I just finished Aurora, the latest novel from Kim Stanley Robinson. Kim Stanley Robinson is a writer of hard science fiction who brings logical, methodical extrapolation to any topic he ponders. He is, despite all of that, a fairly poetic fellow who often detours from physics to philosophy and the human condition. But still, hard science.
Aurora is a very interesting but ultimately somewhat unsatisfying novel. As the book progresses it becomes apparent that the hero of the story, the true protagonist, isn’t human at all but the very interstellar ship that takes the humans on their long, long journey through the stars. There are some very interesting philosophical meanderings posed by Robinson in the voice of the ship’s artificial intelligence. But the human characters are much less interesting than the hardware in this book. That strikes me as something I’ve felt upon reading previous Robinson novels – that the characters never quite live up to the world building involved. Still large stretches of Aurora are fascinating and even if the book didn’t go where I wanted it to, it was hard to put down for long while reading.
And regardless of any complaints I keep coming back to Robinson’s novels. They are big and intense enough that I don’t want to read his work too often — but I have finished six of them now. The last one I finished was 2312 which I read in 2012.
MARCH 2018 UPDATE: I read New York 2140 late last year, a novel about a drowned New York City — post rise in the water level of the Earth. It was really good — the characters in this were some of the most interesting and well drawn out that I can remember in his novels. There are all kinds of interesting things drawn out of New York City as a Venice-like city and several other cultural and scientific ideas explored in the book. As always this kind of science fiction charges up and rattles your brain. There were a few interspersed chapters that were outside the plot proper — sort of like science dumps — that I could have done without (and they are truly not necessary to enjoying and grokking the book) but I guess its just part of the Kim Stanley Robinson package.
The Mars trilogy
- Red Mars (1993)
- Green Mars (1994)
- Blue Mars (1996)
- Galileo’s Dream (2009)
- 2312 (2012)
- Aurora (2015)
- New York 2140 (2017)
Have Not Read
The Three Californias series
- The Wild Shore (1984)
- The Gold Coast (1988)
- Pacific Edge (1990)
Science in the Capital series
- Forty Signs of Rain (2004)
- Fifty Degrees Below (2005)
- Sixty Days and Counting (2007)
- Icehenge (1984)
- The Memory of Whiteness (1985)
- A Short, Sharp Shock (1990) (short novel)
- Antarctica (1997)
- The Years of Rice and Salt (2002)
- Shaman: A Novel of the Ice Age (2013)