52 pages 1 hour read

Kim Stanley Robinson

New York 2140

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2017

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Summary and Study Guide


New York 2140 is a 2017 science fiction novel by Kim Stanley Robinson. Through the viewpoints of multiple characters, global warming and its consequences acts as a backdrop to examining issues of greed, exploitative capitalism, the occasional need for revolution, and the importance of teamwork when organizing against a system. New York 2140 is a cautionary tale about global warming, and an illustration of the author’s fondness for resilient, tough New Yorkers.

The novel unfolds in eight parts, consisting of chapters narrated by each of the major characters (although there are two pairs of characters who always appear together: Stefan and Robert, and Mutt and Jeff). One character is anonymous, known to the reader only as The Citizen. The Citizen does not interact with the story but provides historical context and omniscient narration that helps the reader understand financial, climatological, and capitalist history in the aftermath of the events known as the First and Second Pulses.

The Pulses accompanied the melting of the majority of the ice caps, which then caused sea level to rise by hundreds of feet. New York, where the story is set primarily, is now mostly submerged. Most of the main characters—Mutt and Jeff, immigration attorney Charlotte, Gen the Inspector, Building Superintendent Vlade, and “cloud” personality Amelia Black who hosts a popular program called Assisted Migration—live in a co-op habitation in the Met Tower building.

Vlade notices that the foundation of the building is being sabotaged at approximately the same time that Mutt and Jeff disappear, abducted after Jeff sends out a batch of code revising the sixteen financial laws that govern the current system in America.

The disappearance of Mutt and Jeff brings the characters into each other’s paths. Franklin Garr, a day trader with a proprietary algorithm that measures the value of “drowned” properties, notices a glitch in the system—the result of Jeff’s code. Inspector Gen pursues their case for the New York Police Department. As the men’s disappearance affects different characters, they uncover a web of corruption: someone who wants to buy the Met Tower may well be behind the sabotage.

We later learn that Charlotte’s former husband, Larry Jackman ordered Mutt and Jeff’s kidnapping, under the guise of placing them under witness protection. Jackman puts Mutt and Jeff in a shipping container at the bottom of the river, which Vlade will later find.

A hurricane hits New York, forcing the city into a state of emergency. There are riots against the wealthiest one percent, who own housing towers that are vacant and locked. Using a plan Franklin and Charlotte devise, Amelia uses her program to call for a Householder Strike in which everyone quits paying bills, mortgages, and insurance. This eventually leads to a shift in the party composition of Congress and the nationalization of banks, which prevents future bailouts and returns some of the power back to the people.