9.11.2013

Currently Reading: 2312

2312”You’ve done some strange things to yourself.”

She made a face and looked away. “Moral condemnation of other people is always rather rude, don’t you think?”

“Yes, I do. Of course. Though I notice we do it all the time. But I was speaking of strangeness only. No condemnation implied.”

“Oh sure. Strangeness is so good.”

“Well, isn’t it? We’re all strange.”

Author: Kim Stanley Robinson

From Goodreads: The year is 2312. Scientific and technological advances have opened gateways to an extraordinary future. Earth is no longer humanity's only home; new habitats have been created throughout the solar system on moons, planets, and in between. But in this year, 2312, a sequence of events will force humanity to confront its past, its present, and its future.

The first event takes place on Mercury, on the city of Terminator, itself a miracle of engineering on an unprecedented scale. It is an unexpected death, but one that might have been foreseen. For Swan Er Hong, it is an event that will change her life. Swan was once a woman who designed worlds. Now she will be led into a plot to destroy them.

Little Notes: While reading this book, I caught myself thinking a number of times that “This—this is what a science fiction book should be.” Robinson worked up some of the most beautiful worldbuilding I’ve ever come across and made it contemplative to boot: there’s music, art, science, and a great deal of thought and exploration of such ideas as the existence of evil, the morality of political structures, the effects of gravity on human life, and what sex and gender are like when completely divorced from love, childbearing, original biological makeup, the transgressive, etc.—not that I could agree with all of his conclusions, mind.

There were also a number of times that I caught myself considering putting the book down. There were several graphic sexual images I wouldn't mind un-reading. The story works in the direction of marriage… sort of, but I’m not convinced the author meant anything by that. The heroine, having experimented long and hard with extreme forms of sex, abramovics, and self-enhancement, came off inhuman at times. To be fair, I think that last was intentional, and the hero was generally a beautiful character.

This is some of the most fascinated I’ve ever been by fiction for grown-ups, but the margin by which I found its virtues worth dealing with its sexual grotesqueries was pretty narrow. Reader, beware as you choose. It’s rare, though, that I find a book written with such intensity of thought, such care for detail; rare enough that I can't regret reading this one.

9 comments:

  1. Too bad, perhaps, that one can't read an edited version-- sort of like the ones provided by certain movie rental places I've heard of that would edit out all the "bedroom scenes" from their "family friendly copies" of the Titanic or whatever. Not that the author would be likely to agree!

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    1. Ha, no, I don't see the author going for that. The edited-for-TV version would certainly be a lot less shocking. :)

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  2. Hmm, is moral condemnation of others always rather rude? It's the "always" part of the statement I'm questioning.

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    1. Well, I posted that quote not because I agreed with it, but because I was looking for an interesting sample quote online--having forgotten to find one before taking the book back to the library--and that was the best I could come up with easily.

      I'm not a big fan of direct, personal moral condemnation, as the setting of the above conversation implies; I think it usually is rude, and likely to do more harm than good. But no, when all situations and circumstances and breaches of morality are taken into question, said condemnation is certainly not "always" rude.

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    2. Oh, I certainly didn't think you agreed with it per se. :)

      And I consider a large portion of such things to be rude. But sometimes people need to be condemned or shamed to shock them into realizing they're doing something wrong. Not to leave them in such condemnation of course but to somehow get them out of their condition.

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    3. Actually, I had to think about your words, because my primary recent experiences of moral condemnation or shaming have been kind of horrible, actually. The kind of thing where you want to respond, "You know, when YOU learn [respect, tact, to get a decent understanding of something before you condemn it, etc.], THEN you can explain to me how you're better/smarter/more right with God than I am." And I think that sort of thing IS always rude. I think that's what most people think of when they think of moral condemnation, too.

      But the thing is, you're right that it's sometimes needed. People just don't often do it well. A friend gave me a beautiful takedown in middle school once for my joining into group picking on the resident outcast. Her timing and her connection to my own struggling awareness of guilt were perfect, and I never did that again. So yes, there's a time and a place for the use of shame. I agree. Would that people always knew when to use it and when not to. But it's a fallen world.

      Sorry for the ramble; you just got me thinking through an old quandary. :)

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    4. Oh, gosh, I just used the word actually twice in one sentence. I think I need to go condemn my own English language usage for a while.

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    5. No, I think you're on the money. A lot of it is contingent on the context and on relationships between people. Because it's much easier to condemn strangers or enemies. It's way way harder to condemn something wrong that our friends, family, or allies do.

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    6. It's way way harder to condemn something wrong that our friends, family, or allies do

      It is when you're a good-natured, inoffensive person. :)

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