Aurora

I’ve just finished Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora. What a book! With one of the main characters a quantum computer on an intergenerational starship hoping to find a new home in the Tau Ceti system.

For much of the book, the quantum computer/Ship is the narrator, allowing Robinson to seed the story with all manner of facts and figures. The problems of such a difficult and long-term undertaking are never minimised. It’s the kind of science fiction I know I have no hope of writing, so full of technical knowledge. There were a few moments when I felt Robinson was tipping into info dump, but there were many more glorious passages.

During the voyage, the ship muses on the nature of consciousness, of Artificial Intelligence, of Turing’s test, of love, of politics. And, of course, it is an outsider’s view of human nature. All our flaws and fallacies and wishful thinking exposed.

There is a transcendent passage where the ship is flying close to the sun, but despite that, the ending (and look away now if you’d rather not know) seems almost a polemic against starships, or at least a warning against a blind love of space travel at all costs. And there is an argument for earth as the true human home, the place we must care for and maintain, because there may be no other.

As I read, I marked some passages to share, but now, only a day after I read them, they don’t really capture the way I felt, sitting, reading, thinking. The nature of consciousness, demonstrated, here. So difficult to convey.

Someone asked me what I was reading yesterday and I saw their eyes glaze as I described, very briefly, the book. But books like this are why I love science fiction. There’s something glorious and bold and profound and wondrous that I don’t think you find anywhere else.

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