The one “soft” SF writer beloved by all is Ursula Le Guin, one of the best living writers, period, the end. What’s far more notable about her is that, although you would not notice it, often next to nothing occurs in her books and stories. It’s a terrific trip if you look through them with that in mind. If you return to The Left Hand of Darkness, two people go on a journey through a cold land; in The Dispossessed, a physicist leaves his stifling post-utopian planet for its neighbor. (This is an exceptional time for rereading that book, in the wake of the tale of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng.) And still those books carry more impact than the most lurid gravity-slingshotting shoot-‘em-up.
Ok, this was my favorite part of this review (which has convinced me to buy 2312) because yeah, Ursula Le Guin is a total boss, and The Dispossessed is one of my favorite books.
Robinson’s best-known work is the Mars trilogy, published in the ‘90s, which is great and sweeping and only rarely irksome, and made him much-loved. (They even took one of the books to Mars, on the Phoenix, on a glass disc that it seems unlikely anyone will ever have the technology to read in the future, so meanwhile the novel is currently sitting there, bored to death, forever watching this.)