Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Vertigo

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Aurora is the story of the final arrival of a multigenerational starship to found a colony on a new world. But the colonisation process may be more of a problem than the epic journey to get there has already proven to be.

Robinson’s physical science in this book is excellent but his social science somewhat less so. None of the physical science, except possibly the sheer scale of it, is really beyond the capabilities of the science and technology of today. Everything about the technology, both its strengths and its fallibilities is completely believable. However, the behaviour of many of the players both individually and, possibly more so, as larger groups felt less plausible; I was left desperately unconvinced that individuals and societies would really behave as Robinson has written them. But then again as a species we seem to keep proving ourselves incapable of predicting our own future actions so maybe I’m completely wrong there.

Nonetheless, most of the story is well written and intelligently explores the physical as well as social problems involved in the course of a long multigenerational voyage. Most of the writing is engaging and keeps the reader turning the pages. But I keep saying ‘most.’ There is one aspect of the book that I found frankly boring and painful. During the voyage the ship’s controlling AI has slowly become sentient and self-aware, which is fine and makes for an interesting additional character, one that actually provides a very large part of the narration, on the instructions of the unofficial chief engineer, specifically to encourage that development. What I didn’t find quite as fine were the enormous passages of navel gazing by the AI, speculating on the nature of self, humanity, language and consciousness. Pages and pages of internal monologue, almost never dialogue to at least give a different perspective or debate the issues. Just endless internal philosophising that was really no more than a series of massive info-dumps. Eventually I just skipped over these passages that if all gathered together might easily have made up a fifth of the book. If these had been mostly cut or at least curtailed the book would, in my opinion, have been vastly better for it.

There was also one massive plot hole for me. The acceleration of the starship from the solar system is achieved using massive lasers directed at the ship from Saturn to provide the thrust. The deceleration is achieved by carrying sufficient reaction mass with them on the voyage. All of which is fine, scientifically. However, when they decide to return a great fuss is made over the fact that they must use reaction mass collected in the new star system to accelerate back towards the solar system and rely upon Terran society, now a century or so on, to turn on or rebuild the lasers to provide their deceleration. A vital plot point but, given the uncertainty of whether they would in fact do so, I can’t understand why they wouldn’t have constructed their own lasers in the new star system to provide acceleration as before and carry the reaction mass for decelerating into the solar system. With their robotic automated mining and factories, it shouldn’t have been a big problem.

Without the monologues Aurora is a solid four stars but with them just three. For me there was too much indulgent philosophising hiding an excellent story.



3/5 stars
 

Rodders

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This sounds pretty interesting and i haven't read any KSR since Blue Mars.
 

Vertigo

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It is a very interesting and very well put together piece of hard SF but there is a significant amount of self indulgent philosophising which I lost patience with and I do find Robinson is poor at creating believable character motivations and decisions. I seem to recall this stopped me from continuing with his Mars series after the first book. I just didn't find his social set up and behaviour realistic. Similar problem with this one but not quite so bad. Either that or I've become more tolerant and I rather think the opposite is more true.
 

Rodders

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It's the generation ship aspect that i'm drawn to as you don't read too many new stories like this anymore.

I have a few books on my TBR pile to read first, but i'll pick this up if i see it.
 

Vertigo

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It's the generation ship aspect that i'm drawn to as you don't read too many new stories like this anymore.

I have a few books on my TBR pile to read first, but i'll pick this up if i see it.
I think his generation ship stuff in this book is possibly some of the best I've read, with extremely realistic examinations of problems like Island Syndrome and overlooking the need for additional stocks of chemicals like Phosphorus and Bromine which tend to get locked away uselessly by reacting with other materials making it extremely difficult to recycle. That was almost certainly the best part of the story for me.
 

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