Notes Reading Notes

Aurora

By Kim Stanley Robinson, 2015

A culturally aware take on the old ‘generation starship’ trope. Unlike the mind-blowing sublime awe that some of the best starship fiction can generate, Aurora throws everything back inward. Humans are cocooned in a closed ecosystem like an exoskeleton. Our bodies are biomes. Decay rules. Thermodynamics is the primary law, rather than interdimensional physics. They get to the prime objective planet and find that they can’t survive there due to the subtle intricacies of microbial lifeforms.

This turns out to be a very smart solution to the Fermi paradox—ecstatically summarised in a brilliant monologue by one of the main characters once he realises the harsh truth about the situation.

I really appreciate reading a novel which reflects so acutely my own worldview and beliefs about entropy and the place of humans in the environment.

The core argument is that humans are not separate. We cannot survive outside our ancestral environment. We only have one world that we belong to. One planet. We should seriously fucking respect that reality and stop handwaving away ecological destruction with anthropocentric bullshit like economic ‘externalities’.

Strange pacing, which is perhaps an inevitable artifact of a story with such broad, sweep through space and time. The sense of time passing is acute at some points of the plot but brushed aside at others.

The weird hippie/surfer denouement back on earth quite possibly detracts from the overall effect. Really wonder what the book would have felt like if it had ended more abruptly and succinctly, both in terms of pacing and in terms of reinforcing the core argument. Though it’s hard to be fully cynical about the ultimate motif of ending with the main character lying in the wet sand on a beach where the tide is going out. It seems earnest and oddly appropriate.