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Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson(1952- )
Kim Stanley Robinson is a winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards. He is the author of eleven previous books, including the bestselling Mars trilogy and the critically acclaimed Fifty Degrees Below, Forty Signs of Rain, The Years of Rice and Salt, and Antarctica — for which he was sent to the Antarctic by the U.S. National Science Foundation as part of their Antarctic Artists and Writers’ Program. He lives in Davis, California.
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THREE CALIFORNIAS

Three Californias — (1984-1990) 2047: For the small Pacific Coast community of San Onofre, life in the aftermath of a devastating nuclear attack is a matter of survival, a day-to-day struggle to stay alive. But young Hank Fletcher dreams of the world that might have been, and might yet be–and dreams of playing a crucial role in America’s rebirth.

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The Wild Shore: Are you waiting for America’s rebirth?

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The Wild Shore by Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson’s debut novel, The Wild Shore, was first published in 1984 but its story begins decades after nuclear bombs were set off in America’s cities. Now, in 2047, Californian survivors in San Onofre dedicate their days to gathering food and maintaining their shelters rather than filming movies and computer programming.

Hank Fletcher, our narrator, is angry at the world. Unlike some angst-ridden teenagers, Hank has good reason to resent the world as all the other countries of the United Nations have agreed to prevent the American survivors from rebuilding. While the Californians struggle to figure out radios, they are spied upon by satellite. If the survivors show signs of repairing old railroads, patrolling J... Read More

The Gold Coast: More interesting than exciting

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The Gold Coast by Kim Stanley Robinson

Jim McPherson is unsatisfied with the future. Unable to find steady, well-paid work, Jim mostly spends his time partying and casually hooking up with random women. Jim’s family is of small comfort to him since he spends most family dinners enduring his father’s many complaints about how Jim does nothing useful. Jim does not know it, but his father, a defense contractor, is also deeply frustrated in his career, even if it does provide what appears to be a successful lifestyle to outsiders. Jim only begins to feel as though he is doing something of value when he starts protesting against militarism.

Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Gold Coast explores a dystopian future in which the American Dream has been reduced to consumerism... Read More

Pacific Edge: Visions of a high-maintenance upotia

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Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson

Where The Wild Shore shows us a post-apocalyptic California and The Gold Coast deals with future where urbanisation is out of control, in Pacific Edge Kim Stanley Robinson explores a utopian future: a California where people have learned to listen to the land and to pursue more sustainable population levels and economic activity. Together, these three books make up the THREE CALIFORNIAS TRIPTYCH.

In 2065 the world looks quite different from what we are used to. The unsustainable economic practices of the past have been severely curtailed by putting limits on company size and personal income among other, equally drastic measures. The main character is Kevin, an architect judging... Read More

Mars

Mars — (1992-1996) The Martians is a story collection. Publisher: In his most ambitious project to date, award-winning author Kim Stanley Robinson utilizes years of research and cutting-edge science in the first of three novels that will chronicle the colonization of Mars. For eons, sandstorms have swept the barren desolate landscape of the red planet. For centuries, Mars has beckoned to mankind to come and conquer its hostile climate. Now, in the year 2026, a group of one hundred colonists is about to fulfill that destiny. John Boone, Maya Toitavna, Frank Chalmers, and Arkady Bogdanov lead a mission whose ultimate goal is the terraforming of Mars. For some, Mars will become a passion driving them to daring acts of courage and madness; for others it offers and opportunity to strip the planet of its riches. And for the genetic “alchemists, ” Mars presents a chance to create a biomedical miracle, a breakthrough that could change all we know about life… and death. The colonists place giant satellite mirrors in Martian orbit to reflect light to the planets surface. Black dust sprinkled on the polar caps will capture warmth and melt the ice. And massive tunnels, kilometers in depth, will be drilled into the Martian mantle to create stupendous vents of hot gases. Against this backdrop of epic upheaval, rivalries, loves, and friendships will form and fall to pieces–for there are those who will fight to the death to prevent Mars from ever being changed. Brilliantly imagined, breathtaking in scope and ingenuity, Red Mars is an epic scientific saga, chronicling the next step in human evolution and creating a world in its entirety. Red Mars shows us a future, with both glory and tarnish, that awes with complexity and inspires with vision.

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Red Mars: This is where we start again

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Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

When the First Hundred arrive on Mars, they find a beautiful red planet that’s all but untouched by humanity. What should they paint on this amazing canvas?

The question turns out to be very political, and the discussion of politics in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars perhaps begins with ecology. The relationship between people and their environment is introduced when the Martian settlers consider whether they should change the red planet to suit human needs. Ann Clayborne maintains that they should change Mars as little as possible. After all, science is about observation. Sax Russell, on the other hand, argues that “science is creation” and that they should begin terraforming Mars as rapidly as possible because it “adds life, the most... Read More

Green Mars: Revenge of the lab rats

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Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

It took me about 200 pages to get into Kim Stanley Robinson’s Green Mars (1994), the first sequel to Red Mars, and even after I connected with it I found myself working through slow patches. Although the inside cover of the edition I read describes KSR’s novels as “thrilling,” I would describe this novel as dense, philosophical, purposeful, detailed… Well, a lot of words come to mind before I’d mention a fast pace.

When Green Mars begins, the surviving members of the First Hundred live in hiding on Mars. Earth, meanwhile, suffers from overpopulation, inequality, political instability, and many ecological pr... Read More

Blue Mars: A superb conclusion

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Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson’s MARS trilogy is one of the grandest thought experiments in literature, let alone science fiction. While Red Mars sets into motion mankind’s inhabitation of the red planet, and Green Mars delves into terraforming and social and political aspects of the inhabitation, it remains for Blue Mars to make the final statement regarding man’s potential on Mars. Blue Mars continues evolving the series’ main ideas, bringing our own society into sharper focus by comparison. Fully contextualizing life on Earth, Blue Mars expands to solar system size, and is thus a grand finale in more than just story.

Wasting no time, Blue Mars picks up events precisely where Green Marsconcluded. After the successful revolution aga... Read More

The Martians: A MARS story collection by Kim Stanley Robinson

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The Martians by Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson’s MARS trilogy is a landmark of science fiction. The books visualize the terraforming of the red planet from a desert wasteland to a verdant living space while Robinson examines humanity from economic, psychological, political, sociological, and ecological viewpoints, culminating in the most in-depth look at colonizing Mars as has yet been written. The quantity of material was so great in fact, that Robinson published the story collection The Martians three years after Blue Mars. Collecting material spilling over in the creative effort, it features short stories published from magazines, cuts from the novels, Robinson’s notes, musings, and others — 26 pieces in all. The time and setting of the selections is scattered throughout the three novels. Some stories fill gaps not... Read More

Science in the Capitol

Science in the Capitol– (2004-2007) The bestselling author of the classic Mars trilogy and The Years of Rice and Salt returns with a riveting new trilogy of cutting-edge science, international politics, and the real-life ramifications of global warming as they are played out in our nation’s capital—and in the daily lives of those at the center of the action. Hauntingly realistic, here is a novel of the near future that is inspired by scientific facts already making headlines. When the Arctic ice pack was first measured in the 1950s, it averaged thirty feet thick in midwinter. By the end of the century it was down to fifteen. One August the ice broke. The next year the breakup started in July. The third year it began in May. That was last year. It’s an increasingly steamy summer in the nation’s capital as Senate environmental staffer Charlie Quibler cares for his young son and deals with the frustrating politics of global warming. Charlie must find a way to get a skeptical administration to act before it’s too late—and his progeny find themselves living in Swamp World. But the political climate poses almost as great a challenge as the environmental crisis when it comes to putting the public good ahead of private gain. While Charlie struggles to play politics, his wife, Anna, takes a more rational approach to the looming crisis in her work at the National Science Foundation. There a proposal has come in for a revolutionary process that could solve the problem of global warming—if it can be recognized in time. But when a race to control the budding technology begins, the stakes only get higher. As these everyday heroes fight to align the awesome forces of nature with the extraordinary march of modern science, they are unaware that fate is about to put an unusual twist on their work—one that will place them at the heart of an unavoidable storm. With style, wit, and rare insight into our past, present, and possible future, this captivating novel propels us into a world on the verge of unprecedented change—in a time quite like our own. Here is Kim Stanley Robinson at his visionary best, offering a gripping cautionary tale of progress—and its price—as only he can tell it.

Forty Signs of Rain: A realistic look at environmentalism and politics

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Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson

With the quality of special effects improved exponentially, the blockbuster disaster movie appeared in the 90s and hasn’t looked back. Tornadoes (Twister), meteors (Deep Impact and Armageddon), seismic activity (The Core), volcanoes (Dante’s Peak), massive weather events (The Perfect Storm), and, who can forget, Sharknado, have in one way or another tried to capitalize on the potential power of nature to earn a dollar. Opening with a reasonably plausible scientific premise (except in the case of the latter, of course), then quickly cutting to the melodrama and special effects, these films have done nothing to make people aware of the physical laws governing the actualities of our world and the true potential for catastrophe. In writing the SCIENCE IN THE CAPITOL trilogy, ... Read More

Fifty Degrees Below: KSR wades in hip-deep

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Fifty Degrees Below by Kim Stanley Robinson

Forty Signs of Rain identified the themes and mode for Kim Stanley Robinson’s SCIENCE IN THE CAPITOL series. As is expected for the middle novel of a trilogy, Fifty Degrees Below (2006) further unpacks the ideas while escalating the story to new heights of excitement. Salting what was a rather tasteless opening, the second novel improves upon the first while launching the story into the third and conclusory volume, Sixty Days and Counting.

Working with the same cast of characters, Fifty Degrees Below opens with Frank Vanderwal having to leave the apartment where he was staying and search for a new home. The flood ... Read More

Icehenge: Makes the reader doubt, puzzle and think

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Icehenge by Kim Stanley Robinson

Icehenge is Kim Stanley Robinson's second published novel. It was published the same year as his first novel The Wild Shore, the first part in his THREE CALIFORNIAS triptych. The subject of Icehenge is very different from The Wild Shore. It would be selling the book short to say it is a first step towards his popular MARS trilogy because Icehenge is a very good novel in its own right, but fans of the MARS books will find many themes in this book have returned in the trilogy.

On the north pole of Pluto a mysterious construction of ice is found, reminiscent of Stonehenge. Three linked novellas in Icehenge explore the origin of this construct. The f... Read More

The Memory of Whiteness: Science, music, philosophy

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The Memory of Whiteness by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Memory of Whiteness is Kim Stanley Robinson's third novel, after The Wild Shore and Icehenge. It's a very unusual book, standing out in Robinson's oeuvre. Much of his work deals with science and many of his characters are scientists. In this novel science plays a large role as well, but this time it is not so much the process and the ways it can change the world but rather the world view that is influenced by a scientific theory.

The novel is set in the thirty-third century, some three centuries after a physicist named Arthur Holywelkin forces a paradigm shift in physic by revealing a theory that is the biggest breakthrough in science since Albert Einstein’s. In his later years, Holywelkin devotes his time to building a massive musical instrument known as ... Read More

Escape from Kathmandu: Four linked stories set in Nepal

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Escape from Kathmandu by Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson is primarily known as a science fiction writer, but that category doesn’t fit all of his work. For example, just before he published the novel A Short, Sharp Shock (1990), which could be labeled as surrealistic fantasy, he published Escape from Kathmandu, a collection of four linked novellas set in contemporary Nepal. Three of the novellas — Escape from KathmanduMother Goddess of the World and The True Nature of Shangri-La — were printed in Asimov's in 1986, 1987 and 1989 respectively. The first three can be read independently. The fourth one, The Kingdom Underground, can be read independently as... Read More

The Years of Rice and Salt: What if the Black Plague killed the Europeans?

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The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson

In The Years of Rice and Salt, Kim Stanley Robinson uses the Black Plague to remove the Europeans, leaving the Old World to the Chinese, Islam, and the many cultural groups that end up in India. The Chinese discover the Americas, their diseases spread through the Native American populations, and their armies plunder the Incans. The novel begins with the Plague, but its vignettes move from one period of history to the next until it reaches the end of the 20th century.

How do you write a novel about one set of characters that spans centuries? Robinson uses reincarnation to cast a set of souls in various times and places as he follows his alternate history. The characters can always be told by the first letter of thei... Read More

Galileo’s Dream: A decent story with uneven execution

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Galileo’s Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson

I'm a huge fan of Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt, which is a terrific blend of pseudo science fictional philosophy and religion, and fun and entertaining alternative history. It's deep and touching and provides a strong sense of activity (if not specifically action and adventure). So the concept behind Galileo's Dream drew me to the book the instant I read the description: the astronomer Galileo is taken from Earth to the moons of Jupiter (which he discovered) in an attempt to modify the past to make for a better future — a future in which science rises up over religion. Unfortunately, while it's a f... Read More

The Lucky Strike: A useful primer to Robinson’s style and themes

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The Lucky Strike by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Lucky Strike collects a short story and an essay about alternate history by Kim Stanley Robinson. At the end, readers are treated to an interview with the author. It is part of a larger series of publications that highlight “outspoken authors.”

“The Lucky Strike,” the short story, is an alternate history about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In this world, however, Frank January chooses to drop the bomb early so as to minimize human casualties. He hopes that the Japanese will surrender when they realize the destructive power of atomic bombs.

It is difficult to discuss the text without spoilers, so what follows is full of them:

Begin highlighting here to read the spoiler... Read More

Shaman: It almost breaks the heart

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Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson

I tell you, once upon a time kids had to walk to school barefoot. And not just barefoot, but naked. In snow and rain. Uphill. And they had to not get eaten by wolves. And be chased by Neanderthals. And eat shrooms. Or at least, they did if their school was learning how to be a shaman. And if they lived back about 30, 000 years ago. And their name was Loon, the protagonist of Kim Stanley Robinson’s wonderfully detailed Shaman.

That naked walkabout occurs at the start of Shaman and it’s a fantastic introduction to this complex culture and world that Loon inhabits. A world he has to learn more about if he is to become his small group’s storyteller/shaman/cave painter/keeper of memories as his mentor, the current shaman, Thorn, desires. Loon, on the other hand, is just a bit grumpy over the idea of all this work — he doesn’t hav... Read More

Aurora: Overly long but powerful

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Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Aurora, by Kim Stanley Robinson, has major issues with pacing, characterization, and to some extent, plotting. Which would seem to make this review a no-brainer “not recommended.” But if one can overlook issues of plot, character, and pace (and granted, that’s a Grand Canyon-level overlook), there’s a lot here to often admire and sometimes enjoy, and a reader who perseveres will, I think, not only be happy they did so, but will also find Aurora lingering in their mind for some time. (Note: While I don’t think anything revealed ahead will mar the reading experience, it’s pretty nigh impossible to discuss this book substantively without some plot spoilers. So fair warning.)

Generations ago, a starsh... Read More

SFM: Delany, Cixin, VanderMeer, Robinson

Short Fiction Monday: There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about.

“Aye, and Gomorrah” by Samuel R. Delany (1967, free at Strange Horizons)

“Aye, and Gomorrah” was first published as the final story in the ground-breaking anthology Dangerous Visions (1967), edited by Harlan Ellison. It was also included in Samuel Delany's only major short-story collection Driftglass (1971) and an expanded edition titled Aye, and Gomorrah, and Other Stories (2003). Delany ... Read More

Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories

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Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories edited by John Joseph Adams

Even people who don’t usually read science fiction will often be familiar with a few classic titles in the “dystopian SF” sub-genre. After all, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and of course the famous Aldous Huxley novel Brave New World are some of the few SF titles that have entered the mainstream literary canon to such an extent that they’ve become assigned school reading for many students. However, novel-length dystopian SF didn’t stop with those venerable classics, and can even be said to be thriving at the moment. See, for example, the recent success of Paolo Bacigalupi’s... Read More

Writing the Other

Terry Weyna and I attended the 2013 Nebula Awards Weekend in San Jose, California last week. The event focused mostly on the Saturday awards banquet, and programming was rather light, but I did attend a panel called “Writing the Other,” subtitled, “How do we write about what we cannot know?”

Ken Liu, moderator



“Writing the Other” looked like the staff of a think-tank. Saladin Ahmed (Throne of the Crescent Moon), Kim Stanley Robinson, (2312, which won the Nebula), Ken Liu (“Paper Menagerie”) and Aliette de Bodard (who would win for the novelette “Immersion”) made up the panel.
... Read More

Marion and Terry report on the 2013 Nebula Awards Weekend

The 48th Annual Nebula Awards weekend was held by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America at the San Jose Convention Center in northern California from May 17 through 19, 2013. Terry Weyna and I, who both live in Northern California and both are aspiring writers, decided to see what a bunch of published writers get up to when they party together.

Gene Wolfe and Teri Goulding



Marion Deeds: I think what surprised me most is how light on programming the weekend was. I thought there would be sessions about the nuts and bolts of a writing career, but I guess that SFWA members already have a pretty good idea about that. Still, I thought we’d hear about things like the new Amazon publishing arms, the Night Shade Books mess, that sort of thing.

Terry Weyn... Read More

Fifth Annual FOGCon + Giveaway!

Last month Marion and I attended FOGCon 5 in Walnut Creek, California (in the San Francisco Bay area) where I served on a panel called “When the Setting is a Character.” FOGCon, which stands for Friends of the Genre Convention, has a literary bent. Marion and I are going to discuss our experience here, and we've got a book to give away to a commenter.

Marion, what did you think of your first FOGCon?

Terry, I expected FOGCon to be fun because you recommended it, but this conference exceeded my expectations! From the Walnut Creek Marriott Hotel staff – consistently helpful, friendly and cheerful – to the thoughtful and varied panels, this was a great weekend. And I love that they had a “Ghost of Honor,” Joanna Russ, devoting an... Read More