This is only the second Robinson novel I’ve read, but both this and 2312 have propelled him to the forefront of my favorite authors list. Aurora is hard SF as it should be done, and as a realistic, meticulously researched book about a generational interstellar ship, it should be obligatory reading for any aspiring SF author that wants to write about big spaceships.
For after reading Aurora one has 2 options as a SF writer: truly address the problems Robinson brings up, or just make a jump to the kind of magical, in-full-control-of-all-matter kinda SF – like Banks’ Culture novels, or to a large degree even Reynolds, whose hard SF tag suddenly seems a bit less merited after reading Aurora. Hard SF is not only about the impossibility of FTL, it should be about aging ecosystems too. That, and so much more. This book deals with microbiomes as well as with macrobiomes, and can double as an highly entertaining, emotional and at times funny introduction to numerous hot topics in early 21st century science.
Both approaches have merit. Banks’ way of doing things allows for a more outrageous imaginative range, and definitely has heaps of interesting things to say about real, present day human society for sure, but Robinson may ultimately be the better one in that latter respect. Aurora again clearly proves that good SF always is good, well grounded Social Sciences Fiction as well.
As a novel itself, Aurora is crafted masterly. It’s even meta! Robinsons’ narrative choices are highly original and add another interesting layer of content to the story. As it is a layer about AI and the nature of decision making, perception and consciousness, it ultimately is about ourselves too, and Robinson again shows his powers as an all-round science writer, tackling ancient psychological-philosophical problems full on, in a manner that fully resonates with my own views on the matter: consciousness as we experience it is ultimately an illusion.
In a way this book is a depressing read on our abilities to ever escape the sun’s inevitable demise. Yet it is hopeful too, since in Aurora humans have figured out a way to survive the coming climate catastrophes. Who knows? Anyhow, I haven’t come across a better future guide than Kim Stanley Robinson.
Highly, highly recommended.
originally written on the 7th of August, 2015