Is it really possible for humans to settle on other planets? Or did we only evolve as we did because of the conditions on Earth? Is it possible to make planets outside of our solar system habitable for humans? What about the life already there? Could we cohabitate? Once again, KSR asks the big “what if” questions that are eye opening, thought provoking, and horrifying in his latest book, Aurora.
Readers are dropped in the middle of mission on a generation ship taking humans from Earth to the Tau Ceti star to explore a habitable planet there. Passengers on the ship are dealing with balancing elements in their flying petri dish and genetic degeneration in human, flora, and fauna. The kinds of problems one expects on a mission of this nature. Once they reach their destination, they are dealt many other difficulties that don’t really let up until the end.
Devi and Freya, mother and daughter, are the main human characters but I believe our protagonist is the AI/Pauline/Ship. Ship is by far my favorite character and KSR does a phenomenal job of taking this character from quantum computer to conscious being. Ship becomes fixated on metaphor and as Ship evolves begins to use phrases like “its as if” more and more. Towards the end, Ship even begins to use the pronoun I and the possessive adjective my in the narrative.
KSR puts so much research and technical information into his writing and yet makes it very accessible. In fact, as I read this and other books of his I find myself asking questions and doing research on things he mentions. He writes beautifully.
I read the book and listened to the audiobook simultaneously. When Ship begins to speak to passengers, Ship discusses the level of decibels that are painful to the human ear. They applied some nice effects on the voice of the narrator during these scenes. I didn’t care for the voices used to differentiate between characters but the female voice that narrates Ship was appropriately computer-like.
This will be a good read for those who enjoy creepy AI and thought experiments. If you enjoy 2001, I believe you will enjoy this book. It is a haunting story that makes reader question how one would feel as passenger on such a voyage.