Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson is the first novel I’ve read by this author. I read one of his short stories in an all-sci-fi issue of Wired magazine and loved it, plus I’d heard all the (positive) commotion about his novel New York 2140. So I was excited to dive in. I recently graduated college and immediately after (well honestly about a week before, I was really excited) went to the bookstore and bought a stack of science fiction to read. This is the first time in a very long time that I’m actually able to read books *I* want to read. Anyway, Robinson was at the top of my list of new authors I want to check out, and I decided to start with Aurora. I was not disappointed.
Aurora is about a group of people on a spaceship about to arrive at their new home, a planet called Aurora in the Tau Ceti system. The voyage was begun many generations ago by people who eventually died of old age without seeing the end of their adventure. It’s a bittersweet start, in part because I couldn’t help but mourn the lives of the people who were in the middle generation. They didn’t get the excitement of starting out, and they didn’t get the excitement of getting there.
Robinson has put a lot of thought into the science of his work, and it seems that while he is perfectly capable of letting his imagination run wild with possibility, he is also able to rein in that imagination with a cold hard look at the science of the thing. It’s very practical science fiction, focused on the human condition and its role in the universe we’ve created for ourselves. The drama and conflict here does not involve epic space battles or Alien-level monsters. The battles are of our own making, the monsters sometimes in the mirror.
And that is what I think makes Aurora such a chilling read: it is so plausible because it’s rooted in a deep understanding of humanity. Robinson looks at who we are and where we seem to be going, and crafts his space opera around those two quantities. Then he backs it up with science.
This book did a great job of making me see our planet in new and interesting ways, and ask important questions of myself, especially in the use of a poem at the end which I won’t relay. I don’t want to give anything away. But that’s exactly the kind of science fiction I love best. It’s moving, it has a feeing of being bigger than all of us, and it makes me reflect on big questions. Those are the kinds of stories that have shaped me since I first started reading science fiction, and what I strive for in my own writing.
So, if you’re looking for a big action adventure, this is probably not your book. But if you like well-thought-out science, deep character development, and big questions, Aurora is a winner.