Book review: Science is sexy again with Aurora

SCIENCE fiction has long been hijacked by Hollywood where the combined appeal of adventure and imagination has made it the platform for epic stories and even more epic explosions.

I confess to loving many of those movies, and long may they continue to be made - but the trend has left a gap: The science has largely fallen out of science fiction.

Science, contrary to a significant section of public opinion, is not boring (if you're in doubt, search for 'I ***king love science' on Facebook; you have to replace the asterisks yourself).

In Aurora, masterful storyteller Kim Stanley Robinson brings it back, in an intelligent and engrossing imagination of a human future.

Aurora is in the 'generation ship' genre (look to Ursula K. Le Guin's short story Paradises Lost for a classic example), centring on people who have lived for generations on a starship, voyaging to a new planetary home light years away.

The story begins close to the end of their 170-year journey to Aurora, a moon of the star Tau Ceti, as the multiple earthlike environments aboard the giant ship are beginning to break down.

The ship - or rather the quantum computer driving the ship - is instructed by that generation's chief engineer and therefore de facto leader Devi to construct a narrative of the journey. Amusing chapters follow as the ship takes over the story, clumsily and mechanically at first, but eventually with colour, wit and astute philosophical pondering. From that point the ship is telling the whole story, from Devi's death, the gradual ascendancy of her daughter Freya and the journey's end, to the challenges that follow.

It's a skilful trick by Robinson - the only time it is apparent who is telling the tale is when the ship refers to itself - or when there is an impossibly precise piece of data thrown into the mix.

The science in the story appears well-researched and believable, and does not interfere with the narrative or the character development - even that of the ship itself, which comes close to hero Freya as the most intriguing individual in the book.

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. Publisher: Orbit, through Hachette Australia. RRP paperback: $29.99. Also available as an e-book.
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. Publisher: Orbit, through Hachette Australia. RRP paperback: $29.99. Also available as an e-book. Photo Contributed

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