Human beings live in ideas. That they were condemning their descendants to death and extinction did not occur to them, or if it did they repressed the thought, ignored it, and forged on anyway. They did not care as much about their descendants as they did about their ideas, their enthusiasms.

In the year 2545, a generation spaceship leaves Earth for a 170 years interstellar trip to set up a new colony in a distant exomoon at the Tau Ceti system, 12 light-years away from Earth. It is now 160 years into the trip and the spaceship is near its destination. It is at that point that “Aurora”, Kim Stanley Robinson’s new novel, begins its narrative.

aurora1Aurora is a captivating ‘hard’ science story, characterised by an emphasis on scientific accuracy and meticulous research. The mechanics, the design and the ecology of the ship are explained in great detail. The ship has the ability to accommodate multiple lifeforms, including 2,000 people in 24 different biomes (miniecosystems) from tundra to tropical, inside two massive wheels, the A ring and the B ring. Each biome has its own human population, 2,000 people in total.

The ship’s artificial intelligence, called mischievously, “The Ship”, acts as the primary narrator of the story. It is fun and fascinating to follow its effort to learn how to write a narrative of the history of the people in the spaceship under the instructions of the ship’s “chief engineer”. Looks like a simple story but this is deceptive; it is rather, a complex, fascinating and stimulating novel.

Once again Robinson stresses the importance of people living in ecological balance with nature, but rather than suggesting shaping an alien landscape until it resembles Earth, he explores the possibility of working on our own environment to redress the damage we’ve done to it. Aurora is also a story about love, persistence, human ingenuity, hope and ideas.

Human beings live in ideas. That they were condemning their descendants to death and extinction did not occur to them, or if it did they repressed the thought, ignored it, and forged on anyway. They did not care as much about their descendants as they did about their ideas, their enthusiasms.

Is this narcissism? Solipsism? Idiocy? Would Turing acknowledge it as a proof of human behaviour?

Well, perhaps. They drove Turing to suicide too.

Aurora is a brilliant book, perhaps Robinson’s best after the Mars trilogy.