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New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

New York 2140

by Kim Stanley Robinson

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Took way too long to really get started and more about economics than sci-fi. Almost did not finish it... ( )
  Guide2 | Oct 12, 2017 |
Prophetic! If you have any interest in the environment, in the resilence of the human species, this is for you. ( )
  lissabeth21 | Oct 3, 2017 |
Kim Stanley Robinson's story of a future New York following the effects of climate change catastrophe has three threads intertwined into the lives of New Yorkers.

The first and main thread describes life in New York following a century of climate change. Two ice cap melting events have seen water levels rise with major impacts on coastal cities around the world. In New York most of Manhattan is either submerged or part of the intertidal zone where property becomes visible only at low tide. Many skyscrapers, their lower floors submerged, are owner-occupied co-operatives/communes with shared facilities, including dining halls. The flooded streets have become canals and most people have access to boats or public transport in the form of vaporetti (water taxis). Of course, technology has advanced, although most of this is described in terms of building technologies for strengthening and waterproofing semi-submerged buildings. The only other visible technology is a greatly increased use of blimps, airships and balloons for transportation and, in some cases, extended aerial living. The dry parts of Manhattan are covered in super-skyscrapers well over 2000 feet tall. Robinson is especially skilled at describing future and strange environments in terms that a resident would understand; describing this alien world in every day chores and actions and trials and tribulations.

The second thread of this book is to project todays neo-liberal capitalist politics and its worst excesses - greedy bankers and a focus on financial value as a measure of all things - onto this future world. Robinson posits how a popular and non-violent revolution of the people can thwart the bankers and entrenched money-men politics by nationalising all banks and making the economy work with the common good in mind. I agree with Robinson that the current model has gone awry and I support his view that capitalist market economics is the preferred solution, but with appropriate controls in place. Would this cronyism survive another 150 years and two catastrophic climate change events? Would the correction to market capitalism be achieved by peaceful men? I am not so sure in both cases.

The last and most subtle thread of this book is to look at what a city is, what gives it its particular character and how its citizens think about both it and themselves. New York has a character built over 500 years of shared living, so how does this change with the massive impacts described here? I think Robinson's answer here is both a lot and not very much. The mechanics of how the city works (transport, food, shelter, jobs) are heavily impacted and affect how people see and interact with each other. It is clear that communal living and the shared inconveniences of a recovering disaster zone chip away at perceived differences - everyone is almost literally in the same boat. New York as a magnet for people wanting to change their lives or to get on in their own ways has not changed; New York in 2140 is still one of the centres of the modern world.

I think this is Robinson's best book for some time. ( )
  pierthinker | Sep 6, 2017 |
This book firmly stands in the tradition of cautionary tales of the future that have been told in such classics as [book:Brave New World|5129], [book:1984|5470], and [book:Fahrenheit 451|17470674]. The title, New York 2140, tells you when and where the story is set, and the cover art suggests one of the two great threats to human civilization it is warning us about. That's right. It's climate change. Our imaginary descendants in this this book are muddling through that, as humans tend to do. We're innovative and adaptive creatures, after all. We may not have a lot of foresight when it comes to avoiding self-inflicted injuries, but when we do harm ourselves, we're quick to apply a bandage and get on with life.
The other existential threat featured in this story is—
No, not terrorism.
Not another large asteroid.
Not religious extremism.
Not alien invaders.
Not renegade robots or homicidal artificial intelligence.
No, Not even Donald Trump.
As scary as those are, the threat Kim Stanley Robinson warns us about here is far more insidious, and it's real.
Wall Street.
The author obviously did some background reading in economics as he was drafting this fictional book because the kinds of financial manipulation he describes are far from fictional. They have gone on and are going on still today. (I'll list a few recent and popular books on the subject that he may have consulted below. You may want to read them. But I'll warn you; they're scary.) But New York 2140 book isn't just a warning, or an apocalyptic thriller, or a tale of likeable characters overcoming adversity. It's not even just a painless lesson on macroeconomics. It is all of those, but it also proposes a course of action that could, conceivably, change things. To say what that is would be a spoiler, so I won't. I will, however, recommend this book.

[book:Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business|26150584]
[book:The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America's Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century|25663574]
[book:Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few|24338377]
[book:Capital in the Twenty-First Century|18736925]

This review is also posted on the Avery Slom Philosophical Laboratory: https://philosophylaboratory.wordpress.com/2017/03/19/new-york-2140/ ( )
  DLMorrese | Aug 23, 2017 |
The first pulse in the mid-21st century raised the ocean ten feet, the second one raised it another forty. So fifty total. And New York lives on . . . the buildings built on bedrock survive. There is an "intertidal zone" as well, where part of every day the water recedes almost completely. The streets are now canals. It stinks, but it's home. Things (financial and concrete, literally on that last) are coming to a tipping point- the rich have gotten just too darned rich and the concrete that is holding up large parts of the city is about to crumble. The story focusses on the residents of the MetLife building on Madison Square (don't confuse it with another one further uptown) that is firmly in the wet zone. The super, Vlade, Charlotte, a social worker (high up in the order), a police inspector, a hedge fund guy, some geeks, a "cloud" celebrity, not to mention two urchins who live clandestinely under the dock in their rubber raft and hunt for treasure from a ship sunk during the 1770's. Robinson is especially good at creating characters and situations that verge on hokey but hold your attention so you have to read on to make sure they get out of whatever scrapes they get in. Robinson writes what he wishes might come to pass, that humanity might (at least sometimes) do what is sensible. How I wish. ***1/2 ( )
1 vote sibyx | Aug 22, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
New York 2140 is a towering novel about a genuinely grave threat to civilisation.
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