The High Sierra A Love Story by Kim Stanley Robinson is the sort of book that needs to be a physical object. The heft is important, it’s a subtext of sorts. Robinson is best known for his science fiction; in particular The Ministry for the Future. He’s an undisputed visionary, who seems to live a few years ahead of the rest of us. But the appeal of his science fiction is how grounded it feels.
In The High Sierra we learn there’s a reason for this perception. Robinson is connected deeply and passionately to the here-and-now, and his astonishing tribute to the Sierras is gorgeous, engrossing and joyful. The sentences shine and read with a sort of luxurious ease. The feel of the volume is just right, with integral illustrations that illuminate the words without overwhelming them. To be honest, that would be tough. Robinson has some choice words to sling here, and he’s having a hell of a good time doing so.
Obviously, there’s a lot to say about the Sierras, and Robinson covers this expanse well. What makes this all so enjoyable is the ease with which he can involve us in the bits of biographical narrative and turn without effort to history, science, literature the entirety of non-fiction. The writing is so good that no matter what he does, or where he goes, we’re eager to go with him. The book is put together in a manner that allows one to read it cover-to-cover, and then/or dive into the bits that might consume our interest at any given moment. In the long run, the reader is immersed in a sophisticated vision of humans and a human in a part of the Earth where nature still reigns.
As a reader, it’s really an immersion in joy, and a complicated look at human joy itself. We’ve accomplished a lot, and much of what we’ve done is worthy of joy. But in any analysis, all things, including the best, are accomplished against the backdrop of the Earth. It’s a primal truth that easy to gloss past. The High Sierra A Love Story by Kim Stanley Robinson is evidence that the more we live in the here-and-now, the more we see ourselves as a part of something much bigger, the easier it will be to find the joy of simply being human.
Kim Stanley Robinson is, as you might expect, the sort of low-key fellow who writes a masterful biography stuffed chock-a-block with science, history, and joy, then is able to step back discuss how it came to pass. Obviously, there’s some kind of magic going on, which is best heard by downloading the interview at this link, or taking your time and listening below.