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Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
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Aurora (edition 2016)

by Kim Stanley Robinson (Author)

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6894513,825 (3.83)33
Member:GVassmer
Title:Aurora
Authors:Kim Stanley Robinson (Author)
Info:Orbit (2016), Edition: 1, 528 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:SFF

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Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

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I haven't been reading much science fiction lately, so maybe I was just fertile ground. I thoroughly enjoyed this detailed and thoughtful novel about a multi-generational voyage to colonize a remote planet. Things do not go well as degeneration of people and habitat seems inevitable. The book also explores artificial intelligence as the ship becomes more self-aware and narrates part of the story. ( )
  gbelik | Aug 26, 2017 |
This is Robinson’s take on the generation starship novel, wherein he makes it clear what a risky and unlikely undertaking such an adventure would be. The ship contains a microcosm of Earth habitats spread through various biomes in an attempt to provide the future colonists with the wherewithal to survive on landfall and subsequently thrive.

We begin with the generation born just before arrival at the destination (Tau Ceti). The viewpoint is that of Freya, a seemingly cognitively impaired child (but really only mathematically) and whose deficiencies are symptomatic of the ship’s growing imbalances. Her mother Devi is the ship’s troubleshooter, interrogating and solving problems as they arise but increasingly frustrated at the finite nature of her resources.

The book has an odd structure, topped and tailed by sections focusing on Freya but with the five interior sections ranging more widely. The occasional odd word choice and sentence structure are clarified when it becomes obvious that the (five section long) middle part of the book is being narrated by the ship’s quantum computer AI. Comments such as, “How to decide how to sequence information in a narrative account? ... sentences linear, reality synchronous. Devise a prioritizing algorithm, if possible,” give some of the flavour here.

The target world, Aurora whose name is given also to the ship, orbits gas giant Planet E. The colonists begin to set about making it habitable - a very long-term project - but a setback when one is injured, her sealed suit punctured, which leads to the death of not only her but also those with whom she shared the tented living space they’d set up, means abandonment. Those who had remained on the ship are evenly split between “stayers” - willing to try another candidate moon in the system - and “backers” - those who want to return to Earth. Conflict ensues – a rather depressing authorial conclusion here; you might have thought people would avoid that in such a situation. The novel then follows the backers on their long trip home alleviated by the somewhat fortuitous (for Robinson’s purposes; deus ex machina thy name is god) development of hibernation technology on Earth (in radio contact with the colonists throughout) in the interim.

Many passages are given over to Ship pondering its liability to succumb to recursive programmes and what is known as the halting problem plus other philosophical conundrums to do with language and existence, including a discourse on metaphor and numerous references to the presence of metaphors when they occur in the narrative thereafter. All of which is interesting enough at an abstract level but is no more than filler. Yet Robinson appears more interested in this and in the nuts and bolts of interstellar travel, its inevitable flaws, its lack of controllability, than in any of the humans he is depicting.

Some have been intrigued by the proposition that the most interesting character in the book is an AI. While that is true it is only because the so-called humans are little more than ciphers. Moreover it seemed at one point that the whole thing was devised solely to allow Robinson to make a pun on the phrase “halting problem”. Ship’s late conclusion that, “Love gives meaning,” is not borne out by any of the preceding prose.

File under “worthy, but no more”. ( )
  jackdeighton | Aug 18, 2017 |
First book finished in 2017. I started this last year and went in and out of reading it over the course of a year. It is a great big book and a great big journey with a lot of considerations and ideas. I have to admit I glazed over a few of the wholly hard science paragraphs - but it was, on the whole, a great reading experience. It's not something most people I know can just pick up and go at. Probably has more of a historical retelling feel ala History Channel's Vikings except its speculative future. Makes me want to read more KSR... I have the first book of his Three Californias trilogy, so I might give that a go. Lining up "Years of Rice and Salt", "2312" and his upcoming new book on my to buy list. At this point in time I have read only two of his three series and only two of his standalone novels. Quite a way to go yet.

Recommended if you like/are interested in: speculative hard science fiction, generation ships, National Geographic, spacefaring, the idea of colonising the cosmos, enclosed biomes, serious/dry commentary.

Source: bought HC copy from the Kinokuniya Malaysia. ( )
  kephradyx | Jun 20, 2017 |
This book annoyed me. It started off with a scene that seemed odd for a story about a generation ship. Then it started to get a bit interesting for a chapter or two. Then it entered heavy handed exposition town and proceeded to go as far as listing stuff on the ship. I've got better things to do with my time than read this lazily written rubbish. ( )
  TysonAdams | Jun 20, 2017 |
When Kim Stanley Robinson write 'hard' science fiction (like the 'Mars' trilogy) I believe he can be counted amongst the greats of the genre. When he writes more 'fantasy' fiction (like 'Galileo"s Dream') I believe him to be dire. Fortunately, 'Aurora' is hard science fiction at its best. The book tells the story of an interstellar ark-style spacecraft launched from Earth on a 200-year multi-generational flight to the star Tau Ceti. In arrival, with the ship exhibiting increasing signs of failure, crew find the Tau Ceti planets less hospitable than expected. After an event that kills a significant portion of the 2,000 people crew, half of the remainder decide to stay and carry on their mission, albeit in increasingly difficult circumstances, and half decide to return to Earth in the now decrepit ship. The story follows these returnees on their journey back to Earth.

This is half a well-told human story, focused on Freya and her close friends and associates and how they handle some of their most difficult problems, and half a technical manual on interstellar flight, AI sentience, evolutionary biology relating to small populations of animals and plants and aerobraking manoeuvres in celestial mechanics.

Robinson shows us a human future filled with wonderful technical achievements (but, interestingly, little theoretical advancement over today) constrained by the fallibility of the human psyche. He asks how humans and human society can evolve to properly understand and control the technologies they develop. Humans are tool-makers and are evolutionarily disposed to develop more and more technology whether they need it or not. He considers this in the context of doing something because it is possible without taking time to consider if this is the 'right' thing to do or if there is any benefit in doing it. ( )
  pierthinker | Jun 6, 2017 |
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Freya and her father go sailing.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316098108, Hardcover)

A major new novel from one of science fiction's most powerful voices, AURORA tells the incredible story of our first voyage beyond the solar system.

Brilliantly imagined and beautifully told, it is the work of a writer at the height of his powers.

Our voyage from Earth began generations ago.

Now, we approach our destination.

A new home.

AURORA.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:33 -0400)

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