Kim Stanley Robinson's "Aurora": space is bigger than you think


Yeah I guess so. He repeatedly dumps and dismisses interesting characters who try to make a go of it, and follows characters who basically don’t want to be explorers.

In 2312 he at least introduced a way forward with the AI robot-people, who end up leaving the solar system. That was an interesting idea.

The book reminded me of Harry Harrisons Captive Universe which made the good point (repeated by KSR) that subsequent generations in a multi generation ship, won’t necessarily be the explorer types who launched the mission. I get that, but KSR keeps knocking his explorer type characters on the head, while giving a pat on the head to the complacent followers.

Yeah, this book was not for me.


Sounds like you have an ideological issue with you and the author having different ideas of where the story could go?

I don’t, personally care, if a certain group of characters have a “way forward.” I read his books because I enjoy his ideas and writing style.

Realistically, almost none of us reading his books are going to be “explorer” type peoples, nor will anyone we ever know.


2312 was the first book of his I’ve read. It blew me away so much more thoroughly than anything else I’ve read in a very long time.

Aurora was still extremely impressive, but not for the same reasons.

It’s a slightly different universe than 2312. There’s passing mention of generation ships near the end, but the people in Aurora don’t have some of the technologies specifically described in 2312.

I tried reading Seveneves right after Aurora and just could not stand the prose style. I loved Cryptonomicon back in the day, but Stephenson doesn’t seem to work for me anymore.


I absolutely loved all the problem-solving stuff, all the mundane, plausible, realistic-sounding, subtle problems which pervaded the ship. I thought all that stuff was brilliant. However (potential mild spoilers) I found the last chapter very long-winded, tedious, and boring. If that chapter had been removed, I would have whole-heartedly loved the book. But the final chapter was a boring slog compared to all the brilliance which had come before. Perhaps I don’t appreciate poetry as much as some (in fact, I know I don’t). It may have been poetic but the last chapter didn’t manage to bring me with it, wherever it was going. I had to skim the final pages, I found them so boring after all the excitement that had gone before.


The book leads you into thinking that it is initially going down the same path as the Mars Books. And then… it doesn’t. And I admit that I read the next hundred pages expecting things to return to what I was anticipating, but it still doesn’t. And that eventually grew on me and the new unexpected moral of the story that ends with a punch in the face was a great mind twist.

The last 20 pages are a bit of a slog though. I just wasn’t interested in absorbing what it offered. Coulda cut it shorter.


2312 was a vast array of Ideas. It was stunning and mind expanding.
One of those Sci-Fi books that are required reading.

2312 is sort of a sequel to the Mars books, but not quite, and Aurora is again sort of a sequel to 2312.


I’d generally recommend not bothering with the book, as its immensely anticlimactic and terrible but…
Spoilers follow…

Yeah, he takes a complex view of biology my making up biological problems (with no basis in science) at which characters who seem very smart and capable throw their hands up and give up on.
I’m a biologist, and I’m always disappointed at how its portrayed in sci-fi. The authors know lots about physics, but nearly nothing about biology. (Cory himself has some disappointing interpretations of how biology works in Makers.
The book presents a view that biology/ecology are impossibly complex systems which we can never understand. Trying to create human habitats is presented as impossible. Biology/ecology is presented as a largely magical field, which is not tractable.

Here’s my synopsis:

In the future colonists take a generation ship to a new solar system for the same reasons they always do. IN the way they learn that their ecosphere requires a lot of management and maintenence. For some reason, they rely entirely on agriculture for their food, even though they have self-replicating “printers” which are stated to be capable of printing DNA and bacteria. Also they have several biomes, some which are just frozen wastelands because “biodiversity” even though frozen wastelands have very low biodiversity. They learn that there is “zoo deevolution” going on, which means all the plants and animals start to get sickish and low-performing, because bacteria evolve faster than animals or something, which I guess never happens on earth. More or less, earth is viewed as “magical” somehow and this shit isn’t gonna hack it.

Anywho they get where they are going, low on supplies, and find out that the moon they chose to land on has some mysterious prion/virus thing which kills them, but some people don’t die. They spend little time investigating this and instead decide that its all hopeless. Half of them decide they just wanna give up and go back to earth and the other half decide to stay. Given that throughout the book their main problems are lack of material resources through which to “print” the things they need, heading off into the desolate wastes of interstellar space seems like a bad idea. So some stay and you never hear about them again, and the ones who head back are ok at first but then the whole thing is falling apart and they are starving. Even though they have self-replicating printers which can print organic matter, I guess they can’t print food. No idea why. Also, even though we are currently a hair’s breath from bioreactors which can make soylent form sunlight, they don’t have this. Also apparently none of them knows anything about genetics, because they are unable to cope with various genetic problems.

Anyways on the way back the ship has to undergo a complex breaking maneuver to slow down so they can drop the passengers (many whom have died) into earth’s atmosphere. Though they are in contact with and cooperating with people in the solar system who help them slow down with a big laser. Apparently though no one there can like, help them by sending some more fuel or just pick them up. Seriously, a lot of them die because no one can apparently send a shuttle to get them off the ship. Then the ship crashes into the sun and the protagonist goes surfing.
There’s a little of dramatic political intrigue and some precious musings on human and machine psychology (AI was never invented before the book, but in the book an engineer accidentally invents it by telling the computer to like, think about stuff. This makes it sentient. The computer still never uses their self-replicating printers, which can print bacteria, to print food.

The thesis is that space exploration is dumb because earth is magical and biology is mysterious.
TL;DR: Humans try to colonize space, but end up not knowing anything about biology. When it gets hard they give up immediately. It’s made hard by ad hoc problems the author invents and most of them starve to death because even though their printers can print bacteria from base matter, they can’t print food for some reason.


They say in the book their printers can print bacteria, but they can’t print food. Why?


Thanks for putting “spoiler alert” at the top of your post. Luckily, I aborted quickly since I’m only 10% of my way into the book.


Yes clayton. Easy there, big fella. Some of us are only just starting. I think I’ll sign-off from this thread until I’m done.


An oversight, my bad.


An oversight, apologies.


You could edit your post to include spoiler tags. (The kind that blur text in-line.)


I did not know that was a thing, but now I do!


Sounds like it would play out like all those terrible episodes of Star Trek: TNG where the plot involves something going wrong with the ship. Then they bounce a graviton particle beam off the main deflector dish, and that fixes everything.


If that doesn’t work, reverse the polarity in the warp matrix.


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