Earth, Planet of Sadness
But at the same time, 2312 could be Robinson’s least utopian novel — beginning, as it does, from the rejection of the “Mars Trilogy”’s happier historical trajectory in favor of a world(s)-system in which the ongoing historical struggle between the residual (feudalism), the dominant (capitalism), and the emergent (none dare call it communism) never crests, but just goes horribly on and on and on. Indeed, there is a suggestion late in the novel as pessimistic and unhappy as any I can recall Robinson making: that perhaps some people are just bad, that (worse still) perhaps true evil will only exist after scarcity.
“Before [post-scarcity], it could always be put down to want or fear. It was possible to believe, as apparently you did, that when fear and want went away, bad deeds would too. Humanity would be revealed as some kind of bonobo, altruistic, cooperative, a lover of all. … However you explain it, people do bad things. Believe me.”
A suggestion that the last thousand years of human history could be best described as “the late feudal period” is immediately countered by an even worse possibility: “What makes you think it’s late?” Another of Robinson’s interstitial chapters is simply a list of all the reasons that utopia can’t happen, from original sin to greed to “because it probably wouldn’t work” to “because we can get away with it.” Maybe things are bad, and people are bad, and maybe both will always stay that way…