Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2017 novel New York 2140 is something of a return for the author. Having started his career in fiction with an abstractly connected trilogy of near future science fiction novels depicting a post-apocalypse, dystopia, and ‘utopia’ respectively, often called the Orange County series, he used three very different future histories of Southern California to examine social, economic, environmental, and political issues. His later novels going to Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and deep space, New York 2140 looks back to the Orange County series for method, moves to the East Coast for setting, and, unsurprisingly, finds that a lot of the issues requiring address in the 80s still require visionary imagination in 2017.
After a decades-spanning series of Pulses, the Earth’s ocean waters have risen 50 feet. New York City, like the remainder of the world’s coastal urban areas, has found its landscape entirely changed. Lower Manhattan a gridwork of canals rather than streets as a result, the super-scrapers are now being built in upper rather than lower Manhattan. Completing the migration, the city’s wealthy and affluent have also moved up-town, leaving the crumbling inter-tidal zone to those who can make life happen.