- Publisher: Orbit (April 7, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0356500489
- ISBN-13: 978-0356500485
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.3 x 7.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 672 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #946,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Aurora Paperback – April 7, 2016
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"A rousing tribute to the human spirit."―San Francisco Chronicle on Aurora
"The thrilling creation of plausible future technology and the grandness of imagination...magnificent."―Sunday Times on Aurora
"[Robinson is] a rare contemporary writer to earn a reputation on par with earlier masters such as Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke."―Chicago Tribune on Aurora
"If Interstellar left you wanting more, then this novel might just fill that longing."―io9 on Aurora
"Aurora may well be Robinson's best novel...breaks us out of our well-ingrained, supremely well-rehearsed habits of apocalypse - and lets us see the option of a different future than permanent, hopeless standoff." ―Los Angeles Review of Books on Aurora
"Humanity's first trip to another star is incredibly ambitious, impeccably planned and executed on a grand scale in Aurora."―SPACE.com on Aurora
"The Apollo 13 of interstellar travel."―SciFi
"[A] near-perfect marriage of the technical and the psychological."―NPR Books on Aurora
"[A] heart-warming, provocative tale."―Scientific American on Aurora
"This ambitious hard SF epic shows Robinson at the top of his game... [A] poignant story, which admirably stretches the limits of human imagination."―Publishers Weekly on Aurora
"This is hard SF the way it's mean to be written: technical, scientific, with big ideas and a fully realized society. Robinson is an acknowledged sf master-his Mars trilogy and his stand-alone novel 2312 (2012) were multiple award winners and nominees-and this latest novel is sure to be a big hit with devoted fans of old-school science fiction."―Booklist on Aurora
"Intellectually engaged and intensely humane in a way SF rarely is, exuberantly speculative in a way only the best SF can be, this is the work of a writer at or approaching the top of his game."―Iain M. Banks on 2312 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Kim Stanley Robinson is a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. He is the author of more than twenty books, including the bestselling Mars trilogy and the critically acclaimed Forty Signs of Rain, The Years of Rice and Salt and 2312. In 2008, he was named a "Hero of the Environment" by Time magazine, and he works with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute. He lives in Davis, California. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I enjoyed “Aurora” more than any other book Robinson has written since the Mars series. The style and pacing has been criticized by some, but I found the framing (the story is narrated by the starship’s computer) valid and certainly much more readable than a lot of recent experimental styles.
In truth, I enjoyed the first half, maybe two-thirds, of “Aurora”, but the last third was so depressing that I believe it actually made me feel moody throughout the days I finished the book. I don’t usually like to spoil in a review, but this book takes such a turn that I feel disclosure of its nature is necessary. First, the book is mistitled, as “Aurora” is the name of the planetary body the colonists attempt to settle. That implies the story focuses on that place, but in fact, less than 10% of the book involves it. A more apt title for this book would be, “The Failed Mission to, and Attempted Return from, Aurora”. An even better title might be, “Two Thousand People Leave Earth and Die”. Here’s a summary:
1. 2,000 people in a generational starship reach a planet they name Aurora.
2. 200 of those people go to the planet’s surface, which seems highly promising for colonization.
3. An unidentified infectious agent on that planet makes them sick, and about 100 of them die on the planet.
4. Another 100 try to return to the starship, and the people aboard kill them.
5. The people still on the starship fight each other about what to do, and some kill each other.
6. About half the remaining people stay in the new system to try to establish a colony anyway. The book never relates any more information about them except to say that they failed and died.
7. The other half decide that space colonization is a terrible idea and try to return to Earth.
8. Their starship starts failing on the voyage, a famine strikes, some people starve and some commit suicide.
I actually think that in KSR’s first draft of “Aurora”, at this point the famine and system breakdown progressed and killed the remaining voyagers and his book / humility lesson ended here. If so, his editor made him add a *slightly* less depressing ending. He inserts an uncharacteristic “technological savior” in the form of human hibernation, and from this point ignores the points he had made about hyper-evolved bacteria damaging the ship’s mechanisms, so I truly wonder at this turn. So:
9. The starship’s AI puts the remaining survivors into hibernation and flies them back to Earth.
10. Some people die during hibernation, some die upon awakening.
11. About 600 people land on Earth, though some – you guessed it! – die during reentry.
12. The survivors keep dying after landing on Earth. The rest feel their lives are pointless. Oh, and the starship’s AI itself tries to reach a stable orbit but fails and crashes into the sun.
Now, I don’t need all stories to be unrelenting optimism and tales of the inevitable, easy, human conquest of the galaxy. The trials and challenges, especially when supported by serious scientific analysis and speculation (which KSR does superbly), make a story stronger. I’m certainly not unhappy that I read “Aurora”, and I recommend it – to people who know its dark perspective and want to consider it. Just understand that this book is essentially “Anti-Science Fiction”, as Robinson seems to be on a mission to debunk all the Heinleinian / Asimovian tales of space colonization. This is really apparent when, near the end, he adds – almost spitefully - that not only did the colony attempt that remained in the Aurora system fail, but that Earth had sent out many other starships attempting to colonize other star systems, and they ALL failed, too!
The book ends with an odd-feeling section on Earth in which Robinson expounds on humanity’s abuse of the homeworld’s environment, and even says that the belief in space colonization contributed to people taking Earth for granted. It seems as if one of the most respected science fiction writers of his time is disavowing the genre, even pointing a finger at hopeful speculation as harmful.
The first 1/2-2/3 of the novel hangs together well, but somewhere in that span it started to feel like I was reading a novelette about an artificial intelligence (AI) becoming self aware that had been shuffled into a novel about colonization. Considered separately, the colonization story arc and the AI arc are good. I appreciated the philosophical considerations of what it means to 'be' in relation to AI, and the colonization arc reminds me of the greek tragedies, with their antiheroes and oh-so-heavy doses of hubris.
But woven together, well,....it did not work for me. On reflection, I suppose that the growing self-awareness of both Freya and the AI is a shared theme, but the seemingly different writing styles served to distract rather than draw me in.
Along the way we get a unique answer to Fermi's Paradox, and although KSR paints a pretty bleak picture of Mankind's interstellar future, I can't argue with the logic.
The last half star would have come had the last 30 pages lived up to the rest of the novel. It is a beautifully-written denoument, but also a bit of a fizzle.
All in all, though, this is a great book and we'll worth your time.
My major complaints dealt with plotlines that were just abandoned. <spoiler alert from here on out>
1 -What happened to the Iris colony? So much of the book was about establishing a viable deep space colony. About 1000 people settled on Iris. And are never heard from again. Late in the book, we get a sentence that there hasn't been contact from Iris in 20 years. But that still leaves 100+ years with contact. That's multiple generations of settlers. How were they doing? Thriving? Slowly starving? Did they solve the problem with Aurora? Inquiring minds wanted to know.
2 - What happened to Ship? Yes, it was suddenly destroyed. But was that the end? It was noted that Ship's memory was downloaded, but because of quantum computing that didn't necessarily mean Ship's "consciousness". Did anyone think to check? Maybe Freya could have checked how much of Ship was saved. And did anyone want to investigate AI on Earth? If 1 random spaceship could develop sentience, then shouldn't it be happening a lot? Inquiring minds wanted to know that also.