Aurora is something of a strange book. The core of the story follows a generation ship heading out to Tau Ceti at 1/10th the speed of light. The story starts after six generations and more than a hundred years have already passed, just before they arrive. Things are already going wrong and never really get better.
One thing that I really didn’t expect was how quickly the story goes. Perhaps influenced by Coyote novels by Allen Steele . This time around though, maybe 10% of the way through and we’re already at Tau Ceti. Halfway through and things have already gone terribly. Another quarter and we’ve got half the ship heading back and half staying on another world, never to be heard from again . The last section deals with returning to Earth and is honestly pretty skippable in my opinion. Any one of these could have been a decent chunk of a story all by itself, but all together and there’s a constant feeling of flux from story to story.
The characters are an odd mix. The story mostly follows Freya, who starts the story a teenager and ends it an old woman. In the beginning, there’s a lot of the focus on Freya’s mother Devi, who more or less kept the ship running the last several decades of its journey approaching Tau Ceti. After that, much of the focus is actually on the ship itself, which appears to be actually writing the story, instructed to do so by Devi.
This actually leads to the interesting observation others have made: the ship is honestly the most interesting character in the story. It’s kind of cool at times, getting a viewpoint that actually feels non human and watching the ship grow over time. On the other hand, there are interludes scattered throughout the book–the ship contemplating all sorts of things. Linguistics and metaphors. Biology. Orbital mechanics. Said interludes are interesting, but they often feel like someone had learned something cool and wanted to share it. The author? The ship? Does it matter?
At first, I’ll admit, I really didn’t like the story, but it really kept getting better. It feels like sci fi of the traditional form: taking an idea and exploring it. The characters aren’t the strongest you’ll ever see, but they’re interesting enough.
It’s a really depressing take on the future of space exploration (see above about things starting bad and getting worse). Personally, I want to believe it’s overly pessimistic. I want to see the stars. Even then though it acts as a warning…