by Kim Stanley Robinson
Publisher: PM Press, 2009
The New York Times has a blurb on the front of this book — and the back. This volume is the second one in PM Press’ Outspoken Authors series. These points indicate Kim Stanley Robinson’s importance, prestige, and ranking, in part at least, within science fiction as well as in how the general book trade see him.
Me, I’ve never read any other KSR before now. Frankly, the books always loomed there. Each volume was fat. And then they were parts of series. Are you kidding me? Who had time for that? It was like seeing a Robert Jordan series or the Dune reboots by Junior and NYTimesFaveGuy. Sorry, I’d rather read aging pulps, novellas, or short stories.
I’m glad I waited. These pieces are good in many ways. Yes, the writing is definitely polished and likely to last more than a few decades; perhaps that’s what is meant when it’s called ‘literary.’ Frankly, some of the writing echoes academic stylings, but toned down so it actually makes sense while retaining a lot of the intellectual, structural, and linguistic games.
Another good point is that the texts engage with topics of great importance and meaning: how can a single individual make a difference if and when they are part of an epic destructive machine, like the military? Is it actually possible to make a difference? Yes, the content is deep, but it also requires emotional involvement and investment. Commitment.
High quality writing that is structured intentionally to communicate sophisticated views on complex, difficult topics. No easy or fun punches thrown; limited to no preaching on social issues; skillful renderings of people who are believable even though you may not like them. This is all good.
KSR is not the science fiction that I was looking for. However, I am glad I found it. I’m just not sure, though, if I’ll ever want to read any more of his work in the future because — and I know this sounds awful — it requires such an investment, such an engagement, and I’m not quite sure I can currently commit that way to a book or a series. I can’t commit to this kind of relationship — not now, anyways.
On a closing note, the interview with Bisson is probably the longest, most in-depth one I’ve read so far with the OA series. Lots shared about KSR, SF, writing, and a wee bit of politics.
Glad I read this. It was a useful intro, but I’m honestly not sure how it compares to his oeuvre as a whole. The book certainly stands on its own and is engaging.