Gary's Reviews > Aurora

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
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it was ok

Long sigh.

Let me start this review by saying that in spite of the two star rating, I believe this is an important novel that every science fiction fan needs to read. The philosophical and scientific issues that Robinson addresses in detail are central to the genre, and particularly to space-based hard SF, so much so that from here on, all such works will have to address the concerns he raises in some form or another if they want to be taken seriously. Yes, it's that essential.

For this reason, and for the fact that Robinson is generally a good storyteller, and a good chunk of this novel (particularly in the middle chapters) is riveting, page-turning stuff, does Aurora manage to scrape together two stars from me.

Because other than that, I f***king hated this book.

Robinson takes a blowtorch to the idea of interstellar travel - not just the material concerns, which take up the majority of the book, but the idea itself, the idealism that fuels it. In the final chapter he literally punches idealism in the face. The heart of my problems with novel stems not from his depiction of the potential problems with humans voyaging through space, but from this binary opposition he sets up between Marxist materialism - shown as progressive, egalitarian, practical - and Platonic idealism - reactionary, destructive, fascistic.

I'm an old school Aristotelian in most of my thinking, so criticism of Plato isn't necessarily disagreeable to me. I'm generally a fan of Marx too, in some regards at least. Robinson's criticism of the assumptions modern SF takes for granted - the false teleology of scientific progress, that anything that can be theorized will one day come to pass - is one I can appreciate.

But arguments constructed around binary oppositions tend to set parameters for debate that stack the deck onto one side of the argument, and Robinson's deck stacking is so egregious it gave me migraines from all the psychic face-palming I did while reading it. Every step of the way, the worst case scenario is presented as the only possible outcome, and this is all built on the premise that the people who devised the means of sending people out to distant star systems are so blinded by selfish idealism that they wouldn't have accounted for such problems before embarking on such an enormous undertaking. I find this really hard to swallow.

The unbearable, finger-wagging lecture that makes up the final chapter of Aurora reaches a conclusion that is hard to disagree with - that we must care for the Earth, fix the environmental problems here rather that look to the stars for our salvation. I agree with this. However, the derogatory eye-rolling he directs at the 'space cadets' (reminds me of the teachers and classmates who used to ridicule me for reading SF when I was a kid) who gaze at the stars is horribly misplaced. NASA engineers are currently leading the way in developing the kind of sustainable living technology that can achieve such a goal. Depicting the people who support their endeavors as smirking, self-absorbed villains who care nothing for the problems of the world and the people on it is plainly wrong.

So yes, I pretty much hated Aurora, and I definitely think everyone should read it.
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Reading Progress

March 6, 2015 – Shelved
March 6, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
November 1, 2015 – Started Reading
November 3, 2015 –
page 119
November 11, 2015 –
page 280
November 22, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-14 of 14 (14 new)

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carol. Examining the philosophical underpinnings was a very interesting take on it. Fascinating review.

Gary Thanks, Carol! It's certainly a book that merits serious consideration.

message 3: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Sullivan Wow. So you found a book that I will both love and hate at he same time. I'm in!

message 4: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Sullivan *the

Gary Melissa wrote: "Wow. So you found a book that I will both love and hate at he same time. I'm in!"

If you're anything like me, then yes, that's how it's going to go :-)

Justine I would say read Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky instead of this...SO much better.

message 7: by HBalikov (new)

HBalikov Nicely balanced, Gary

Gary Aristotle wrote: ""I f***king hated this book."
Say no to censorship.
I'll give it 100 pages and hope you're fuckin' wrong."

KSR is a brilliant writer. It's not hard to finish the book, even if you hate it as much as I did :-)

Gerhard So a perfect antidote to Becky Chambers?
I am currently reading Shaman by KSR, which I am really struggling with. I loved 2312, and am looking forward to Aurora.
Nihilism/pessimism seem to be de rigueur in SF at the moment: I dread reading Austral by Paul McAuley.
Good thing Chambers has a new one in the pipeline to uplift us ...

Christie Greenwood You know something else that bugged me quite a bit? The point-of-view prose. I first thought the detached and descriptive tell-don't-show of the computer's POV was kind of neat, but the human characters' POV are written in the same way. So, adding to all you said, that's something that made it difficult for me to immerse myself in the story, to feel empathy for anyone but the AI.

message 11: by Gary (new) - rated it 2 stars

Gary Christie wrote: "You know something else that bugged me quite a bit? The point-of-view prose. I first thought the detached and descriptive tell-don't-show of the computer's POV was kind of neat, but the human chara..."

It's true the AI is the best character; the humans all annoyed me. :-)

message 12: by E (new) - rated it 4 stars

E A book that I was happy to read the middle 2/3rds of twice!

message 13: by KaiN (new) - rated it 4 stars

KaiN well I don't have to write a review since you put all my thoughts already into words. I hate this book but I also think everyone should read it.,

message 14: by Damon (new) - rated it 1 star

Damon Poole I disagree that people should read it. At the end, one of the characters is made to represent any reader that believes in space travel and then literally assaulted by the main character and called a fool. So you take me on a ride that I enjoy for 98% of the book and then violate me at the end? It's an intellectual violation. Stay away.

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