A Cli-Fi novel set in New York in the year 2140, focusing on several residents of an apartment building in Manhattan after global warming has caused almost all of the world’s coastlines to go underwater.
This is a large-scale novel, not only in terms of its 624 pages, but also the number of characters and storylines Robinson deploys, the sheer range of themes and topics ... Robinson is not a writer who does villains; none of his characters here is evil, although some are grubbier and more compromised than others. The villain in this novel is capitalism itself ... New York 2140 does what Robinson’s award-winning Mars books did: it creates a whole world in such compelling detail that the reader starts to suspect the author has actually been there, in a time machine, and has come back to file what amounts to documentary reportage ... 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.
The book is a strange hybrid. It has the tenacious, encyclopedic detail that Robinson is known for, the big ideas of a modern CliFi novel and the twists and turns of a heist movie. The characters are memorable, particularly the two little orphan boys and the Internet video star, Amelia. It all comes together (perhaps a little too) beautifully in the end. Anyone familiar with Robinson’s work knows that he can be tedious and heavy handed, and this novel is no exception. But like the others, the thought-provoking ideas and vivid details make the book worth reading.
At times, the book actually felt a bit over-researched to me, with too many characters talking about what used to be at this site or that, before the flood, but I came to understand that this was not simply as-you-know-Bob overexposition; it was also a token of the immense trauma they and everyone in Future New York is still living through ... It is undeniably clear that Robinson’s project has become the construction of a huge metatextual history of the future, not unlike those sagas imagined by Asimov or Heinlein in the Golden Age of Science Fiction ... New York 2140 stands as the first major science fictional artifact of the Trump era, anticipating even in its articulation of the conditions of victory the fragility of progress and the likelihood of reversal ... New York 2140 truly is a document of hope as much as dread and despair. And it’s a hope we’ll dearly need in the Anthropocene, the Anthropocide, the Capitalocene, the Chthulucene, postnormality, whatever you want to call the coming bad years that, with each flood and drought and wildfire and “superstorm,” we have to realize have already begun — our own shared moment of danger, as it now begins to wash up over our beaches, breach our levees, flash up at us in an ever-rising tide.