"New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson review – an urgent vision of the future." Adam Roberts, The Guardian (March 3, 2017).
New York 2140 is a towering novel about a genuinely grave threat to civilisation. Impressively ambitious, it bears comparison with other visionaries’ attempts to squeeze the sprawl and energy of the US between two covers: John Dos Passos’s USA trilogy and Don DeLillo’s Underworld. Dos Passos orchestrated his multifarious account through a literary-experimental approximation to news media: daily papers, newsreels and so on. DeLillo is similarly capacious in his ambition and uses baseball as his governing metaphor. New York 2140 is more urgently relevant than those two masterpieces. Robinson organises his novel around the flood: the literal waters, the metaphorical sense of events – environmental change, technology, immigration – overwhelm us. And the deluge is not only metaphorically eloquent, it is dangerously close to becoming a reality.
"Kim Stanley Robinsons' Latest Novel Imagines Life in an Underwater New York City." Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker (April 27, 2017)
What distinguishes Robinson’s novel is its vitality, its sense that life goes on. Today’s New Yorkers get a charge out of living amid the city’s history of struggle. Similarly, New Yorkers in 2140 love “motoring across the shallows of the Bronx,” dodging “roof reefs.” Watching waves break against the submerged apartments of Coney Island, they feel alive. They’re just like us, in other words. If they can fight climate change, why can’t we?
"In '2140,' New York May Be Underwater, But It's Still Home." Genevieve Valentine, NPR (March 18, 2017).
But though Robinson accepts the inevitable — among his epigraphs is H.G. Wells' "What a beautiful ruin it will make!" — there's deep urgency in the details of this cautionary tale. It's a story that expects to be relevant sooner rather than later, and reminds us we can rarely see bubbles when we're in them, whether housing or environment — the magnitude of New York 2140's climate breakdown reads like dystopia until you realize just how close we already are to being too late.
And yet, what defines New York 2140, beneath its anger at toxic capitalism and its despair over inadequate environmental measures is the thread of hope that somehow, maybe, we might yet balance the boat enough to make it through the ruins.