, but still ..."

"Still what? We break, Swan. Sooner or later, at some point we break."

"I just wondered why."

"No. There is no why."

"Or how, then ..."

He shook his head again. "It can be anything. In this case, an aneurysm in acrucial part of the brain. But there are so many ways. The amazing thing is thatwe stay alive in the first place."

Swan sat on the edge of the desk. "I know. But, so ... what will you do now?"

"Work."

"But you just said ..."

He glanced at her from out of his cave. "I didn't say it wasn't any use. Thatwouldn't be right. First of all, Alex and I had seventy years together. And wemet when I was a hundred and thirty. So there's that. And then also, the work isinteresting to me, just as a puzzle. It's a very big puzzle. Too big, in fact."And then he stopped and couldn't go on for a while. Swan put a hand to hisshoulder. He put his face in his hands. Swan sat there beside him and kept hermouth shut. He rubbed his eyes hard, held her hand.

"There'll be no conquering death," he said at last. "It's too big. Too much thenatural course of things. The second law of thermodynamics, basically. We canonly hope to forestall it. Push it back. That should be enough. I don't know whyit isn't."

"Because it only makes it worse!" Swan complained. "The longer you live, theworse it gets!"

He shook his head, wiped his eyes again. "I don't think that's right." He blewout a long breath. "It's always bad. It's the people still alive who feel it,though, and so ..." He shrugged. "I think what you're saying is that now itseems like some kind of mistake. Someone dies, we say why. Shouldn't there havebeen a way to stop it. And sometimes there is. But ..."

"It is some kind of mistake!" Swan declared. "Reality made a mistake,and now you're fixing it!" She gestured at the screens and cubes. "Right?"

He laughed and cried at the same time. "Right!" he said, sniffing and wiping hisface. "It's stupid. What hubris. I mean, fixing reality."

"But it's good," Swan said. "You know it is. It got you seventy years with Alex.And it passes the time."

"It's true." He heaved a big sigh, looked up at her. "But—things won't bethe same without her."

Swan felt the desolation of this truth wash through her. Alex had been herfriend, protector, teacher, step-grandmother, surrogate mother, allthat—but also, a way to laugh. A source of joy. Now her absence created acold feeling, a killer of emotions, leaving only the blankness that wasdesolation. Sheer dumb sentience. Here I am. This is reality. No one escapes it.Can't go on, must go on; they never got past that moment.

So on they went.

There was a knock at the lab's outer door. "Come in," Mqaret called a littlesharply.

The door opened, and in the entry stood a small—very attractive in the waysmalls often were—aged, slender, with a neat blond ponytail and a casualblue jacket—about waist high to Swan or Mqaret, and looking up at themlike a langur or marmoset.

"Hello, Jean," Mqaret said. "Swan, this is Jean Genette, from the asteroids, whowas here as part of the conference. Jean was a close friend of Alex's, and is aninvestigator for the league out there, and as such has some questions for us. Isaid you might be dropping by."

The small nodded to Swan, hand on heart. "My most sincere condolences on yourloss. I've come not only to say that, but to tell you that quite a few of us areworried, because Alex was central to some of our most important projects, andher death was so unexpected. We want to make sure these projects go forward, andto be frank, some of us are anxious to be sure that her death was a matter ofnatural causes."

"I assured Jean that it was," Mqaret told Swan, seeing the look on her face.

Genette did not look completely convinced by this reassurance. "Did Alex evermention anything to you concerning enemies, threats—danger of any kind?"the small asked Swan.

"No," Swan said, trying to remember. "She wasn't that kind of person. I mean,she was always very positive. Confident that things were going to work out."

"I know. It's so true. But that's why you might remember if she had ever saidanything out of keeping with her usual optimism."

"No. I can't remember anything like that."

"Did she leave you any kind of will or trust? Or a message? Something to beopened in the event of her death?"

"No."

"We did have a trust," Mqaret said, shaking his head. "It doesn't have anythingunusual in it."

"Would you mind if I had a look around her study?"

Alex had kept her study in a room at the far end of Mqaret's lab, and now Mqaretnodded and led the little inspector down the hall to it. Swan trailed behindthem, surprised that Genette had known of Alex's study, surprised Mqaret wouldbe so quick to show it, surprised and upset by this notion of enemies, of"natural causes" and its implied opposite. Alex's death, investigated by somekind of police person? She couldn't grasp it.

While she sat in the doorway trying to figure out what it could mean, trying tocome to grips with it, Genette made a thorough search of Alex's office, openingdrawers, downloading files, sweeping a fat wand over every surface and object.Mqaret watched it all impassively.

Finally the little inspector was done, and stood before Swan regarding her witha curious look. As Swan was sitting on the floor, they were about eye level. Theinspector appeared on the verge of another question, but in the end did not sayit. Finally: "If you recall anything you think might help me, I would appreciateyou telling me."

"Of course," Swan said uneasily.

The inspector then thanked them and left.

What was that about?" Swan asked Mqaret."I don't know," Mqaret said. He too was upset, Swan saw. "I know that Alex had ahand in a lot of things. She's been one of the leaders in the Mondragon Accordfrom the beginning, and they have a lot of enemies out there. I know she's beenworried about some system problems, but she didn't give me any details." Hegestured at the lab. "She knew I wouldn't be that interested." A hard grimace."That I had my own problems. We didn't talk about our work all that much."

"But—" Swan started, and didn't know how to go on. "I mean—enemies?Alex?"

Mqaret sighed. "I don't know. The stakes could be considered high, in some ofthese matters. There are forces opposed to the Mondragon, you know that."

"But still."

"I know." After a pause: "Did she leave you anything?"

"No! Why should she? I mean, she wasn't expecting to die."

"Few people are. But if she had concerns about secrecy, or the safety of certaininformation, I can see how she might think you would be a kind of refuge."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, couldn't she have put something into your qube without telling you?"

"No. Pauline is a closed system." Swan tapped behind her right ear. "I mostlykeep her turned off these days. And Alex wouldn't do that anyway. She wouldn'ttalk to Pauline without asking me first, I'm sure of it."

Mqaret heaved another sigh. "Well, I don't know. She didn't leave me anythingeither, as far as I know. I mean, it would be like Alex to tuck something awaywithout telling us. But nothing has popped up. So I just don't know."

Swan said, "So there wasn't anything unusual in the autopsy?"

"No!" Mqaret said, but he was thinking it over. "A cerebral aneurysm, probablycongenital, burst and caused an intraparenchymal hemorrhage. It happens."

Swan said, "If someone had done something to—to cause a hemorrhage... wouldyou necessarily be able to tell?"

Mqaret stared at her, frowning.

Then they heard another tap at the lab's outer door. They looked at each other,sharing a little frisson. Mqaret shrugged; he had not been expecting anyone.

"Come in!" he called again.

The door opened to reveal something like the opposite of Inspector Genette: avery big man. Prognathous, callipygous, steatopygous, exophthalmos—toad,newt, frog—even the very words were ugly. Briefly it occurred to Swan thatonomatopoeia might be more common than people recognized, their languagesechoing the world like birdsong. Swan had a bit of lark in her brain.Toad. Once she had seen a toad in an amazonia, sitting at the edge of apond, its warty wet skin all bronze and gold. She had liked the look of it.

"Ah," Mqaret said. "Wahram. Welcome to our lab. Swan, this is Fitz Wahram, fromTitan. He was one of Alex's closest associates, and really one of her favoritepeople."

Swan, somewhat surprised that Alex could have such a person in her life withoutSwan ever hearing of it, frowned at the man.

Wahram dipped his head in a kind of autistic bow. He put his hand over hisheart. "I am so sorry," he said. A froggy croak. "Alex meant a great deal to me,and to a lot of us. I loved her, and in our work together she was the crucialfigure, the leader. I don't know how we will get along without her. When I thinkof how I feel, I can scarcely grasp how you must feel."

"Thank you," Mqaret said. So strange the words people said at these moments.Swan could not speak any of them.

A person Alex had liked. Swan tapped the skin behind her right ear, activatingher qube, which she had turned off as a punishment. Now Pauline would fill herin on things, all by way of a quiet voice in Swan's right ear. Swan was veryirritated with Pauline these days, but suddenly she wanted information.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson. Copyright © 2013 Kim Stanley Robinson. Excerpted by permission of Orbit.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"A brilliant, plausible account of how humans might colonize planets, moons and asteroids, 2312 is also about the future of art and family." "NPR Books""

"A feast for the imagination and intellect - shockingly clever" "Sun (UK)""

"An sf masterpiece." ""Library Journal"""

"Beautifully written and with strong mental imagery" "SciFi Now""

"In his vibrant, often moving new novel, "2312," Robinson's extrapolation is hard-wired to a truly affecting personal love story. [...] Perhaps Robinson's finest novel, "2312" is a treasured gift to fans of passionate storytelling; readers will be with Swan and Wahram in the tunnel long after reaching the last page." "LA Times""

"Inherently epic stuff... expect interplanetary strife, conspiracies, more big ideas than most SF authors pack into a trilogy... [yet] this is ultimately in so many respects a book about Earth... a wise and wondrous novel" "SFX""

"Intellectually engaged and intensely humane in a way SF rarely is, exuberantly speculative in a way only the best SF can be, this is the work of a writer at or approaching the top of his game." "Iain M. Banks""

"Robinson's extraordinary completeness of vision results in a magnificently realized, meticulously detailed future in which social and biological changes keep pace with technological developments." "Publishers Weekly""

"This is a grand tour of an intensely imagined interplanetary future of modified human beings, terraformed planets, experiments in economics and sociology and hundreds of other delights. All of it is in Robinson's eloquent, enthusiastic and inimitable prose" "Morning Star (UK)""

"2312 is a monumental tour-de-force that re-imagines the solar system in ways no one has envisioned before. Whether comparing the compositions of Beethoven to those of skylarks and warblers, or describing a life-threatening sunrise on Mercury, Robinson fills 2312 with joy and exuberance, danger and fear, and the steadily mounting suspense of a mystery that spans the planets. This is the finest novel yet from the author who gave us the Mars Trilogy and GALILEO'S DREAM. An amazing accomplishment." "Robert Crais""
--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B004RD8544
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Orbit (May 22, 2012)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ May 22, 2012
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 2571 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 575 pages
  • Lending ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    3.8 out of 5 stars 1,023 ratings

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Kim Stanley Robinson is a winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards. He is the author of eleven previous books, including the bestselling Mars trilogy and the critically acclaimed Fifty Degrees Below, Forty Signs of Rain, The Years of Rice and Salt, and Antarctica--for which he was sent to the Antarctic by the U.S. National Science Foundation as part of their Antarctic Artists and Writers' Program. He lives in Davis, California.

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