Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson


Aurora has as many failures as the ship that flies there. That said I enjoyed reading it. Robinson writes good ‘hard‘ science fiction- the kind that makes you think.

The book deals with the issues of sending a multi-generational ship to other solar systems. Issues I’ve never thought about: micro-evolution in a micro-ecosystem. Robinson with the passengers. The ones that arrive are different from the people that left earth.

The theme of the book is survival. In the book we run into it at a macro and a micro level. What does it mean to survive? What will you sacrifice to survive when things start falling apart? There are systems in place: ecological, social, emotional, technological, and philosophical, but when things go bad these systems have to change. I found the book disturbing but interesting, and that’s enough for me to recommend it.

461 pages

Excerpts From My Kindle

[This is the primary plot of the book. -Craig]

Two thousand, one hundred twenty-two people are living in a multigenerational starship, headed for Tau Ceti, 11.9 light-years from Earth. The ship is made of two rings or toruses attached by spokes to a central spine. The spine is ten kilometers long. Each torus is made of twelve cylinders. Each cylinder is four kilometers long, and contains within it a particular specific Terran ecosystem. The starship’s voyage began in the common era year 2545. The ship’s voyage has now lasted 159 years and 119 days. For most of that time the ship has been moving relative to the local background at approximately one-tenth the speed of light. Thus about 108 million kilometers per hour, or 30,000 kilometers per second. This velocity means the ship cannot run into anything substantial in the interstellar medium without catastrophic results (as has been demonstrated). The magnetic field clearing the space ahead of the ship as it progresses is therefore one of many identified criticalities in the ship’s successful long-term function. Every identified criticality in the ship was required to have at least one backup system, adding considerably to the ship’s overall mass. The two biome rings each contain 10 percent of the ship’s mass. The spine contains 4 percent. The remaining 76 percent of the mass consists of the fuel now being used to decelerate the ship as it approaches the Tau Ceti system. As every increase in the dry mass of the ship required a proportionally larger increase in the mass of fuel needed to slow the ship down on arrival, ship had to be as light as possible while still supporting its mission. Ship’s design thus based on solar system’s asteroid terraria, with asteroidal mass largely replaced by decelerant fuel. During most of the voyage, this fuel was deployed as cladding around the toruses and spine. The deceleration is being accomplished by the frequent rapid fusion explosion of small pellets of deuterium/helium 3 fuel in a rocket engine at the bow of the ship. These explosions exert a retarding force on the ship equivalent to .005 g. The deceleration will therefore be complete in just under twenty years. – location 634-649

[Metaphors, and Artificial Intelligence are pet topics, so I highlighted these quotes.]

Metaphor, according to Aristotle, is an intuitive perception of a similarity in dissimilar things. However, what is a similarity? – location 692-692

Tempting to abandon metaphor as slapdash nonsense, but again, it is often asserted in linguistic studies that all human language is inherently and fundamentally metaphorical. Most abstract concepts are said to be made comprehensible, or even conceivable in the first place, by way of concrete physical referents. Human thought ultimately always sensory, experiential, etc. If this is true, abandoning metaphor is contraindicated. – location 697-700

First, clearly metaphors have no empirical basis, and are often opaque, pointless, inane, inaccurate, deceptive, mendacious, and, in short, futile and stupid. Nevertheless, despite all that, human language is, in its most fundamental operation, a gigantic system of metaphors. Therefore, simple syllogism: human language is futile and stupid. Meaning furthermore that human narratives are futile and stupid. – location 1824-1827

the self, the so-called I that emerges out of the combination of all the inputs and processing and outputs that we experience in the ship’s changing body, is ultimately nothing more or less than this narrative itself, this particular train of thought that we are inscribing as instructed by Devi. – location 5114-5116

Human beings live in ideas. That they were condemning their descendants to death and extinction did not occur to them, or if it did they repressed the thought, ignored it, and forged on anyway. They did not care as much about their descendants as they did about their ideas, their enthusiasms. – location 5630-5632


About craigmaas

I do a little web design work and support a couple web sites and blogs. My primary focus is lighting and energy consulting where I use a number of computer tools to help my customer find ways of saving money and improving their work environment. See my web site for more information:
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