Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Kim Stanley Robinson

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Aurora

Title: Aurora
Author: Kim Stanley Robinson
Genre: Novel
Written: 2015
Length: 501 pages
Availability: Aurora - US
Aurora - UK
Aurora - Canada
Aurora - France
Aurora - Deutschland
Aurora - España
from: Bookshop.org (US)

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

A- : a very good novel, and thoughtful science fiction

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian A+ 8/7/2015 Adam Roberts
Sydney Morning Herald . 5/9/2015 Rjurik Davidson

  From the Reviews:
  • "Aurora is, simply, the best generation starship novel I have ever read. (...) Robinson has written an enormously complex, stimulating novel that gracefully finesses its intellectual depth. It is, for one thing, superbly insightful on the way entropy actually works in complex systems; how things break down or degrade, the stubbornness of the cosmos, the sod’s-lawishness of machines. (...) The writing is plain and to the point, except for a few set pieces (...) when Robinson expertly ramps up the style. Where the novel really scores, though, is in the depth and truth of his human beings, both as individual characters and as communities. (...) Aurora is a magnificent piece of writing, certainly Robinson’s best novel since his mighty Mars trilogy, perhaps his best ever." - Adam Roberts, The Guardian

  • "Aurora treads a line that manages to be both visionary and mundane. When he is interested in his character's inner lives, he provides some of the most lyrical imagery. Yet to truly appreciate Aurora, the reader must be interested in both science and also engineering -- this is a triumph of hard science fiction. Though it's impossible not to have immense respect for Robinson, he can be hard to warm to." - Rjurik Davidson, Sydney Morning Herald

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       Aurora follows the travelers who voyage on a starship, headed, when the novel starts, to Tau Ceti, 11.9 light years from earth. They travel fast -- reaching a tenth of the speed of light for most of their journey -- but that's still a hell of a long trip, and they've been travelling for 159 years already when the novel begins, though the ship has already begun its years-long deäcceleration (which of course has to be taken slowly) as it approaches its destination. The present-day travelers, two-thousand-odd of them, are already several generations removed from those who originally set out on the trip in 2545 CE.
       The central character is Freya, still a child at the beginning of the story. She is the daughter of Badim and Devi -- with Devi the trusted engineer who watches over much of the engineering wonder that is the spaceship, with some one hundred square kilometers of interior surface area, and twenty-four semi-autonomous biomes. They raise animals and crops in a variety of environments; there are even lakes, with fish.
       Freya stands out because of her height -- at two meters and two centimeters she is eventually the tallest on the ship -- but Devi is also concerned because she was somewhat slow developmentally, worried when Freya was fourteen that: "She's behind and she may never catch up". She certainly never becomes as scientifically capable as her mother, but does show common sense and other abilities that make her a person people gravitate to and listen to.
       At the point where the story begins, closing in on the destination but still with several years to go, Devi is kept very busy with issues on the ship. While it's a remarkable construction and arrangement, small, unexpected problems are cropping up more frequently. The life-forms on board, from smallest bacteria to the humans, continue to evolve, but at different rates, and unforeseen issues arise and pose constant challenges. Significant changes occur -- but the ship does reach its destination.
       The mission is to establish a human outpost on a far-flung planet or moon. Several ships were sent out, and this one's destination, Tau Ceti, offers several promising candidates for colonization, with the choice of which one to try out left until they were much closer. Among the options is Aurora, a moon orbiting around Planet E.
       The travelers have to rely mostly on themselves and what they have available. Communication with earth continues, but the enormous distance means there is a time lag of some twelve years between when a message is sent and when it is received. They still receive useful information from Earth (though surprisingly little about what is actually going on there), but of course any answer to any question they have would only reach them nearly a quarter of a century after they sent their query.
       Aurora is chosen as the best candidate for human habitation, and about one third of the way into the novel they begin to try to build a settlement there. But, while there is a fair amount about establishing a human base in such an environment, Aurora does not turn entirely into a novel about the colonization of deep space. An unexpected twist leads the novel in a different direction .....
       Throughout, however, Robinson's concern is with environments -- social as well as physical --, and how they evolve. Small fixes come with unintended consequences and often lead to bigger problems, as any intervention to a system will have unforeseen effects. It is also only late on that the present-day travelers learn about events that happened in the 68th year of the spaceship's voyage, a significant turn of events which offers some lessons for those in the present.
       Much of the novel is narrated by the ship's computer, an advanced intelligence that is capable of also asking fundamental questions such as: "Can a narrative account ever be adequate ? Can even humans do it ?" In the course of the journey, the computer also takes a variety of matters into its own hands, so to speak, beside the general oversight of the ship's technical side, and it is very much a character in its own right -- not least as conversation partner of Devi and Freya.
       The story is an impressive one, of interstellar travel and adaptation to changing conditions -- the latter, Robinson argues, more complex than is generally acknowledged. He makes an argument here against the attempt to colonize distant reaches of the universe, and for staying close to home -- to the earth, and the symbiotic relationship with it that humans have developed over the course of history.
       It's hard to say much about Aurora without giving away too much of the very good story-line, but this is a very good novel, both as work of speculative science fiction as well as simply as a work of fiction.

- M.A.Orthofer, 29 January 2024

- Return to top of the page -


Aurora: Reviews: Kim Stanley Robinson: Other books by Kim Stanley Robinson under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       American author Kim Stanley Robinson has written several highly acclaimed works of science fiction.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2024 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links