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Profile Image for Melanie.
1,169 reviews98.2k followers
April 27, 2017
ARC provided by Hachette in exchange for an honest review.

All of the skyscrapers in the year 2140 are like miniature islands from the extremely elevated sea levels due to the effects of global warming. This book is a two year look into the residence of a very famous skyscraper complex in New York City. We get to see these individuals' lives coincide with one another, and showcase some events that they all take part in to make New York a better place to live. Yes, it can be slow at times, but that is what is somewhat expected with family sagas (and these people are for sure a family at this point), but the importance of this book is undeniable. I hope it doesn't take until 2140 for the people of our world to open their eyes and change.

“As always, each neighborhood was a little world, with a particular character. Some of them looked fine, others were bedraggled, still others abandoned. It wasn't always clear why any given neighborhood should look the way it did. Things happened, a building held or fell down, its surroundings followed. Very contingent, very volatile, very high risk.”

Occupants whose life we follow that live in The Met Life Tower on Madison Square:
Vlade - The building manager, with a tragic past. Very caring, helpful, handy, and just a little cinnamon roll in general.
Mutt - Coder who is playing with something much bigger than himself.
Jeff - Coder with a very powerful cousin.
Gen - Investigator/Detective, and probably just the coolest cop I've ever read about. I seriously love this character with my whole heart.
Charlotte - Lawyer, who is very interested in congress, with a powerful ex-husband.
Franklin - Market trader, sort of a horndog, but a useful horndog. (I feel funny saying horndog.)
Amelia - Internet star with her own airship, whose passion in life is saving animals while filming it.
Stefan - Homeless boy who came over with his parents from Russia.
Roberto - Homeless boy that never knew his family.
Mr. Hexter - Old man who befriends the two boys above. He has many books and maps that lead to many adventures. And all of the stories he tells makes this book an ode to book lovers everywhere.

I know this seems like an unusual bunch, but I promise their friendships become something of magic and their diversity is realistic and so important, too. All their different dynamics seamlessly work together, and give me hope for the future, especially Roberto and Stefan.

“History is humankind trying to get a grip. Obviously not easy. But it could go better if you would pay a little more attention to certain details, like for instance your planet.”

A huge and relevant topic in this book is immigration. This story will constantly remind you of what is going on in today's world. We get to see children suffering, just because they didn't get lucky enough to be born into money or into a family that's name is worthy of remembering. This book will constantly make you check your privilege.

“This remarkable rise had been bad for people-most of them. But at this point the four hundred richest people on the planet owned half the planet's wealth, and the top one percent owned fully eighty percent of the world's wealth. For them it wasn't so bad.”

I don't want to get too preachy in this review, but this book is a look into what could be our future if we continue to treat Earth the way we do. It breaks my heart to even think about what our government here in the United States cares about, while ignoring global warming, climate change, and all the other signs that we are slowly but surely killing our planet.

“They published their papers, and shouted and waved their arms, and a few canny and deeply thoughtful sci-fi writes wrote up lurid accounts of such an eventuality, and the rest of civilization went on torching the planet like a Burning Man pyromasterpeice.”

This book highlights what is happening right now in today's world, while showing us what it is like to live in 2140, where our world has become so flooded that only the rich are truly ever safe, while the poor have to pray and hope they will be safe enough to live another day. Everyone lives in skyscrapers high in the air that have been reinforced to be able to stand above the water to allow housing for some. These buildings are like islands, separated by water, and people take boats wherever they go.

TL;DR - This book is woke as fuck, and should be required reading in 2017, especially to every government official, who still thinks it's more important to control women's bodies and make it harder to get health care while using our money to build a pointless wall.

This is also an important book to remind people that without us "normal folk" there wouldn't be a government, because we are the government. Yes, we let banks and big corporations pretty much rule right now, but ultimately we are in control and we can/could change that.

On a much too personal note, many of you know I was born and raised in Flint, Michigan. There is not a male in my family that isn't currently working for General Motors, working for a corporation affiliated with General Motors, or that has retired from General Motors. It truly is the middle-class Michigan way. You might think this would make me loyal to them, but quite the contrary because they are terrible company that proves over and over how much they do not care about their workers. Every chapter that Kim Stanley Robinson touched on the choices GM made back in the 2000's made me relate to this book even more than I already did. I have no words for that feeling or that emotion it evokes from me.

All these important topics: global warming, climate change, refuge crisis, wealth distribution, universal health care, free education, animal extinction - they are all discussed in great detail inside this book. And because of all of these things, we are all losing a war not only with our planet, but with each other, and we are all going to suffer the repercussions from these actions.

Closing advice: besides the fact that this book made me want to make a bigger difference and do more, it has also made me want to buy a house in Denver as soon as possible. This book teaches the reader a lot, but it will also reinforce the fact that nothing bad happens geologically in Denver. I'm legitimately only half way joking.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. As I stated above, it can be a little slow at times, and sometimes pieces of the puzzle will fit together a little too perfectly, but this is too relevant and important of a book to let pass by. That being said, I still wish there was a little bit more action and a little bit more mystery, but this book is still without a doubt worth the read and I urge everyone to pick this up.

“Because life is robust. Because life is bigger than equations, stronger than money, stronger than guns and poison and bad zoning policy, stronger than capitalism. Because Mother Nature bats last, and Mother Ocean is strong, and we live inside our mothers forever, and Life is tenacious and you can never kill it, you can never buy it.”

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Profile Image for Jeremy Hornik.
710 reviews14 followers
April 5, 2017
This is a compelling idea ruined by flabby writing and awful dialogue. I got angrier and angrier at the waste of my time as I read this. The level of my anger is totally unwarranted. All I can tell you is how I feel.

Best stuff: descriptions of the disaster and how the city came through it, technical descriptions of the problems of life in partly submerged skyscrapers.


After reading half of this brick, I got bored and started jumping ahead. I got enough of the plot resolution to figure out that I was glad I'd skipped ahead. There's a very compelling setting here, and some fascinating what-if explanations about climate change and rising oceans and crises of capital. But the dialogue... ugh. It's like there's a rock opera with a great premise and crazy soloing, and the drummer can't keep time.

Not for me.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,967 followers
May 4, 2017
This is a novel of great and towering ideas, indeed!

SF idea novels have a long and fantastic tradition in SF and I'll be honest: I love them all. It's a very specific and niche SF, but thank the heavens, Robinson made it big enough in people's estimations to be able to keep writing the fantastically deep stuff and let the world-building go wild.

Remember 2312? Remember the Mars trilogy? He dives deep into location and gives us a very broad view of a whole world or a whole time, drilling deep into how the society works while simultaneously having TON to say about ours.

Not only that, but in this novel, he manages to pull off something that I kinda feel like he always seems to have a bit of trouble with: the characters. There's even a solid economic plot here, threaded pretty expertly among really fascinating sub-plots all directly tied to this New York City of the future after all the waterlines have risen across the world.

The only time that this DOESN'T feel like a long love-letter to this NYC of the future that's not only breathing but fighting for it's life and culture like a character of its own, is with the extinction of subspecies subplot that takes us all over the place in a dirigible. With nuclear blasts that take out polar bears, floating balloon cities in Canada, or a naked butt over a treeline for an eager online audience. :)

Truly, this may not be a novel for everyone, but it *IS* a novel for all you lovers of the Idea Novel sub-genre, the kind of read that takes you to the heights and depths of an economic mystery and an engineered economic collapse.

Honestly, it actually feels like an updated and rather more comprehensive The Dervish House with the focus being on NYC rather than Hungary. But it it goes full-hog Economics-Punk and I laughed deliriously because I LOVE this kind of thing. It's about as far away as you can get from the regular old SF, treating you not only as someone smart, but someone willing to think for yourself and LIVE in this complicated world of Co-Op skyscrapers, derivatives experts, boat pilots, divers, and champions of law. :)

Above all, it's smart and dense and fascinating across the board.

Don't expect too much in the way of BIG plots other than the one, and settle in for a world-building ride with cool characters and one really, really big character that supercedes them all: NYC.

Profile Image for Philip.
500 reviews673 followers
January 5, 2019
2.5ish stars.

An epic slice-of-life story. Is that too big of a contradiction? It's a behemoth and I don't think it really needs to be. I feel like I still would have caught Robinson's vision and adequately understood all of the relevant points with about 200 fewer pages.

The future vision of New York is really cool, especially because it's so much more recognizable and believable than 90% of dystopian/cli-fi/whatever novels that take place in the future. There are many similar books with much more ridiculous representations of the future that are praised for their plausibility, and maybe I'm naive but I read them and think "nope." This, though. This is inevitable.

That aspect is the main thing to love. It's interesting getting to see the plain old day-to-day of some different residents, but the characterizations themselves are never better than decent. The plot isn't a plot so much as a random smattering of glimpses into the lives of the characters and Robinson sufficiently lecturing us on his political views. An impressive book, but in an intellectual way, not so much an enjoyable one.

The audio version with a full cast is very well done and worth trying if this sounds like the kind of book you'll be able to pay attention to. Alas, I could not. Tried it, gave up for a year, came back and finished it in print.

Posted in Mr. Philip's Library
Profile Image for KWinks  .
1,204 reviews16 followers
March 22, 2017
While it is not fair to call this a slugfest, it's pretty close. There were entire sections (*cough* Franklin and *cough* citizen) that made me want to stab my eyes out in sheer boredom, other sections went speedily, entertainingly well! I loved the boys, Roberto and Stefan. I really liked Vlade. The actual climate bits were amazing, everything from the polar bears to the ice boats. I especially loved the treasure hunting.

This is just my humble reader opinion, but I felt that the female characters were so very....created. Look, we have the aged hippy, the strong black woman cop (who used to be a prize fighter), the reality star diva with a heart of gold.....meh. It felt like stock photos do when you look at them. Also, Franklin's, complete 360 did not fly with me AT ALL.
Here's the thing, as a CliFi novel, it's awesome. As a political novel it's...well, I'm not it a call to arms? What it feels like is several different novels jammed together into one big book. What it was missing, for me, was charm. Seriously! There was nothing holding all of these characters together except location. I just don't believe that is enough.

I don't know if I'd read Robinson again.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,598 reviews191 followers
June 5, 2017
Liked this one a lot. Lots of commentary on the lack of ethics in the global financial system, climate change, extinction events, species at risk, behaviour of people after major events/disasters...and lots more. There are several characters, and the author shifts between them each chapter. I enjoyed this book with the long, rambling plot; the little details about finance and the relationship between central banks, government and the big banks who are all playing with our money. There's also a mystery surrounding the kidnapping of two of the PoV characters that takes much of the book to resolve. I was also intrigued by the author's speculation of how people would cope and adapt after coastal cities, and specifically, New York City was flooded by melting ice at the poles, thanks to climate change.
I liked the changing PoVs, in particular the sardonic and sarcastic citizen providing historical background, though I loved Inspector Gen and enjoyed slightly loopy Amelia,
Though enjoyable, this book is long. I'm glad I read this in print, as I was able to bounce back and forth as needed to refresh my memory about plot points.
Profile Image for Gary.
442 reviews185 followers
November 17, 2017
Robinson’s epic of the Big Apple – post-climate catastrophe – follows multiple characters living in the same high-rise building. The various storylines converge around the search for two missing residents who may hold the answer to why a real estate group is suddenly trying to buy out the other residents and take over the building. Like all of Robinson’s novels, New York 2140 is peppered with political and economic lectures – some interesting, some tedious. The most transparent flaw in all of Robinson’s fiction is his tendency to engineer his stories to mold whatever message he wants to impart to the reader, and this novel is par for the course (he seems to be aware of this – at one point one of the characters actually points it out). Robinson is also a gifted prose writer and intuitive humanist, and New York 2140 features some of his fleshiest and most sympathetic characters, as well as some of his most thrilling sequences. This novel is worth investing your time, especially if you share some of the same interests as the author.
4 reviews
May 5, 2017
About a third of the way though and getting so bored I had to stop and make a note about it. There's no story, just a bunch of people wandering around. The few plot hooks are flimsy and small. And some of the characters are just too explicitly mouthpieces for a political message.

Bummed because KSR is one of my all time faves and his latest books have been exciting and interesting.

This needed stronger editing.
Profile Image for Gerhard.
1,053 reviews527 followers
December 21, 2020
It is amazing how urgent and relevant this novel remains, even though it was published in 2017 and takes place over a century from today. In contrast KSR’s latest novel, ‘The Ministry for the Future’, takes place a mere three decades later, and is a much more urgent call to action in terms of the impact of climate change.

Already UN News reports that this year may be the third-hottest on record, with the average global temperature set to be about 1.2°C above the preindustrial (1850-1900) level in 2020. There is at least a one-in-five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5°C by 2024, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

It is clear that the world needs radical action to slow this inexorable temperature rise, which prompted UN Secretary-General António Guterres to categorise the fight against the climate crisis as the top priority of the 21st century. Of course, ‘New York 2140’ is set in a world that ignores all of this. The combination of inexorable global temperature and sea level rise alters our planet’s coastlines almost beyond recognition in a frighteningly short period.

Yes, this is a disaster novel, kind of. But it is definitely not a dystopia. Despite the fact that much of New York is under water by the time it is set, KSR chronicles its transformation into a ‘Super Venice’, where advances in materials and construction techniques allow Wall Street to become a hub of super-tall skyscrapers that not only dominate the skyline, but the zeitgeist.

One of the eight viewpoint characters of the book is a trader who specialises in what KSR rather cheekily terms the Intertidal Property Pricing Index (IPPI), “used by millions to orient investments that totalled in the trillions”. Essentially it correlates sea level with the housing index, allowing for the world’s drowned coastlines to be commodified.

Now it is clear what KSR’s intentions are with ‘New York 2140’: He uses a climate-change scenario as a pressure-cooker situation to analyse the fundamentals of capitalism itself. Not surprisingly it thrives in this waterlogged doomsday, turning disaster into profit like Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold. And what is the price we have to pay, for we all know that an economic system can never be benign or benevolent in and of itself? Well, that is the one variable that cannot be accurately pinned down…

In the SF genre KSR is probably unique for his singular political voice. Yes, there are ‘political’ writers like Ken MacLeod, Charles Stross and China Miéville. But I don’ think there is any other writer who has fused politics with his fiction in quite the same manner, while still maintaining the ‘big picture’ viewpoint of celebrated ‘futurists’ like William Gibson and Iain Banks.

Yes, KSR is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and a keen proponent of the Green New Deal. All of this seeps into his work like water into cracks in the basement of the Metropolitan Building in New York, which forms a handy microcosm of the world he maps out for the reader to explore. Yes, his PhD (on the novels of PKD) was supervised by celebrated philosopher and Marxist political theorist Fredric Jameson, whose seminal works include ‘Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’ (1991) and ‘The Political Unconscious’ (1981).

This, too, inevitably informs the mindset of KSR. But it is wrong to simply pigeon-hole him as a socialist lurking behind his fiction as if it were a mere front for party indoctrination. Yes, there is a running critical thread that KSR’s books are all too idea-heavy and insufficiently humane in the sense that the world building (or re-imagination) dwarves the perfunctory characterisation. And then there is the unintentional bias introduced by being a ‘white American male’ and a lack of attention paid to the nuances of identity politics, among other contemporary issues and concerns.

But SF is by its very nature a political genre, with classic writers like Samuel R. Delany and Ursula K. Le Guin not only positing, but championing, alternative social structures and ways of behaviour. It is a perfect marriage of form and function, I think, especially as SF is, and has always been, about the Big Ideas, even if these are deemed to be anti-establishment or quasi-revolutionary. In ‘New York 2140’, in particular, KSR lauds the role that civil unrest plays in bolstering democracy.

Why not then simply write textbooks like Jameson did? Well, mainly I think because KSR is a writer and an artist with a vision of, and for, the future. He engages with readers via the medium of genre fiction, and thereby hopes to inform the outlook we have on the world around us, from a cultural as well as a scientific viewpoint (for science is part-and-parcel of the Big Ideas approach).

What I loved about ‘New York 2140’ is that it is KSR’s most accessible book to date. Using the simple structure of alternating chapters between eight viewpoint characters, including the eponymous ‘Citizen’, whose function is of course info-dumping, KSR compiles a dizzyingly complex mosaic of his future world.

It is dynamic and feels entirely lived in and of the moment. There is an excitement and a tenacity to his writing that is truly inspiring. The book bristles with ideas and vigour. Of course it is at least 200 pages too long, but an artist at the top of his game, as KSR is here, can at least be tolerated, if not outright celebrated.
Profile Image for ~Dani~ .
312 reviews53 followers
April 17, 2017
Don't miss this week's Book Geeks Uncompromised podcast episode!

1.5 stars

Just over hundred years in the future parts of the ice caps have melted, causing the sea level to rise fifty feet, submerging many coastal cities. New York, however, still functions as a major metropolis despite the challenges to city buildings.

While this is a fascinating premise, the delivery was way too bogged down in the author’s apparent passion for New York City and technical descriptions of the financial industry.

The book follows several point of view characters but for some reason there is a point of view that actually has nothing to do with the story. This “character” is known only as the citizen is basically just the author giving up at telling a story in favor of waxing eloquent about how amazing New York is, things to do with finance and politics, and just generally info-dumping.

That’s not to say that political commentary has no place in fiction. It absolutely can and frequently does. It was just delivered in such a mind-numbingly dull way; not worked into the story at all, just chunks of pages of text that had little to nothing to do with anything the story was telling.

He tries to not get called out on the info-dumping by saying something to the effect of “don’t like it, don’t read it. Skip this chapter.” Yeah, sorry buddy. It doesn’t work that way. It should be a rule of thumb to not include large sections of your book that can be completely skipped over and the reader misses nothing.

As for the extreme focus on New York, this was a problem for two reasons.

First, it just got annoying.

Second, there are so many other places in the world impacted by this that were only referenced in a passing manner. There is also so much going on with the environment, animals, and what-have-you that got barely any notice because we were too busy saying the same thing in different words about finance and New York.

The impact on animals had such a minuscule page count up next to everything else that it was probably an afterthought. Of all the point of view characters that the story follows, only one is involved with this and she is only connected to the rest of the story in that she happens to live in the same building as the other characters when she just happens to be in New York.

That’s it. That’s the rest of the world, one character that is only connected to the main story by sheer coincidence and has nothing to do with the main storyline whatsoever.

The book was definitely centered on the world-building (with the world confined to New York). In this way, it has to be said that the author did dive deep into what he obviously wanted to write about. This will likely appeal to many readers but it did nothing for me.

I found my self enjoying the book at first despite obvious problems. I like books that make me think and this one did do that for a while but then it just kept going on about the same things over and over again and I stopped thinking and just waited for it to be over.

Around the halfway mark, all the plotlines that I was moderately interested in were more or less wrapped up and the rest of the book just meandered along acting like it had a plot when really it didn’t.
Profile Image for Anna.
1,686 reviews636 followers
April 19, 2017
I have often complained about the lack of climate change novels. This is a novel about climate change and you know what? I absolutely loved it! ‘New York 2140’ was just what I wanted: a big novel about a city, its people, and its politics changing with the climate. As in Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson deftly examines environmental influences on society, the emergence of resistance, and a convincing future political economy using appealing characters, vivid settings, and satisfying plotting. More sci-fi should make me feel this sense of hope and possibility; more sci-fi should read intermittently like non-fiction. I can’t think of another author who could get away with chapters ostensibly from the perspective of ‘the citizen’, in which the author directly addresses the reader. While it’s a device I’m skeptical of, they really worked here. Perhaps the most distinctive strength of ‘New York 2140’ (and Red Mars actually) is the evocation of community. In this case, the Met building that the main characters inhabit becomes a catalyst for seismic political change as the inhabitants meet, talk, have ideas, connect each other into other communities, and generally work together. At the present time of political mayhem and hopelessness, it is tremendously hopeful to be reminded of how much a diverse group of people can achieve through collaboration. Not that the individuals involved aren’t part of a wider socio-political landscape; the fourth-wall-breaking ‘citizen’ makes it clear that the characters are an emergent phenomenon rather than singular heroes. What this novel does is show with conviction that change for the better can happen. I wonder when exactly that became a rare and radical thing in fiction?

Thus I was expecting a depressing novel about climate change and found a utopian one. Unlike most other sci-fi novels, eg The Water Knife, ‘New York 2140’ doesn’t merely use the impacts of climate change as the setting for a thriller plot. Half-drowned New York is the main character. Sea level rise and extreme weather events shape the lives of all the main characters. The world-building is anchored firmly in a world re-stabilised after initial climate chaos. That’s what makes the book utopian - it suggests that, faced with environmental collapse, humanity can pull itself together rather than tearing itself apart. Each of the main characters is trying to make the world better, in their own particular way. Not all would put it that way, but every one of them finds meaning in doing something positive. Their moments of fatalism are fleeting, as they exist in a supportive community. This microcosm was so involving and appealing that, inevitably, I wanted to know what was happening elsewhere in the world in 2140. Of course the meta-narrator comments that the events depicted could just as well be happening in another coastal city on another continent. The individual city and its inhabitants are both crucial and not. Without individual action nothing can happen, but without collective action very little can change.

Also notable and sadly unusual in ‘New York 2140’ is how angry it is about global inequality. The world of 2140 still has Goldman Sachs et al, thanks to disaster capitalism profiting from successive environmental catastrophes. Much sci-fi since the 1980s simply accepts extreme inequality with fatalistic inevitability, cf The End of History and the Last Man and so on. Hell, a lot of cyberpunk glamorises it. It is a breath of fresh air to find a novel with characters who complain bitterly about inequality, who organise against it, who find workable solutions. There’s no unsatisfactory ‘take down one bad oligarch but leave the system intact’ plot here. On the other hand, this is not a naively optimistic political vision either. The meta-narrator is deliberately cynical and references nearly every nitpick that occurred to me while reading. Everything here has been carefully thought through. ‘New York 2140’ strikes me as a book that can provide receipts.

In short, it is absolutely my sort of entertainment and I’m very glad that I read it. I really liked the characters, I loved mentally comparing 2140 New York with the version in Apple of My Eye, the action scenes were very exciting, and I adored the thoughtful plotting. The back cover of the edition I read had a quote on the back cover, from the New Yorker appropriately enough: ‘In an era filled with complacent dystopias and escapist apocalypses, Robinson is one of our best, bravest, most moral and most hopeful storytellers’. I could not agree more. What use are dystopias if they say nothing intelligent about the problems of the present? ‘New York 2140’ depicts a hopeful future in which humanity learns to live with climate change, albeit only after devastating sea level rise. At the moment, that is a positively comforting prospect. This is exactly the kind of analytical sci-fi that I want to read and that I hope more authors write.
Profile Image for Lena.
1,144 reviews241 followers
June 9, 2020
“If our government tries to back the banks instead of us, then we elect a different government. We pretend that democracy is real, and that will make it real.”

Substantially better upon reread! I loved it, I had fun, it did not even feel long!

This was collegiate science fiction: a textbook of inspirational politics and economics with lively likable characters.

A true work of Solarpunk it depicts small New York communities banding together against a tidal wave of global greed to better their circumstances.

This New Venice New York is an ecologically sensitive place as essentials, food and power, are cheaper sourced locally.

I swear this will not be my last KSR!

Casting choices:

Profile Image for Bart.
385 reviews88 followers
April 8, 2017
It’s no denying I’m a KSR fanboy. It’s also no denying I avidly share the same concerns as so many: climate change, rising inequality, the grip of finance on global politics. So I really wanted to like this book. And I did – up unto the first 250 pages. The remaining 363, not so much.

As the cover and the title make clear, New York 2140 follows firmly in the line of Kim Stanley Robinson’s near future novels: there was Washington & climate change in the Science of the Capital trilogy, refurbished in 2015 as the mammoth Green Earth, and California & three different scenarios in his early series The Wild Shore (1984), The Gold Coast (1988) and Pacific Edge (1990).

This time the sea level has risen spectacularly and New York has turned into a New Venice. The book follows nine characters that all live in the same building: a market trader, a police inspector, an environmental activist/nude model internet star, the building’s manager, two orphan boys straight from Huckleberry Finn, a lawyer and two coders trying to rig the Wall Street system.

At first the book is simply great. Robinson uses a mature, daring voice. It is his most ironic mode yet, his most openly self-aware book. He even addresses the reader straight on about his tendency to infodump. In between chapters there’s snippets of quotes from various sources about New York and its history, often funny. They work wonderfully well in tandem with the main text. New York 2140‘s subject is quite heavy, but the writing often manages to be light and breezy. I laughed out loud several times. KSR uses language creatively, with stuff like “thinking they are great gestalters” or “I pikettied the U.S. tax code” and a newly coined adverb like “realworldistically” – all examples of a playful intellectualism. A joy to read.

The story starts with a disappearance that has the smell of a high tech heist movie. There’s also an old school treasure hunt going on, and there’s the general vibe of 22nd century New York with all kinds of new technology dealing with the new water level. It all contributes to a Big Sense of Anticipation, especially since the story has 613 pages, and I know what KSR is capable of: I was set for a long, boisterous feast. (More on the cake later.)

But after a while I slowly started to notice some problems, and those problems only got worse. After I read the book, I started reading some interviews (collected on the excellent, extensive fan site, and those interviews confirmed and explained my suspicions of what went wrong.

In the remaining part of this review, I’ll quote a few parts from various interviews, and use those to explain why this will be the first KSR book I’ll probably sell at the local second hand shop. But – and this needs the extra stress – that does not mean New York 2140 will be a bad read for you, dear reader: that also hinges for a big part upon what news and non-fiction you have consumed the last couple of years, as I’ll explain in my next paragraph.


Please read the full review on Weighing A Pig
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,894 reviews218 followers
July 11, 2018
In this science fiction dystopian novel set in the year 2140, climate change has caused the ice caps to melt, increasing sea level by fifty feet and flooding New York’s low-lying areas. Many former offices buildings have been converted to housing and now include boat docks in the lower floors. The plot line follows eleven characters living in the MetLife Tower on Madison Square, whose stories begin separately but eventually converge. One of these characters, referred to as “a citizen,” serves as a vehicle for the author to impart information.

This book serves as a warning of what could happen by ignoring, or at the very least not adequately addressing, global warming. It is heavily influenced by the economic bubble of 2008 and its aftermath. The narrative sends a message about how short-sightedness and selfishness could lead to an ecological catastrophe. He describes a possible new global economy and envisions the legal, political, environmental, technological, scientific, and human impacts.

I found it quirky and creative, though difficult to become absorbed into the story and rather lengthy at over 600 pages. The plot and character development take a back seat to the message. There’s A LOT of economics in this book, so be prepared for an analysis of financial markets and discussions of hedging, leveraging, day trading, and financial indices. It’s not all financial though, as it includes bizarre scenes such as polar bears riding in a dirigible, a man that thinks he has seen the ghost of Herman Melville, boys using a treasure map and diving bell, and women participating in the new sport of “water sumo.” I found parts of this book riveting and other parts tedious.

Recommended to those with an interest in science fiction dystopias/utopias, climate change, finance, or economics of the future. I also imagine people who live or have spent a good amount of time in the city of New York may enjoy it for the many local references. Content warnings: profanity and a bit of sex.

Overall, an intriguing premise weighed down by heavy-handed messaging.
Profile Image for Otis Chandler.
388 reviews113k followers
December 4, 2018
A super fun, enjoyable read. A love letter to NYC, and worth reading just for that, especially if you live there or have visited. In the 2140, sea levels have risen 50 feet, and Manhattan is half underwater, up to I believe 34th, with a +-10 ft tide that also creates a huge intertidal zone. Who knew that upper Manhattan had more altitude? Brooklyn is all underwater. The main characters live in the Met and Flatiron buildings, which are in the water by several stories, and now have docks and boat-parking on the lower floors. And the crazy thing about all this, is while this is science fiction, it is sadly a very realistic scenario - here is at least one article that says sea levels could rise 13ft this century. But if you think New Yorkers will give up on their city even if half of it is drowned, think again.

"So it’s still New York. People can’t give up on it. It’s what economists used to call the tyranny of sunk costs: once you’ve put so much time and money into a project, it gets hard to just eat your losses and walk. You are forced by the structure of the situation to throw good money after bad, grow obsessed, double down, escalate your commitment, and become a mad gibbering apartment dweller, unable to imagine leaving. You persevere unto death, a monomaniacal New Yorker to the end."

The other part that made this book very New York is the focus on finance. That there was an intertidal index IPPI was pretty entertaining, and of course New York is still the financial capital of the world. But then a lot the plot of the book is about wealth disparity. By the year 2140 the 1% own 80% of wealth - so it has become very concentrated - too concentrated, and the number of people in positions of power who want to overturn that rise, including our heroes. I frankly enjoyed the descriptions of New York being underwater more than this part, but like climate change, it has a very real risk of happening in the future.
Profile Image for Claudia.
954 reviews535 followers
Shelved as 'dnf-not-my-cup-of-coffee'
August 28, 2020
This is the first KSR's which I abandon (at 30%). I just can't get into it; nothing draws me in. Maybe it's a mood thing, but I didn't have this issue with his books so far. Perhaps I will revisit it in the future; time will tell.
Profile Image for Michael Hicks.
Author 35 books433 followers
Shelved as 'quit-dnf'
May 14, 2018
I was supposed to read this for a September group read, but I had to quit before I died of boredom. I made it through 17% before reaching this decision, and cannot fathom spending close to another 19 fucking hours listening to this thing.

Bottom line - too many characters, overly bloated writing, and nowhere near enough of a point. I don't really care about what kind of stone people are tying their boats off to in a flooded New York, or if they walk across the man-made footpaths linking buildings in this new Venice. If you've got a hard-on for all things New York real estate, this might be for you. I'm out.
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,937 followers
December 15, 2017
This story is one where I feel like it's really hard to rate it so I've gone with a 3.75*s for now. This book is set in New York in the year 2140 when the ice has melted and the sea levels have risen. New York has grown exponentially upwards with more and more buildings soaring for the skies and many of the older ones either cracking, toppling or having to be sured up and made watertight. We follow an entire cast of characters who are all in some way connected to one another and to the building many of them live in.

What I really liked about this book were the science-y/environmental elements of the story. One of the really cool plot-lines focuses on assisted migration of animals which will help them to survive in a world of extremes. Personally I found seeing the way humans and animals would have to adapt in this new world really interesting and although it's an extreme view, it's certainly cool to think if it did go that way how would we survive?

We also get various moments where we see the water/weather and city swell, surge and come to life. Kim Stanley Robinson certainly has a way of making the elements which may seem more mundane take on a life of their own. I loved that the city of New York was the focus of the entire story, and that we really felt rooted in the city and the people living there.

There's one character who is unnamed and just called the citizen, and he is constantly telling us about how the world developed after the surges and the history of New York itself. I found these sections to be really insightful (as I know very little of American history) and also at times quite amusing. I did find myself google-ing some of the anecdotes that were mentioned.

So, now on to the things which I found a little harder. This book deals a lot with finance and financial statistics. I personally don't like numbers or finance and wouldn't often choose to read about it, but in this future Robinson has crafted money keeps the world afloat and we have to follow it closely to find out what is really going on with the world. I did find it super interesting at times, but I am also painfully aware that I do not know much about the finance sector and some sections I found myself glazing over just slightly.

One of the criticisms I had early on in this book is the treatment of the female characters as they all felt a little one dimensional and stereotypical at first. We have a couple of character who by the end of the book did seem a lot more fleshed out and interesting, but I would have liked this to happen a bit quicker.

One of the characters in this book, Franklin, is a bit of (a lot of ) a tool. He's a guy who works in finance and he's a bit sleazy with how he considers women and his life and how entitled he is. Again, by the end of the book he does change his ways somewhat, but there's certainly some real moments where I didn't like him and where I felt like he was objectifying many of the other characters.

Talking about the characters, here's a quick run down of who's who:
- Charlotte - older lady who works at helping people and is on the board for her building
- Vlade - maintenance man for the building where Charlotte works and generally a very nice guy to everyone.
- Stefan and Roberto - two young children (about 11/12) who are strays, they live in their boat near to the building Charlotte lives in and they enjoy diving in the canals for treasure.
- Franklin - I've already mentioned him above but he's a financial guy who hedges (and sometimes a bit of a jerk).
- Jen - a police officer living in the building who gets involved in a missing person case fairly early in the story.
- Mutt and Jeff - two men who are Quants and they disappear from the building where everyone lives.
- Amelia - a Cloud starlette who ferries animals from one area of the world where they are struggling to a new area where they may prosper. She's always streaming live to her followers from her airship.

Overall, I liked many of the elements of the story and world, I even, by the end anyway, liked most of the characters, but this still didn't completely delight or enthral me. It was interesting, but even the parts which were more exhilarating where the characters were in peril I found I still didn't love or relate to anyone quite enough. If you live environmental or financial-based sci-fi then this will be well worth reading, and if you want to try some Robinson this isn't a bad start point as it's a standalone I believe (and it's my first read by this author). I gave it 3.75*s overall.
Profile Image for Sarah.
636 reviews145 followers
June 30, 2018
I'm not quite sure how I feel about this one. There was a lot to love about it, but I think there are few things holding it back from being a four star read for me.

The concept was really great. I loved seeing how Robinson imagined New York would operate underwater. He included many details that lent his story a great deal of authenticity: sky bridges between buildings for citizens to traverse the city, the use of boats in place of cars to navigate the water ways (and yes, there was still traffic), diving for various purposes (sport or work) rising in popularity, skating as the waters froze over in winter, the movement of people upward into the sky (blimps and sky villages), farming for food when land is scarce, and the list goes on. It was beautifully imagined and I enjoyed reading all the details.

Although it wasn't heavy on the science aspect, he did include a few of those details too: photovoltaic liners and on the exterior of buildings and solar panels to generate power, water proofing sealants to keep buildings standing upright, drones that could be dispatched underwater for various small tasks, the movement of tides, etc.

But what stood out most of all was the characters. The characters were wonderful and I was able to find something to love about all of them. Stefan, Roberto, Vlade and Amelia were my favorites, but they all won me out in the end. They were crafted very carefully and all had different life experiences and unique voices. The common thread among them was their building, the Met, and their love for New York.

My primary struggle with this book, was the huge concentration on finance. It plays an important part in the book, but man do I hate finance. I think if I had been aware of it before starting, I never would have picked it up at all. Not only is it something I don't understand, but ultimately I just find it incredibly boring. Franklin Garr is a broker (though he describes himself as a professional gambler). I'm not sure what he's brokering precisely, investments I suppose, and most of that went right over my head to the point that whenever the book devolved into those nitty gritty details I just started skimming. Also- what I found strange and unrealistic, is that 120 years in the future, New York 50 feet underwater, they kept mentioning the 2008 recession... I guess 140 years isn't that long, but after all those disasters there hasn't been a single greater recession to reference?

I also feel like the conclusion could have been tighter, or at least we could have been given an epilogue. Mutt and Jeff's storyline never received the attention I felt it properly deserved. They acted as a catalyst for many of these events, but it never seemed to hold any other significance to the story. They start with this huge act of defiance, that receives one line of wrap up in the final chapter. I wanted to know what happened with Franklin's project. What happened with Stefan and Roberto? What about Amelia and her project? Did she continue? Or move onto other things? Charlotte's conclusion was the only one that felt fleshed out.

So I think this is an important book, about the potential dangers of climate change and the current state of the economy, and I'm not sorry I read it, I just think it could have used some trimming and tightening. I'd recommend to fans of climate-fiction.
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews656 followers
June 1, 2018
I have not had the easiest relationship with Kim Stanley Robinson. There are things I like about his books, quite a lot - his embracing of complexity and willingness to delve into political machinations, for one. There are things that get under my skin - the overall pessimism and the way many of his female characters are intensely focused on just one thing and shrill as fuck about it, for another. This means that when I finish his books, I generally am all in a muddle about what I want to say about them. Unless it's the book just before this, Aurora, which I just plainly hated and included in one of my periodic "Terrible SF/F Sex Writing" posts I make for friends.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,262 reviews222 followers
October 11, 2017
Another entertaining polemic from this author, this time on the subject of capitalism and finance continuing to ruin the world, and set in the climate change-affected drowned city of New York.

The story follows an ensemble cast primarily located out of the Metropolitan Life building in the year 2140. After two lots ("pulses") of massive sea-level rise due to climate change, New York has established itself as the "mega-Venice" where streets are now canals and most buildings cope with some level of flooding. The story rambles through discussions about remediation efforts, conservation and how global finance continues to bring on disaster to everyone, both at a personal and societal level.

Like 2312 I found the characters wonderful and each of their individual stories to be compelling. However, it is difficult to get away from the polemic nature of the book. While I generally support the author's politics and agree with many of his points and prejudices, I think he completely fails to present an opposing point of view. The problem with that is it makes any opposition to the goals of the characters obviously stupid, and that doesn't really seem believable.

Still, the world-building is immersive and generally optimistic considering the nature of the novel. There's a sense of perseverance against adversity and just inhabiting a world with difficulties that we would consider trying just as the way things are. Some of the characters, like the trouble-seeking water-rat kids Roberto and Stefan and the blimp-piloting conservationist cloud-star Amelia Black are just great fun and irrepressible and make a great contrast to other more dour and responsible characters.

It's a good book, and probably an important one for 2017, but I'd love to see a bit less of the-novel-as-political-lecture from Robinson.
Profile Image for John Devlin.
Author 21 books71 followers
December 15, 2017
Wow, so bad. Almost no plot and the story reads like a bad episode of Star Trek where the narrative is really a shallow cover over today's issue.

There is no science fiction here. Almost nothing about New York is different. People are still worried about their student loans for chrissakes.

This book is not a novel; it's a thin - as the bumper sticker that says Coexist on Robinson's Prius - attack on finance and capitalism.

Robinson has a character, just a chapter heading, where a Citizen tells us his opinion of how to save the world. It's the tired claptrap of centuries old socialism. We should nationalize banks bc finance guys are evil and caused the '08 recession. Um, Kim, the Feds owned Fannie and Freddie, and those two institutions had the mortgages of over 1/3 of the entire market.

More Kim: people who want to make money on investments are bad, or at least they should have their return on their investment capped. The workers deserve most of everything. Right, the guy working the fry basket at McDonald's is entitled to so much more.

Of course, then there's the jeremiads on global warming, and even a girl who picks up the dying polar bears from the Arctic to transport them South. Oh, how boringly on the nose and how ridiculously failing to have anything to do with science fiction.

Facts: until there were real banks capitalism could go nowhere. It was not a coincidence that the Medici's were ahead of the curve, jumpstarted the modern world with finance and financed the beauty of the Renaissance. Without capitalism, only the 1% had rights. The rest lived lives 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short'.

Capitalism has lifted over a billion people out of poverty in the last 25 years, while socialism in places like Venezuela, Cuba, and Brazil has increased the people's misery ten or a hundredfold. Today, the average poor person in America lives better than Kings of the Middle Ages and that's bc of capitalism. A system that was created spontaneously when those mentioned rights were married to the economic liberty to let individuals pursue their interests and to engage in commerce where everyone makes choices they believe to be in their best interests.
Profile Image for Michelle Morrell.
1,033 reviews73 followers
January 30, 2018
Aww man, I really wanted to like this book. So much so that I gave it three chances. First I borrowed it from the library. Read a couple chapters, marvelled at the "new Venice" perserverance of a drowned New York, but couldn't get into it. Something about the characters just didn't gel for me. Expired, sent back.

Then I downloaded the ebook. I need something on hand for those middle times when I forget a book, am waiting in a line, so on. Same deal, I got a little further in but just couldn't finish. Though I did start flipping through and reading the snippets of New York history, which were quite interesting. But no, something shiny came along and DNF.

Finally, one last chance. Determined to up my reading numbers by fitting audibooks into my commute, I tried one more time (thank you, Overdrive!). To work. Back. To work. Back. Lather rinse repeat I listened to this book. I really liked all the different narrators, especially the guy who was doing the NY history blurbs (and the chick who does the Aes Sedai voices for the Jordan books, what gravitas!), but again, I just couldn't care about the characters or the nebulous plot. My brain shut down for most of the finance and economics lessons (even though I work in numbers for a living). The plot was pretty meh. But I pushed. Another commute. And another. Finally, fed up, I checked my progress. Just about 1/5th of the way through. Sorry "New York 2140," I give up.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,150 reviews1,119 followers
August 19, 2018
3.5 stars. Excellent and masterful worldbuilding with a plethora of distinct characters - some you will like right after you meet them, some you just want to smack on the head. The novel is quite fun actually, I am sure Stan had a good time writing it.
The downside: There are some awkward phasing in it, The denouement was a bit too premature. I liked the slow build up but when the plot strands come together they get concluded too fast and maybe, just maybe, too neat.

I also had issues with the omniscient commentator in between the POV chapters. Sure some expositions are needed like history of the Pulses, but maybe not all readers need lengthy descriptions on other topics. Or do they? Ah, my brain is not well equipped to digest all the financial stuff from the conversations and unfortunately for me, additional commentary on it did not help. I plan to reread this, I think I would enjoy it better. It has lots of fun stuff I like: animal welfare and climate change effects on them, tech diving and issue of unused property. The latter reminded me of Sam Miller's Blackfish City, which also discussed about the injustice of the property system in their urban (well, more marine) setting.

And so my Hugo reads for this year is finally over. I believe Raven Stratagem should win the best novel category, since it is the best one. If not, then Nora J should take her third Hugo home. Should they both do not win, I think NY 2140 should because this novel is actually kind of awesome.
Profile Image for Rose.
795 reviews46 followers
April 2, 2018
I made it about a third of the way. I didn’t care about any of the characters, I was bored to tears, and every so often Robinson would veer off the story to ramble off facts about stuff, like how derivatives markets work, or the history of NY architecture. Pages and pages of stuff I didn’t care about. This was my second and probably last KSR book.
Profile Image for Julie.
938 reviews241 followers
Shelved as 'dnf-gave-up-or-will-never-read'
June 1, 2018
DNF at 23% (circa 150 pages). I got much further this time than KSR's 2312, which I languished in for the 2013 Hugos -- which is apropos, considering I tried tackling this book for the 2018 awards.

I was going to soldier on, because there were glimmers of things that I really liked: Inspector Gen, Vlade, and Charlotte, and their sleuthing what was going on around their skyscraper; the street urchins (or "water rats") scurrying about their business; Amelia transporting polar bears. But that was offset by the things I outright loathed: the pages upon pages of dry, dull financial exposition. Franklin as a POV character, period. I don't like being around shallow chauvinistic horndog finance bros, so being in the head of one was even worse -- and I've really enjoyed novels with loathsome narrators before, but this is just so dry that it's not even interesting; he's just boring. I started skimming pages, which was the first warning sign, but then I hit a brick wall of fury at this metatextual authorial fourth-wall-breaking during one of the "citizen" chapters:
But pause ever so slightly--and those of you anxious to get back to the narrating of the antics of individual humans can skip to the next chapter, and know that any more expository rants, any more info dumps (on your carpet) from this New Yorker will be printed in red ink to warn you to skip them (not)--pause, broader-minded more intellectually flexible readers, to consider why the First Pulse happened in the first place.

That aside might be tongue-in-cheek, it might be self-aware about the book's own propensity towards hideous info dumps, but that doesn't make it cute. It also feels incredibly smug and condescending towards the readers who do want, yanno, characters and plot. I don't appreciate being called closed-minded by the book I'm reading, so fuck this, I'm officially out. It should be possible to write a compelling post-apocalyptic world that sings out about environmental devastation without being quite so snotty about it. Kim Stanley Robinson, I just don't think you and I are compatible.
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