1. I do think that literature has a future in our visual society. No matter how popular film, shows, animation, or games become, literature has a unique advantage in being the only medium that relies entirely upon its audience’s ability to understand its format (literally, literacy) and imagine the narrative in a personal, inimitable way. In short, visual mediums can be used to convey ideas; written narratives are the only narratives that, once created, remain ideas themselves. The value literature holds for this reason, I believe, means there will always at least be a dedicated group who will seek out written narratives over those told through visual or interactive mediums.
Not to mention, written language remains the subtlest and most easily portable medium of storytelling. One can read in numerous situations where the use of a television/monitor, tablet, or cell phone would be offensive or prohibitive by impracticality. And even though physical books are facing competition from digital distribution, I also believe that like other forms of storage, there will still always at least be a dedicated group who will seek out physical copies of narratives if for nothing but preference. After all, I do see plenty of people reading from books in slow moments, and bookstores and libraries can still be found in plenty if one is interested in picking up a few.
2. 2312 shows a future version of humanity struggling to cope with the same conflict of the freedoms of the individual and the good of the collective that we face today, but magnified by the immense advancements made in expanding travel and territory, the forestalling of mortality and the malleability of the human body and genome, and the technology powering the various societies of the Solar System. In many ways, this expansion of possibility flatly benefits the individual’s freedoms, for example by doubling or tripling the current expected human lifetime, which has rippling effects on the collective. However, one thing remains clear; without strict cooperation and accountability on the level of the individual, the collective suffers unimaginable consequences. Take Lakshmi, whose selfish desires for the future of Venus lead her and her associates to kill thousands of innocent people and cause incalculable havoc for those who survive. Take Swan, whose desire for her own free expression and impetuous nature cause constant headaches for herself and the people around her. And take those like Wahram and Inspector Genette who through careful plotting and collective capitalization on opportune moments incite dramatic change.
Kim Stanley Robinson’s view of 2312 is a strictly by-the-book science fiction. It invokes the use of many common scientific concepts from the realistic threats of the inhospitable conditions around the Solar System to the use of quantum computers, space elevators, rotating space ships simulating gravity, and biological interventions we would consider miraculous unto magical. All of this is nothing new for science fiction, particularly in recent entries which focus on hyper-realistic science already on our horizon. In that way, 2312 doesn’t exactly inspire any new views of the past, present, or future. However, what 2312 possibly predicts and expresses to the reader most comfortably is the inevitability that miraculous technological advancement won’t magically solve all of humanity’s current problems, but that through human ingenuity and sacrifice, a solution will always be available no matter what the world—or universe—may look like.
3. I think it’s hard to say why 2312 ends with a conventional marriage, but one possibility may be that it is intended to serve as a grounding finale in something contemporary readers are familiar with. After all, traditional marriage is often viewed today as the ultimate expression of success, security, and happiness in one’s path in life. In the same way, it also could be viewed as a final acceptance of some of humanity’s past even when so much of the novel is spent showing its characters combating the toxic remnants of history—a symbolic reconciling of the expression of the individual (commitment to a partner) and the collective (the ritual/ceremony used) as it pertains to the history of humanity.