Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I can say a lot more than wow, and I will, but wow is still coming out.
I had an oh shit moment that reduced me to tears at a certain point, and I'm not going to reveal it for anyone else, but it was powerful and it had everything to do with the fantastic character development for the narrator.
The last book of Robinson's that I read was 2312, which I still think about, but I had some issues with it, namely in the two main characters. I didn't quite care for them as much as I felt I should have. Unfortunately, that dragged down an otherwise wonderful book fantastically populated with so much thought and worldbuilding and science that I still believe it belongs in the Hugo nominations from several years back.
Aurora is better.
So much better. Even with all of the realism couched in so much science exposition that may or may not go over some people's heads, I felt buoyed up by it like the salt water of the mother ocean, cresting the wave, and riding it as if I were a newborn. Read the damn novel if you want to know what I mean.
The beginning was slightly prosaic, but I swear, don't let that turn you off. It's an important scene. Even the end nicely frames it.
As for the most important bit... The narrator... I'm just not sure how I can say how much I love the narrator without giving away a few secrets along the way, so I'm just going to forewarn you. Spoiler.
Do not read this.
I mean it.
Oh, okay, you asked for it.
This has got to be the most heartwarming and deep characterizations of a quantum computer writing a novel that I've ever read. It also happens to be the only one. And my god, it just started out being clever and you can feel its sense of tedium and frustration, then how it begins to get into the flow of wordplay, and then how it expresses love, devotion, duty, purpose, and meaning. It was amazing.
That being said, we've got a fucking wonderful winner of a hard sci-fi classic here. I'm going to nominate this one for next year's Hugo ballot. It easily surpasses any other generation-ship novel I've ever read, and I've read quite a few. I may change my mind before the actual nomination time comes, but this will currently win my vote as of right now.
Read it for the science or the thought-play. Read it for the adventure of colonizing another star and suffer the realizations of an all-too-plausible reality. Read it for the wonderful characters who have gone through a lot of of crap. Read it for the slingshot maneuvers. Hell, read it twice for the slingshot maneuvers. The book is damn worth it.
And if I must say so, I think it might be better than the Mars Trilogy. If that isn't high praise, I don't know what is.
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