This book firmly stands in the tradition of cautionary tales of the future that have been told in such classics as Brave New World, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451. The title, New York 2140, tells you when and where the story is set, and the cover art suggests one of the two great threats to human civilization it is warning us about. That’s right. It’s climate change. Our imaginary descendants in this this book are muddling through that, as humans tend to do. We’re innovative and adaptive creatures, after all. We may not have a lot of foresight when it comes to avoiding self-inflicted injuries, but when we do harm ourselves, we’re quick to apply a bandage and get on with life.
The other existential threat featured in this story is—
No, not terrorism.
Not another large asteroid.
Not religious extremism.
Not alien invaders.
Not renegade robots or homicidal artificial intelligence.
No, Not even Donald Trump.
As scary as those are, the threat Kim Stanley Robinson warns us about here is far more insidious, and it’s real.
The author obviously did some background reading in economics as he was drafting this fictional book because the kinds of financial manipulation he describes are far from fictional. They have gone on and are going on still today. (I’ll list a few recent and popular books on the subject that he may have consulted below. You may want to read them. But I’ll warn you; they’re scary.) But New York 2140 book isn’t just a warning, or an apocalyptic thriller, or a tale of likeable characters overcoming adversity. It’s not even just a painless lesson on macroeconomics. It is all of those, but it also proposes a course of action that could, conceivably, change things. To say what that is would be a spoiler, so I won’t. I will, however, recommend this book.
Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business
The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America’s Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century
Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few
Capital in the Twenty-First Century