by Kim Stanley Robinson
Review by Harriet Klausner
Orbit Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780316098120
Date: 22 May 2012 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
By the twenty-fourth century, humanity's footprint can be seen throughout the solar system. No longer earthbound, mankind can be found on all the planets and moons as well as other rocks. People live on Saturn's rings and inside asteroids. On Mercury is the mobile city Terminator that moves to elude the lethal rays of the sun.
Though man has progressed, death remains inevitable. On Terminator, the Lion Of Mercury, Alex died at one hundred and ninety one years old. She was known for her ability to insure societal changes matched technological changes so that no one was left behind as occurred during the late twentieth century information revolution. Her significant other Mqaret, to keep his mind off his loss, works in the lab where the bacteria to modify Venus, Titan, and triton, etc. has been designed.
Biome designer Swan Er Hong visits Mqaret as she deeply grieves the death of her legendary grandmother from a brain aneurism. Mqaret introduces Swan to League investigator Jean Genette of the asteroids who is on Mercury for a conference. He asks Swan and Mqaret questions about Alex that implies she was murdered perhaps over her latest study. Soon after the cop leaves, Alex's close friend, Titan diplomat Fitz Wahram, arrives to pay his respects.
However, not long afterward a previously undetected meteor shower assaults the city. Other enigmatic incidents occur that lead the designer, the diplomat, and the cop to team up on an investigation that has too-big-to-fail political, social, technological, and economic tentacles throughout the solar system,
This excellent futuristic science fiction features the brilliant Robinson solar system, so vivid it seems like it is a present day reality rather than a vision of what might be in three centuries. Mercury comes alive as do other locales. However, the key is that this far seeing enlightenment is interwoven with a well written action-packed investigative conspiracy thriller.
The lead trio is a strong team of caring people. Each comes from different occupational and geographical backgrounds; they possess diverse personalities that when combined proves the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The résumés of the protagonists enhance the completeness of the Robinson solar system, but also lead to a thoroughly entertaining inquiry from their combined various perspectives.
Readers will relish this strong futuristic tale that cautions that whenever a group is left behind during great technological advancements, resentment flourishes, and trouble for all happens. This is science fiction at its thought-provoking, vividly descriptive, and exciting best.