Monday, March 7, 2016

Aurora Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Kim Stanley Robinson
Publisher: Orbit
Genre: Hard Science Fiction
Series: Standalone
Pages: 480

Oh Earth Why Did We Leave Thee?

Aurora, alongside Neal Stephenson's Seveneves, are 2015 science fiction's two most hyped stories about humans leaving Earth.  While Stephenson's cast of characters hope to return one day to the planet, Kim Stanley Robinson's cast of characters are trying to be the first group of humans to colonize a planet outside of Earth's solar system. 

In the year 2545 a generation ship launches from Saturn. Six generations later the descendants of those on board that generation ship are approaching their new home, the moon Aurora, which lies within the Tau Ceti system. Devi, the ship's chief engineer, and unofficial leader of the couple of thousand inhabitants, believes that Aurora may not be able to sustain human life and she also begins to note the slow wear and tear that has begun to affect their ship. She instructs their ship to begin a narrative of their journey beginning with their launch.

While Devi scrambles to fix the ship, her carefree daughter Freya begins her journey into adulthood. By tradition, she begins her wanderjahr, a year long journey traveling around the ship and visiting the different biomes. As wanderjahr stretches into many years she becomes acquainted with all of the different peoples until she's called back home to her ailing mother.

I don't think it's too hard to imagine where Robinson's Aurora is going plotwise. At least in the beginning. I didn't expect I'd be where I was at the end though, so their is definitely an element of unpredictability here. Freya and Devi have a strained relationship as Devi's strictness and Freya's carefree spirit put them constantly at odds with one another. As Freya grows up her understanding of her mother begins to shape her identity and the decisions she makes. It's one of many touching moments. Ship (as in the generation ship) is a character, which also serves as a narrator. After being programmed by Devi to chronicle the, it adds a great non-human character that manages to critique everything there is about being human.

Emotionally their is a lot going on in this story, but the most overpowering emotion I felt was an appreciation for life on Earth. This planet and everything on it is truly a miracle, and the feelings associated with that idea slowly permeate through the story. Growing and growing until this emotion begins to take over everything. On the downside Aurora  really struggles with its dialogue, which can come across as to robotic (I'm speaking about the human characters here). Outside of Freya, Ship, and Devi the rest of the characters are one dimensional and don't add too much to the story.

If you've read Seveneves and found the focus on science and machinery to be too cumbersome and detrimental to the plot, then Aurora comes highly recommended as it still retains a lot of the elements of hard science fiction without info dumping the "hard" parts of hard science fiction on you.

Score: 8.6

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