By Kim Stanley Robinson
Orbit, $25.99, 561 pages

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson is a novel from a science fiction author now in his prime. 300 years in the future, humankind has stretched across the Solar System, living comfortably from Mercury to the moons of Saturn. On Earth it is a different story. Despite stunning technical and medical advances, people on Earth face the same challenges we see today: political division versus the search for peace and understanding; the quest for meaning fighting the desire for power; and above all, the inability to stop harming our native planet. The human race has the tools to terraform Mars, Mercury, even Venus, but cannot heal its ancestral home. Earth retains an emotional hold on those living in space, yet is unappreciated by its 11 billion inhabitants.

Robinson is adept at plumbing the depths of human psychology and spirituality through his character development and 2312 is no exception. His writing provides qualified hope for a human future, not with the Gee-Whiz style of Robert Heinlein but with the analytical precision of Arthur C. Clarke. Indeed, he is in line to succeed Clarke as the greatest living master of meaningful, thoughtful science fiction.

Reviewed by Brenda Searle