I fell in love with Kim Stanley Robinson back when I read his Mars Trilogy. That, coincidentally, is when I fell in love with Mars. Now I am a card-carrying Mars-o-phile.
In 2012, he published 2312, which is mainly about Mercury, plus Jupiter and its moons, and Venus, and Earth. It stars a long-lived chick named Swan Er Hong and a froggy looking man from Jupiter, Titan, to be exact, named Fritz Wahram. There is also Inspector Genette, a small, and a number of other interesting characters.
What I really like about Robinson’s sci fi books is his wonderfully creative vision. This is because of my almost total lack of one, so I can really appreciate a writer who sees whole worlds and their populations where I only see gases.
Mercury, being so near the sun, is probably never going to be terraformed and livable like Mars has become. The sun just cooks everything while it is in the ascendant, and the only time you can be on the surface is at night. So the Mercurians came up with the splendid idea of building a city which sits like a giant train car on tracks. As the sun rises in the east, the heat makes the tracks expand just a tad, which forces the city forward, away from the rising sun and its unbearable heat. There have come about folks who are sunwalkers:
The sun is always just about to rise. Mercury rotates so slowly that you can walk fast enough over its rocky surface to stay ahead of the dawn; and so many people do. Many have made this a way of life. They walk roughly westward, staying always ahead of the stupendous day. Some of them hurry from location to location, pausing to look in cracks they earlier inoculate with bioleaching metallophytes, quickly scraping free any accumulated residues of gold or tungsten or uranium. But most of them are out there to catch glimpses of the sun.
There are loading platforms at regularly spaced intervals and you can hop onto the city as it passes from these platforms.
More cool stuff: there are in orbit several thousand ‘terreria’, asteroids that have been hollowed out and environments designed for their interiors. such as savannahs, beaches, mountain regions, etc. and into which have been placed animals from earth, as a way to save them for future repopulation of earth. These terreria have regular orbits and are very fast, so the ‘spacers’, those living in the various planets in space, use them as transport.
The city of Mercury, Terminator, is attacked, and derailed, and thus starts the search for the perpetrators, and the search for the reason for the attack. It is suspected that the personal supercomputers which are owned by some individuals, our gal herself owning one which was implanted in her skull, may have somehow acquired consciousness, and are posing as ‘people’ on the various planets.
As in most of Robinson’s work, the themes of super longevity, eco sustainability, and gender diversification are prominent. Our protagonist Swan is 137, her grandmother died suddenly at almost 200. Earth is a mess with the ice caps melting, cities having been drowned, rampant hunger and housing issues globally, the animals almost all gone.
One of the things I like about Robinson’s books is the minute detail of the landscape, and the minute detail of the characters’ minds and musings. However, it can get a bit tedious, but frankly, all that detailed landscape description is what made me fall in love with Mars, so I ingest as much of it as I can before skimming over the wearisome and laborious parts to get back to the action.
The novel won the 2012 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and it is easy to see why.