>> Thursday, August 18, 2016
Our voyage from Earth began generations ago.I really didn't know what to expect when I started this book. You might have noticed that the blurb is pretty cryptic, and the person who recommended it flatly refused to tell me much more than the basic premise. I will now do the same, because I really do think that's the best way to read this. So all I'll say is that the story starts as, after over 150 years of space travel, a generation ship approaches the planetary system where its inhabitants plan to settle.
Now, we approach our destination.
A new home.
Brilliantly imagined and beautifully told, Aurora is the work of a writer at the height of his powers.
Although we do focus on particular characters, the scope of the book is not narrow, but wide. The story that is being told is that of the mission to establish a colony in a new planetary system, not the story of particular persons. That's very much a stated premise: with some minor exceptions, what we're getting is the product of the ship's Artificial Intelligence being asked to produce a story of the mission. This works wonderfully, as this AI has slowly been becoming self-aware, and you see that increasing "humanity" as its narration develop. It's a nice, organic development of the concept of storytelling making us human.
Also, I listened to this on audio, and the narrator does an excellent job of the narration. The voice sounds quite machine-like, with slightly odd pauses and a somewhat monotone tone. This description of it sounds like it could be unbearable, but the narrator somehow manages to keep it really "listenable".
Is it hard science fiction? There is a hell of a lot of hard scientific detail... a bit too much, to be honest (although the balance gets better as Ship gets more self-aware), but I thought Robinson was just as interested in the social science. The hard science is important, but mainly for the impact it has on the ship's society and how they react when things happen. That's where the drama truly comes from, and I was gripped.
It works because Robinson gets the characterisation right. The people whose story he's telling are all human. Some are arseholes, but there are no cartoonishly evil characters running around purely for the sake of creating conflict. The conflict feels real and understandable and like something that would actually happen, given human nature.
I'd recommend this.
MY GRADE: A B+.