Swan is portrayed as an energetic—and impulsive—character throughout the entirety of the book. She regularly and freely uses crass and insensitive language when regarding others (“’You again,’ she said. “What the fuck.’”) and is fiercely defensive of her choices (see almost the entirety of Swan and Mqaret). At the same time, it seems those choices have often been made quickly and without thought; some of her modifications, including her birdsong capabilities, purring vocal cords, and even Pauline, stemmed from her youth, when such things were apparently momentarily popular or trendy. Finally, as Wahram even considers, Swan is prone to negativity and (perhaps on account of some of her reckless modifications) struggles to cope with the powerful emotions she seeks, as well as those forced upon her such as grief and stress.
Wahram, on the other hand, seems to believe himself most productive when he can constrain himself within routine. He has a borderline obsession with the classical arts and literature (evidenced by his constant reference, and desire to seek out activities like the recital which almost killed he and Swan on their return to Terminator) and actively seeks out ways in which he might apply himself into new regular tasks (see his immediate volunteering for kitchen duty when first arriving to a meteor biome). At the same time, despite most others in the book regularly finding conflict with and chastising Swan, he merely challenges some of what he finds to be her more questionable thoughts and behaviors as they appear, and finds himself able to overlook when he can’t make progress. During their walk beneath the surface of Mercury, he even finds comfort in the routine and patiently assists Swan as needed.
2. Kim Stanley Robinson, speaking as himself perhaps only through the narrator, rarely uses language describing the actions of any one character in a positive or negative way, except for when echoing the thoughts or words of one of the narrative’s characters. From our most recent reading, an example appears in 175 and 176; “’Of course,’ she said. ‘It would be nice if something good came of my stupid foolishness.” Shortly after on the next page, the narrator describes her next actions; “After Mqaret was gone, Swan was left to think about her stupid foolishness.”
To this point, it seems that any critique of each character’s traits and emotional systems comes almost exclusively from other characters themselves, and the narrator is merely a blank voice amidst static snow that begins to sound like each character as the situation demands. The most striking example of all may come from Swan and Wahram themselves, when they’re forced together for weeks beneath the surface of Mercury. Swan and Wahram are shown to have disagreement before, but when left alone and forced to cooperate for what seems will be a minimum of a month and a half, Swan almost antagonizes Wahram at first, then begins actual debate over their conflicting personalities. All kinds of colorful dialogue comes out, and the highlights and pitfalls of their philosophies are put on full display.