Aurora - Kim Stanley Robinson

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

I haven't read anything by Kim Stanley Robinson since 2003 or so, back when I read (and loved!) his Mars trilogy. So I was really excited and hopeful when it came to this one, and... unfortunately, it didn't work for me. At all.

Excellent concepts, ideas and research. The generation ship. All the details its engineers didn't foresee, and how the descendants of the original crew had to contend with those shortcomings. Genetic degeneration in spite of their efforts. Arriving to the "Promised Land", only to find a paradise so hostile it basically kills all its denizens save for one. The choices the survivors had to make, the conflicts they bred. The conundrum—stay and potentially die, go back and potentially die just as well. The underlying despair. And, last but not least, Ship, the quantum computer turned AI, who for several chapters narrated this story as best as "she" could.

But. There are also quite a few buts in here.

I couldn't find the excitement and—dare I say—magic that suffused the Mars trilogy. Not only due to the lengthy prose, which could easily have been shortened in place: also for the sheer lack of characters to get interested in. I couldn't help but feel remote from their trials, perhaps because the narrative was rather detached from them: not an omniscient narrator, yet not "in their minds" either, so in the end, I felt unsatisfied on both accounts. The closest to caring I care was in the beginning, with Freya and Euan and what Aurora brought them; that quickly ended, though.

Moreover, the narrative was often bogged down by lengthy musings and descriptions that didn't add much, and whose very length weakened the power they may have had otherwise. The discovery of Aurora by the first people to set foot on it; the AI caring for her passengers; the ship struggling to remain a home; the travellers trying to keep going an ecosystem that had never be meant to last for that long; then another discovery, the poetry of endless blue skies instead of the domes of biomes inside the ship... All of this could have been more impressive with some editing in places.

The explanations behind the expedition left me cold as well. With the risk of being cliché, the story would easily lead anyone to think that the shop left because of troubles on Earth, because it was one of the last hopes, because humanity needed to get out of here fast (especially when combined with Devi's lamenting how badly the original engineers had cobbled all this up together). And I guess this would've been an interesting story to tell. Instead, what was left on Earth was... flat, also cliché, and not so interesting. Basically, "let's do that because we can".

Conclusion: a disappointing read, that I basically finished because I wanted to review it more than out of real interest for it.