Like the music and musicians he often writes about, Kim Stanley Robinson's (KSR) lyrical prose style sings to us. The lulls in the music cause of to ponder what he has written, and the high points of each grand movement make us talk, write, and rave about his stories. In short, for the KSR fan, most books are like a great concert. You may not enjoy every song, but by the time you leave the building, you know you've experienced something truly special.
Looking forward to today (Kim Stanley Robinson's birthday) caused me to reflect upon how important his stories are to me. So I thought I'd assemble a list of the KSR books I've read, and attempt to rank them in some sort of meaningful way. This is, admittedly, a highly subjective exercise, and no doubt every other KSR fan will disagree with my analysis. Some may violently disagree, and shake their heads, curse under their breath, or rant at the screen as they read this list. All I ask is that you please, please, PLEASE do not throw anything at your computer, or shoot your iPhone with a Taser. It's not your Internet Surfing Device's fault: it's all on me. My fault that you're feeling this way, totally and completely. All right?
So, without further ado, here we go. My favorite Kim Stanley Robinson stories. The KSR stories most important to me. My desert island KSR books. The KSR novels I have to keep beside me, should a bomb go off tomorrow. The novels I'll stash in my Bomb Shelter or Panic Room, should I ever build one. Or, if you prefer, Dragon Dave's Top Ten KSR List.
Oh, one last thing. This is the beginning of a series. I don't promise to write about Kim Stanley Robinson's books every day, but I do promise to finish this KSR Essentials List. Eventually. Why? Because his novels are important to me, that's why. Or weren't you paying attention?
My Kim Stanley Robinson Essentials List
10. Galileo's Dream. Coming off his brilliant Future Earth/Eco-Catastrophy trilogy, this novel came as an abrupt change. The historical Galileo is visited by people from the future. They live on Jupiter's moons, including the four largest, which are now called the Galilean Moons. These visitations inspire Galileo to continue with his scientific experiments, his observations, and his writings. They even have a way of transporting him to these moons, so he can see how these societies are structured. Amazing stuff, right?
Strangely, I found myself much less interested in Kim Stanley Robinson's Jupiter-centric future than I was in Galileo's life. His story really made Galileo come alive for me. Most of the scientific devices Galileo created failed to be accepted. Many of his peers refused to accept his theories. Ultimately, the Catholic Church branded him as a heretic. Had Galileo followed a more conventional route, he and his family could have led a far more comfortable and harmonious existence. Instead, his life ended in tragedy.
This novel can seem pointless at times, as the people of Jupiter prevent him from ever passing on his knowledge of them to others. But Galileo's Dream strikes me as a substantive biography of Galileo's life, and afforded me an appreciation for his contributions to science. Kim Stanley Robinson suggests that the Catholic Church might not even have branded him a heretic, had Galileo not felt so strongly in the rightness of his views that he placed its leaders in a position where they had to either accept or reject his radical teachings. Ultimately, KSR's portrait of Galileo reminds me that a tendency to overthink things is a sign of genius, and that we can never know the ultimate impact our lives will have upon others. His story leaves me educated, inspired, and cheered. What more could you expect from reading a book? Even at Number 10, it stands far higher than many of the other books in my house. And that's saying a lot, when you consider how many books I've got, written by other authors I admire.
I guess you could call that a recommendation.
Oh, and one last thing. Kim Stanley Robinson, wherever you are out there, and whenever (or if ever) you read this, Happy Birthday!