cover image New York 2140

New York 2140

Kim Stanley Robinson. Orbit, $28 (624p) ISBN 978-0-316-26234-7

Unlike J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World, which was also set on a mid-22nd-century Earth devastated by global warming but focused on the effects of that cataclysm on the human psyche, Robinson’s latest near-future novel examines the political and economic implications of dramatically higher ocean levels, specifically their effects on New York City. The writing, ironically, is dry; several sections are exposition-heavy. They not only explain why 2140 Lower Manhattan is submerged but contain dense analyses of how investments in real estate could be evaluated via a “kind of specialized Case-Shiller index for intertidal assets.” Such sections illustrate the comprehensive thought Robinson (2312) has given to his imagined future, but they slow down the various interesting narrative threads, which concern a diverse cast of characters, including a reality-TV star who travels above the U.S. aboard an airship; the superintendent of the old MetLife building, which now contains a boathouse; and an NYPD inspector called in to investigate the disappearance of two coders. Readers open to an optimistic projection of how humans could handle an increasingly plausible environmental catastrophe will find the info dumps worth wading through. Agent: Chris Schelling, Selectric Artists. (Mar.)