Book Review: New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson (2/5)

20 Jul

Finishing two books in a week is such a novel thing for me, I’m not sure what to do with myself. This one felt like a long time coming just because the audiobook was so long. This is a book I got for free from my library during a summer audiobook giveaway a few years ago. I’ve been holding on to it for when I needed a book and it’s time came up.


Cover image via Amazon

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Summary from Amazon:

As the sea levels rose, every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island. For the residents of one apartment building in Madison Square, however, New York in the year 2140 is far from a drowned city.

There is the market trader, who finds opportunities where others find trouble. There is the detective, whose work will never disappear — along with the lawyers, of course.

There is the internet star, beloved by millions for her airship adventures, and the building’s manager, quietly respected for his attention to detail. Then there are two boys who don’t live there, but have no other home — and who are more important to its future than anyone might imagine.

Lastly there are the coders, temporary residents on the roof, whose disappearance triggers a sequence of events that threatens the existence of all — and even the long-hidden foundations on which the city rests.

This book frustrated me. I’ve tried to think of a better word for it, but that seems to capture how I feel best. There were way too many characters and they didn’t interact in ways I felt were meaningful and added to the story. I was lost about the main plot of the book the entire time I was reading it and having finished, I’m still not sure I understand. It became clear that the city was the main character, but we spent so much time with the actors that that was murky until I was nearly finished with the book. Despite an easy sell, there was very little warning about climate change outright (besides Amelia). I would have slashed more than half of this book if I was editing it. There’s no reason it was a 22 hour audiobook.

It’s hard to really comment on these characters. They seemed a bit too contrived a lot of the time. Charlotte was too perfect for words and Amelia was purposefully aloof in a way that was annoying. I didn’t like the tone of the ‘narrator’ that appeared from time to time and I found Franklin frustrating. Really, they were pretty realistic, but not likeable.

Vlade might have been my favorite character. He felt like a real person and someone that I could meet today or in 100 years and understand why he did what he did. He had a clear goal of doing his job well and he cared for people more than others seemed to. He was a reliable person and, uniquely, likeable.

None of the characters really drew me in. They were pretty flat characters, not changing much during the course of the book and not showing a lot of depth. Charlotte was probably the most dynamic person but her change was more about coming to terms with doing something she didn’t want to than it was about changing her mindset or actions. The flatness of the characters was a big part of what kept me from engaging with them.


Kim Stanley Robinson Image via Wikipedia

There wasn’t a plot point of the story that I enjoyed more than others. The story developed more on an event-by-event basis, with each new crisis engaging the characters in a different way and not connecting well to things that came before. It almost felt like disconnected stories in an episodic fashion, like you might have for a TV series season instead of a book. The style really didn’t work for me.

The first 60% or so of the book was more or less set up for the last 40% and I found it really unsatisfying. The character development didn’t seem to have much of an impact on the later half of the book anyway. It was a lot of explaining how Robinson saw the world changing due to climate change. The characters didn’t add much to the story in my opinion.

The audiobook had a lot of different narrators for the different characters which was fun. The narrators included Suzanne Toren, Robin Miles, Peter Ganim, Jay Snyder, Caitlin Kelly, Michael Crouch, Ryan Vincent Anderson, Christopher Ryan Grant, and Robert Blumenfeld though I have no idea who did which parts. I enjoyed the narration for Amelia most and I have to say I enjoyed the narration for the ‘narrator’ (aka history info dump) the least, though that was due to the writing and not the actor’s portrayal. I didn’t like how we were getting periodic info dumps in a stereotypical New York jargon from someone outside of the story.

There was a strong sense of community amongst the residents that pushed the plot forward. Having a community like that was key for what they were eventually able to accomplish politically. However I feel about the plot of the book, that communal support was really critical and central to the characters and spoke to how we need to band together to accomplish anything. Americans are not the best at doing this so it was great to see it happen in the novel.

Writer’s Takeaway: There were a lot of things I felt were lacking in this novel. The overall plot was a bit confusing and I think it could have benefited from a more defined three-act structure. There were also a lot of characters that could have been cut and combined. I’m not sure what the author was trying to say with this book, but I think it got lost in the future he was creating.

Overall, much longer than it needed to be and murky. Two out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Discussion Questions for Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140 | The DC Swathmore Book Group Blog
NEW YORK 2140 – Kim Stanley Robinson (2017) | Schicksalgemeinschaft
New York 2140 – Kim Stanley Robinson | Performative Utterance
Book Review: New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson | Beer Rants and Books
Review of New York 2140 – Kim Stanley Robinson | My Opinion on Various Books


7 Responses to “Book Review: New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson (2/5)”

  1. whatcathyreadnext July 20, 2021 at 3:33 PM #

    My main thought after reading your review is well done for actually finishing it! I think I would have given up long before, especially with so many characters and narrators.


    • Sam July 20, 2021 at 3:44 PM #

      Thanks! I kept trying to figure out how it all connected and I think that puzzle kept me pushing through. I got more and more frustrated and when I finally did want to give up, I was close enough to the end that I thought I might as well finish. Happy reading!


  2. Stephanie - Bookfever July 20, 2021 at 5:23 PM #

    Hmm… don’t think I’ll give this one a shot then. Great review though!!


    • Sam July 20, 2021 at 5:25 PM #

      Thank you! I appreciate you stopping by and commenting. Happy reading!


  3. nickimags @ Secret Library Book Blog July 21, 2021 at 7:09 AM #

    Fab review but too bad it wasn’t a good read!


    • Sam July 21, 2021 at 5:18 PM #

      Thanks. I’m glad to have moved on to something I’m enjoying more. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person


  1. Links I’ve Enjoyed This Week – 25/07/2021 #WeeklyRoundUpPost 🔗📆 🔗 #SecretLibraryBookBlog – Secret Library Book Blog - July 25, 2021

    […] – The Clockmaker’s Wife & A Light in the Window Taking On a World of Words – New York 2140 & Lateral Thinking Cover to Cover – Mini Reviews A Knight’s Reads – How to […]


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