Robinson employs a limited omniscient third person narrator. Thanks for stopping by and have a nice day.
Just kidding. You know we have a bit more to say on this topic.
Okay, so the book is written in the third person. That is, the narrator is on the outside looking in, telling us what the characters are doing and thinking. For example:
Michel Duval dreamed of home. He was swimming in the surf off the point at Villefranche-sur-Mer, the warm August water lifting him up and down. (4.2.1)
If this were a first-person https://www.shmoop.com/literature-glossary/first-person-narration.html narrator, then Michel would be telling us this information himself. He's not, so it's third person all the way. The limited omniscient bit simply means that Robinson's narrator can't enter the heads of any character it wants to—whoever's at the helm is limited to a select few brains. Believe or not, the narration style is generally that simple to figure out.
Here's where things get a little interesting, though. See, Robinson's narrator hops into a different character's brain in every part of the novel. This narrator doesn't just leap around between a few minds, but instead hangs out with:
- Frank (Part 1)
- Maya (Part 2)
- Nadia (Part 3)
- Michel (Part 4)
- John (Part 5)
- Frank (Part 6)
- Nadia (Part7)
- Ann (Part 8)
And then, of course, there are those introductory sections (the ones written in italics). Arkady and Peter's points of view https://www.shmoop.com/literature-glossary/point-of-view.html each govern the narration in two of these sections (7.1 and 8.1 respectfully). Also some of these sections—such as 1.1 and 3.1—don't seem to be from the point of view from any in-story character.
So with a narrator who goes so many places, why do we still consider it limited? Because in each section, the bulk of the narrative is limited to just the focal character, and it never jumps into another person's perspective while in a certain section. And so we say limited omniscient third-person narrator.
But if you want to say omniscient third-person narrator, well… you could probably make that argument, too.