“Aurora” by Kim Stanley Robinson is the kind of book that justifies the existence of science fiction.

Dealing with the journey to Tau Ceti by a colony spacecraft with 2000 inhabitants, as well as its arrival and the aftermath, it manages to be a novel crammed with thoroughly worked-out and often surprising ideas.

At the same time, it also manages to be a novel of significant literary achievement.

The book is definitely on the “harder” side of science fiction, engaging with actual science, and holding itself almost entirely to known fact about the universe.

It gives a new and very striking perspective on the notion of the “generation ship”, a spacecraft that must be inhabited for decades or centuries before it reaches its destination star.

He really makes you feel how imposing such a situation on one’s descendants would be a sickening crime, no matter what the outcome of the venture.

While there are parts of the story where a little added characterisation might have helped, the main characters are drawn with sensitivity. The book has got some predictable criticism for using extended info-dumps, but that is misguided criticism in my view. These passages are fully justified by the logic of the narrative. This is a novel of ideas, but there’s nothing clumsy or unnecessary about the way they are incorporated into the story.

To describe the various tours de force that make this book exceptional would be to spoil it. It probably suffices to say that the narrative perspective switches several times, and this gives rise to sequences that are absolutely remarkable. They combine to make the extended coda of the story fully earned, very moving and absolutely engrossing.

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