Kim Stanley Robinson 2015. Aurora. London: Orbit. 466 pp.

A multi-generation, 160 year voyage to colonise a nearby star system. About 2,000 humans are aboard a ship travelling at one tenth light speed, sustained by a number of biomes which are there for food and biodiveristy and recreation. Doesn’t go well. As well as being a cracking good yarn this is also:

  • an exploration of how the personalities of the characters mature from childhood to adults;
  • about the maturation of the AI in the ship’s quantum computer (a touch of the flavour of Flowers for Algernon) under human tuition;
  • about governing and failure to govern when democracies are split and turn to civil war (watch for this when delusional Trump supporters react to impeachment);
  • about evolution and evolutionary rates, island biogeography and ecology.

Interesting choices made by Kim Stanley Robinson in this future. Interstellar travel technology has marched way ahead of AI, or of nanotechnology, to name just a few. The author also allows himself some introspective ruminations of an author who allows the ship, while writing the narrative of the journey, to philosophise that consciousness is just what a being does, ie produce a narrative/novel. Colonisation of the universe is limited because suitable systems are either lifeless (and take too long to terraform) or have life already and are dangerous. Humans still haven’t got stable self-sustaining ecosystems small enough to sustain them in any practical interstellar ship. Long before the end of the novel, it is clear that the ship is Kim Stanley Robinson’s proxy for the Earth where things are not yet going quite so wrong.

Very good.