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Publisher's Summary

Our voyage from Earth began generations ago. Now we approach our destination. A new home. Aurora.

Brilliantly imagined and beautifully told, Aurora is the work of a writer at the height of his powers.

©2015 Kim Stanley Robinson (P)2015 Hachette Audio

What listeners say about Aurora

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Genius

Another pen stroke of genius by Kim Stanley Robinson. Evocative imagery, intricate science and beautiful composition.

3 people found this helpful

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Visionary epic tale

Combines realistic science with perceptive societal observation embedded in breathtaking innovative narrative. Wow! Read it!

2 people found this helpful

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a good read/listen

A little repetitive in places but a masterpiece none the less.
Would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in Sci fi.

2 people found this helpful

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Good

A cool story, entertainingly read. Definitely drags at times, seeming a bit repetitive, but keeps moving along. KSR certainly knows his way around Sci Fi. The message is a bit bleaker than I had hoped for, but an interesting take on the space exploration/colonisation genre.

1 person found this helpful

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Overly indulgent

I enjoy a detailed story but a lot of this felt like I was listening to a text book.

2 people found this helpful

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Heavily political and anti space travel.


Not just a fantasy Sci Fi
This was surprisingly deep with human phsychology and philosophical currents running throughout the book. Heavily centered around the human needs and problems of interplanetary travel, settlement and life.


The Interplanetary travel, is on a ship which is a moving planet, a living biome. The ship is a cyborg, a conscious AI quantum computer with biological components.
Humans are a variable entity living as a symbiote within the living biome.

Their destination planet Aroura, was a beautiful planet like earth but.....

It is a very philosophical book that looked at fear, history, hate, anger, animal pack mentality, conflict and religion, but also gives a very scientific and engineering viewpoint.

A bit too political for me, possibly as I was looking for an uplifting escapism book rather than one that was fixated with human obsessions and conflicts. But I could see alot of people who are obsessed with politics and activism really liking this book.

This book is more anti space travel than pro space travel. A view I don't personally share.

The naration was excellent.
The ship is the narrator with clearly defined change in voices when other characters speak.

The naration was excellent.
The ship is the narrator with clearly defined change in voices when other characters speak.

Live as if you are already dead.- Japanese proverb quoted in book.

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  • Ben
  • 16-04-2019

A Luxuriant Profusion of Detail

Ever since reading Niven, Clarke and Anderson I've enjoyed obsessing over the humdrum everyday minutiae of a hypothetical interstellar voyage. Even though this one ends sadly, the content pushed all my need-to-know buttons without, as Niven would put it, locking the gate to the playground. KSR at his finest and, like his other epic works, worth the slog, every minute of it.

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Hmmm

Decent voice acting but hindered by a story that loses its way and bad audio post processing that makes it sound over compressed for most of the book.

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  • Terence Blake
  • 29-07-2015

NO STARSHIP, NO CRY

This is a very involving story, and very intelligent writing. The narrator is excellent, and makes the book even more enjoyable.

Supposedly “hard-science” sf: hard for the accurate description of the constraints of space travel, but it also contains "soft-science" elements that add a lot of interest to the story. Perhaps it should be called “speculative fiction” in the sense of half science fiction and half philo-fiction. I had never read any of Kim Stanley Robinson’s books before AURORA, and I think that it a good introduction to his work. I have now begun reading RED MARS and I am already coming across many of the same concepts that AURORA develops in more concentrated form. The range of knowledge mobilised in this novel is encyclopaedic, but I never found the story dull. I would distinguish the pace of the action, which was sometimes slow, from the pace of the invention (action, ideas, and style) which is always engrossing. So I found the novel enjoyable and thought-provoking, and never slow-moving.

The text is multi-layered: a hard science attempt to spell out concretely what voyage to a “nearby” solar system in a generational ship would be like; a more philosophical reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the self, and free will; an exploration of the human propensity for “living in ideas” and making bad choices based on fantasy or ideology, a deployment of biological and ecological science beyond the mere fascination with technological prowess; a vision of human thinking and behavior as determined by errors and biases that cognitive science is only now beginning to understand.

The whole story is a science-inspired deconstruction of the fantasy of traveling to the stars, by taking that fantasy literally. Yet the story is metaphorical too: the starship is a prison, and our own ideas are a prison. The novel seeks to establish that what Robinson calls the “technological sublime” does not take us outside of our (mental and physical) prison, but just transports it elsewhere. The whole book is a plea for the use of science as enrichment of our present life rather than as escapism, into some beyond.

Robinson wants to enlarge our scientific vision: he tries to be encyclopedic, and to break with the hegemony of physics and technology in our thinking and imagination. So he includes not just hard physics, but also biology, sociology, systems thinking, philosophy of mind and of language, and cognitive science. Factoring in these considerations gives a very different approach to the generational starship than was customary in classical, physics-obsessed science fiction. This makes the book a stimulating and powerful read.

However, in AURORA politics suffers, as it is subordinated to Robinson’s reflections on biology and cognitive science. This scientistic explanation of human behaviour generates what some people decry as the “pessimism” or the "conservatism" of the vision embodied in the book. I do not think that this vision is pessimistic or conservative. Technological realism is not pessimism, even if it obliges us to relinquish a fantasy we cherish. Ecological responsibility is not conservatism, even if it obliges us to evaluate actions in terms of sustainability. Ultimately the book does not reduce, but enlarges and enriches.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Tezby
  • 22-10-2019

Unusual choices, hyper detailed, epic...

Early in the book, a character instructs an AI that's guiding a generation ship to its destination that it needs to learn how to tell a story. After a few false starts, the AI gets the hang of it and the point of view switches from the humans onboard, to the AI telling the story. It's a bold and unusual choice, as the narrator slowly evolves in sophistication from basic description, through comically inept speculation on what the humans might be feeling until, towards the end of the novel, the AI has a firm grasp on the art of story telling as well as an acute self-awareness.

The subtle production of this audio book, with a slight phasing on Ali Ahn's voice in the early stages of the AI's development is done very well, and then to a much more normal 'human' sounding voice. Ahn's performance is overall one of the best I've listened to, with the one minor complaint that all her male voices sound like slightly pushy teenagers [even when they are in their 80s!]

That aside, this is an excellent book that takes detailed descriptions of the arcane functions of a generation ship to a new, almost absurd level. There are long disquisitions on the importance of elemental balance of soil, air and water on board, and diversions into questions of the function of machines, the techniques for deceleration, and so on. Personally, I like this kind of thing when it's well done, and for long stretches Robinson's book becomes an abstract meditative drone of detail. To Ahn's credit, she makes the prose warm and enjoyable.

Many have commented on the ending of the book and, without spoiling anything, I'd simply say that while it makes thematic sense and links back to the book's opening - and the main character's emotional arc - it's also long enough to feel strangely unnecessary. Still, the descriptions at the end of the book were enough to keep me involved.

High recommended.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 25-09-2015

Best story and narration, I've heard in long while

I really loved this story about humans, our ambitions and frailties. Excellent and thought-provoking stuff :-)

1 person found this helpful

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  • Pete N
  • 11-04-2020

Narration choice

The story of Aurora, to the extent I could get through it, is fascinating and compelling. But, and it's an insurmountable but, I cannot get past the narration. I have found it one-dimensional, listless and lacking in almost any characterisation. I tried it at 1.2x the speed, hoping for improvement somehow, but to no avail. For me, a potentially amazing book has been reduced to the point that I have ditched the audio and will read it instead.

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  • AG
  • 01-03-2020

Just boring

I expected listening a thrilling space story, but it was the opposite. Endless boring ravings about personal, political and sociological issues of no interest. A story that gets nowhere. Characters paper-thin. To worsen everything, the tone and rhythm of the reader seem ideal for getting children to sleep. At two thirds of the book I quit.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 14-06-2019

Surprisingly good!

A page-turner, for sure. Intelligent hard scifi, just the way I like it! What a pleasant surprise, since I didn't know what to expect.

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  • Jon
  • 18-11-2015

Hard Science Fiction

Would you try another book from Kim Stanley Robinson and/or Ali Ahn?

no

Would you recommend Aurora to your friends? Why or why not?

yes

How could the performance have been better?

The performance became very very monotonous. Trying to create the sound of a quantum computer the sound engineer has decided to add some kind of chorus effect to the voice of the narrator and this coupled with her slow monotonous tone became massively distracting and annoying as time went by.

Do you think Aurora needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

No

Any additional comments?

If you like science fiction where the emphasis is on the 'science' Kim Stanley Robinson is the man for you. Every idea he comes up with has a clear scientific justification and plausibility. He must have undertaken huge amounts of research from the gravitational effects of living on a moon orbiting a large planet to the ecological effects of being ecologically isolated on a long space voyage. Science is never used to mystify or bamboozle. However all this scientific rigour comes at a price, his pacing and story telling is glacially slow and sometimes painful.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 29-11-2018

Great story let down with a terrible end

I found myself fast forwarding the ending. All the soul of the story just winked out without much fanfare, and left you on a beach with no real reason to stick around. No pay off for time invested.

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  • ikd
  • 28-08-2016

Despite great ideas, terribly, terribly boring

This is not an engaging or compelling book. Despite a richness of ideas and observations, the writing style is genuinely dull and boring and the very simple plot is sounds on and on and on, with little or nothing actually happening. I doubt I'd have finished this if it hadn't been an audio book.

3 people found this helpful

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  • D. M. York
  • 02-09-2015

Troubled science fiction

The story here is set a few hundred years into the future, as mankind has begun an expedition to colonise distant worlds. Technology is still limited and therefore generation ships consisting of a few thousand people are dispatched, their journeys expected to take upwards of a hundred years.

I struggled with the story, not that it is difficult to follow and indeed it was well written and well narrated, however I just could not establish what point it was really trying to make. This book falls into the category of the sort of space exploration science fiction that sends the message that Earth is the best we'll find and we shouldn't waste time looking elsewhere.

A lot of the science and ideas involved are very interesting, though in the end I found the story to be quite dull and ultimately a message that we should be glad of what we have got and to take care of the Earth. Not quite what one expects from space exploration sci-fi.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Rhiannon
  • 04-08-2016

A very long journey

Would you listen to Aurora again? Why?

It's not necessarily the sort of thing you listen to more than once but I still enjoyed it.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Aurora?

No spoilers!

Would you listen to another book narrated by Ali Ahn?

Wasn't the best narrator but could have been worse.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

It's quite a slow one but it gets quite dramatic in the middle so I suppose that bit? And I guess the question of 'where is home?' is generally an emotive one.

Any additional comments?

It's quite slow-moving and I wasn't necessarily convinced by the speeches the ship makes about narratives etc. - felt a bit like the author was trying to force the work to be more meta/more 'literary' than it needed to be. I appreciated the attempts to create a coherent universe and to describe all the systems in it. I didn't totally love any of the characters, but there was a loving attention to detail in the descriptions of the many problems faced in settling a new planet that made me feel like I was experiencing the journey along with them. Wouldn't place amongst one of my favourite books but it's definitely worth a read if you're interested in the more mundane aspects of long-distance space travel.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Nick
  • 27-02-2016

Icarus Falls, but survives...death of a dream.

A thought provoking story that suggests that perhaps the allure of interstellar colonisation may be doomed to fail.
A Hundred Thousand years of Homo Sapien evolution bind humanity to the solar system and earth.
Lifeless worlds with hostile atmospheres that will take thousands of years to terraform- longer than a container based society can survive.
Or hostile worlds with microscopic proto viruses, extreme climates and shot blasted landscapes.
The inevitable decline in the colonists own artificial environment spells doom .
Radiation, lack of biodiversity and a rapidly evolving bacterial onslaught.

The real message (and there is a clear one by the end of the book) is that humanity needs to look after its own homeworld first and foremost. It also suggests that a radical shift in our lifestyle and cultures is required to accomplish this balance.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kaylin Hamilton
  • 17-08-2021

Thought provoking story, if in need of editing

The themes of this book are very original if somewhat pessimistic - or, as one character puts it, darkly realistic - and are a refreshing change from the assumptions of many interstellar science-fiction. As much a sociological investigation of the question of interstellar travel as scientific and biological, perhaps more so. The themes in the book have changed the way I think about space travel, putting the arguably selfishly optimistic dreams of billionaires like Bezos, Branson and Musk into perspective. The first book I've ever encountered that seriously made me question if we should attempt interstellar travel or the colonisation of other planets, given the often ignored yet inevitable human cost.

The characters were interesting and relatable, and there is certainly a great deal of humanity to the story, both the good and the bad, which is often central to the themes of the book. The treatment of the ship's AI is also an interesting and unusual take for a somewhat dystopian sci-fi story, especially as it is the AI which (who?) performs much of the overt philosophising and exposition.

Unfortunately the book does drag on a bit and might have benefited from better editing; some dialogue and even whole sections could have been shorter or removed entirely (though I get the impression the way the narrative seems to drag on is somewhat deliberate to convey the constancy of issues and moral quandaries the protagonists face).

The narration was competent but average, with most male voices sounding identical and the voice of the ship's AI, which constitutes much of the narration, becoming somewhat monotonous after a point. The soundscape was interesting and added to the narration and atmosphere, and more of this would have been welcome.

I haven't read the author's other books so can't compare but overall this was a very interesting and thought provoking story that I would definitely recommend for that alone. A better audiobook performance and potentially a skillfully abridged version of this audiobook would make it 5 star gold.

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  • Fredrik Jonsson
  • 29-03-2021

Could be better

Interesting setting, but the story gets less interesting as the book continues. Annoying and whiny protagonist. The last chapter pointless.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Antonio Konitsiotis
  • 30-04-2018

Great science, so so novel

A thoroughly thought out and scientifically advanced SciFi novel, I found myself intrigued by the ideas and concepts the author tried to convey in the book, many of which even learned scientists would probably have dismissed/neglected. However, as a novel and a story I found this simply not engaging, with only a couple of characters I found myself caring for.
Still an ambitious tale and very well narrated/produced I think this is worth a look at for the scientific and philosophical discussions.

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  • matthew
  • 11-10-2017

It's a masterpiece....

....In my opinion. A great book including science, sociology and philosophy. Mostly spoken from the ships computer commanded to create a Narrative of the voyage. Brilliantly Narrated by Ali Ahn. Would have liked to have herd a little more from other characters roles.

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  • Colin Dente
  • 17-04-2017

An alternative view on colonisation

An interesting take on space exploration. The narrative style in the later parts is slightly reminiscent of Stapledon's "First and Last Men" - though far more conventional. Well worth listening to.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Sharon Barron
  • 20-10-2016

Well written, but linear and predictable

I was quite disappointed by this. Aurora came with a huge rep, but completely failed to live up to it. The annoying thing for me is the writing is beautiful, with well-crafted characters, and brilliant narrative... But the story is awful: ship leaves Earth, goes to Tau Ceti, some people get killed, some go back to Earth, some stay, more people get killed, the ship AI develops a personality, stopping the ship is a problem, which is resolved and the remaining 600 get back, they have psychological problems when they get back and the lead character goes swimming in the ocean. End.

The author dwells on and delights in the science of the journey, which is great, but doesn't make a story.

The Guardian called this the "best generation starship novel I have ever read." That doesn't speak well of the genre.

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