You may know Kim Stanley Robinson from magnificent works like the Mars Trilogy and The Years of Rice and Salt. Now he's back with a new novel called 2312, out today, which is about colonizing the solar system 300 years from now. But it's also about a lot of other things, like art and family and the place of science in our lives. As always, Robinson's worldbuilding is incredible — the attention to detail makes this future feel as realistic and complicated as the present. Here we have an excerpt from early in the novel, which introduces just one of the many amazing places you'll visit in its pages.
Terminator rolls around Mercury just like its sunwalkers, moving at the speed of the planet's rotation, gliding over twenty gigantic elevated tracks, which together hold aloft and push west a town quite a bit bigger than Venice. The twenty tracks run around Mercury like a narrow wedding band, keeping near the forty-fifth latitude south, but with wide detours to south and north to avoid the worst of the planet's long escarpments. The city moves at an average of five kilometers an hour. The sleeves on the underside of the city are fitted over the track at a tolerance so fine that the thermal expansion of the tracks' austenite stainless steel is always pushing the city west, onto the narrower tracks still in the shade. A little bit of resistance to this movement creates a great deal of the city's electricity.
From the top of the Dawn Wall, which is a silvery cliff forming the eastern edge of the city, one can see the whole town stretching out to the west, green under its clear dome. The city illuminates the dark landscape around it like a passing lamp; the illumination is very noticeable except at those times when high cliffs west of the city reflect horizontal sunlight into town. Even these mere pinpricks of the dawn more than equal the artificial lights inside the dome. During these cliffblinks nothing has a shadow; space turns strange. Then the mirrors are passed; that light fades. These shifts in illumination are a significant part of the sensation of movement one has in Terminator, for the glide over the tracks is very smooth. Changes in light, slight tilts in pitch, these make it seem as if the town were a ship, sailing over a black ocean with waves so large that when in their troughs, the ship drops into the night, then on high points crests back into day.
The city sliding at its stately pace completes a revolution every 177 days. Round after round, nothing changing but the land itself; and the land only changes because the sunwalkers include landscape artists, who are out there polishing mirror cliffs, carving petroglyphs, erecting cairns and dolmens and inuksuit, and arranging blocks and lines of metal to expose to the melt of day. Thus Terminator's citizens continuously glide and walk over their world, remaking it day by day into something more expressive of their thoughts. All cities, and all their citizens, move in just such a way.
You can order the novel on Amazon.