Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Kim Stanley Robinson For President of the Householders' Union!

"Red Moon", 2018, 464 pages, is the latest novel by Kim Stanley Robinson. Robinson is one of our greatest living (science fiction) authors.

The novel is set in 2047. There is one reference to "Red Moon" in the text of the novel, referring to rare earth element lunar regions that have a reddish hue. But early on I concluded that "Red Moon" actually referred to "Red Chinese Moon". The Chinese have aggressively colonized the south polar regions of the moon, and are expanding north on the terminators. There is also a privately developed lava tube on the dark side. The US and other countries have a much smaller presence in the north polar regions, but have at least 1 cool covered crater. The majority of the story takes place in the Chinese lunar settlements and China, and a good majority of the characters are Chinese.

The novel is set against a time of turmoil in the world. China is getting ready to elect a new party chairman and president, and various social inequities are creating massive unrest. In the US, Robinson has (yay!) decided to move the events of "New York 2140" (blogged here) forward 100 years. The vast left-behind majority of US citizens has formed a Householders' Union and has declared a rent (in the economic sense) strike - everyone stops paying their rent and credit card bills. This has thrown the financial system into a 2008 type crisis. But this time, instead of bailing out the banks, we nationalize them - the financial system now belongs to the people! No more obscene salaries and bonuses for derivative traders and hedge-fund managers! A robin hood tax on all financial transactions! As I said talking about "New York 2140", fighting money with money seems like the only way to go.

The story follows a young, somewhat autistic US quantum computing geek, a Chinese poet and travelogue blogger who befriends him, and a young, pregnant revolutionary daughter of the Chinese Minister of Finance as they attempt to escape the clutches of reactionary forces. The most science-fictiony thing we have is a fledgling AI who tries to help them.

As you would expect, there is a lot of interesting detail about living on the moon. There are also good descriptions of China, both Beijing and Hong Kong. We get most major plot threads tied up by the end of the book, but the ending seems to definitely indicate more to come. Yay!

Robinson really seems to have some good ideas about how we can attempt to address our oligarch/plutocrat/kleptocrat problem. I addition to the rent strike, he talks about cryptocurrencies as a means of transferring financial power from institutions to the people. He specifically mentions carboncoin, which turns out to be a real thing?!?!? I have been very afraid of bitcoin because of its environmental downside, here's a cryptocurrency with an environmental upside, yay! There is 1 line in the last chapter with a tantalizing possibility that I would love to quote, but I will avoid the spoiler.

Robinson seems to really get what's going on, and has so many good ideas! Kim Stanley Robinson For President of the Householders' Union!


Mark Haag said...

Glad to see someone else talking about the idea of a householder's union! I've been trying to think of collective actions that would be powerful enough to succeed and easy enough for everyone to get in on. I am just reading Red Moon, and got to the part where he discusses the Householder's union that he wrote about in the New York book. Do you know if this idea is original to him, or have others written about it?

Chris Heinz said...

I don't recall seeing it elsewhere. I have not researched it. Googled (actually DuckDuckGo'ed) - hah, this post it the #2 hit. #3 is this, instructive:

KSR also has pointed out the Mondragon coop in Spain, which I have seen elsewhere.