A grand space opera. The author writes for us, the readers, flights of emotion inspired directly from music, waxes lyrical about space, sex, death. AI ‘personhood’ is briefly skirted, a shadow looms large upon interplanetary civilisation. As for consistency with science, this work of fiction holds up alright, as much as I’m any judge. Full of ‘high culture’ this book is most rewarding to anyone peculiar enough to have memorised planetary geography or the relevant famous figures. Prepare for ‘SJW’ agitation!
How to build an asteroid habitat, called a terrarium here, is detailed. This eases the reader towards the sweet, fantastic indulgence of interplanetary travel. Pitfalls are avoided, to my frustration, the experience of gravity closest to the sunline is not written. Terraforming technologies are strung together in the brief chapters which jerk away from linear narrative. In regards to terrarium, this pre-emptively constructs the next destination and a frequent travel method. Terraform technology is advanced and had to be so because humans buggered up the climate in “The Dithering”. A critique of modern times. Regrettably the author does not use this opportunity to highlight the unique benefits of a benevolent dictator [climate is a global system, a singular executive is my preferred option for action], which offers clear benefits in 2312 due to additional supports absent to any contemporary wannabe.
Social affairs were hit-&-miss to the sweet spot. Economics are discussed in broad strokes. Observations of the narrative try to find a balance between modern criticisms and absent fantasy. There is a lack of personal devotion to a particular economic system, a ‘future-Objectivism’ would fit snugly into place. Race, is not a sticking point for any of the characters, such sticklers are probably unlikely to go on an adventure. However, there were frustrations. Surely an Indian citizen of earth; from an impoverished, violent, rapey, xenophobic community, would feel some degree of culture-shock on being transplanted, almost overnight without any anticipation whatsoever, to Chinese Venus? Not really no, not in 2312!
Describing a minor character as of indeterminate race from the view of a major character, is inconsistent to the fantasy. Either the main character cares about race, or does not. If the latter, and not a single main character has the slightest bias in this regard, then why would it be remarked upon in their inner dialogue? If it did matter, the main characters have discreet access to AI-assisted, Future Internet. Further, if it was instead a flight of fancy, a challenge to the personal, unassisted mind, than dark skin winnows a few of the potential races (i.e. Korean, Gaelic) from the pools of possibility.
Gender, is a similar kettle of fish. Personally, the writing was at times repulsive. There is an attempt to show repulsion of others sexuality as a human attribute (hermaphrodites / androgynous circle orgies are not repulsive, but some small people having sex with one big person is). The particulars are brief and bad. However, sex doesn’t strangle the space fantasy, nor is it a distracting spectacle to alleviate narrative inadequacies. The fit jarred me. The temporary failure of internal logic is powerfully frustrating to me. Again if physical gender is remarkable, and if someone is definitely not-male and not-female, it is not indeterminate gender, particularly not if the observer gave a damn to remark upon it. It indicates two genders as definitely absent.
A bit of the internal backstory though, does clear it up slightly. We, the reader, are exposed to a historical summation of longevity. In the same way that powerful social taboos about conception technology were overcome, i.e. abortion, devout Abrahammic religions & the general populace deviating from those moral codes, so to is our contemporary gender template overwhelmed by the what is offered by embracing, by act of intentional & specific creation, both crotches…
Finally, the AI. This is written with a sprinkling of quantum terminology; coupling, decoherence, potential states and more. Qube AI is not explicitly interrogated, implicit interrogation takes place, about the character of Jean Genette. I, for one, would truly like to read the future version of the Turing Test. It is a shame it was not explicit, perhaps it cannot be done adequately. At times Qubes are narrative tools used as literal Deus Ex Machina, the difficulty of imagining a story involving powerful AI without resolving the tension in a few verbal queries & commands must be recognised