"Our voyage from Earth began generations ago. Now, we approach our new home. Aurora."
You know the best one-word review? The one that goes "wow".
Kim Stanley Robinson is a strange figure among my favourite authors, because all of his books that I've read inevitably involves some portion that tests my patience. I mean, he likes wanderers and road trips and the kind of thing I myself only enjoy for about five minutes before I start searching hopelessly for direction and movement and.... something more. Aurora is no exception.
But I get through, because, of course, the worlds he lets me wander through are always intensely interesting ones. Whether it's his earlier novels' various shades of Mars, or the surface of a moon in the Tau Ceti system, or, indeed, the various biomes inside a space ship.
I was indeed losing hope - and interest - about a third through this novel. I tell you this because I will immediately add that then I was sucked back in with a stream of "wow, wow, wow" pouring out of my mouth.
And I can't exactly tell you why that was, because I fear I'd spoil the read for you. Much like Stephenson's Seveneves, this novel just kept growing bigger, epic-er, in the way that, you know, has you convinced your hair is flattened back and your face illuminated by sheer awe.
"It's, just, aaah", I said, trying to explain this novel to the person who first made me read the author's earlier Mars trilogy. "It's, you think you know what story you're reading, and it starts to peter out a bit, but it turns out to be a different story, and, and-" Furious, helpless handwaving. "It's so cool!"
Throughout the book, we follow a small family, each member vital to each other and the surroundings, in different ways, and with different levels of awareness of their impact. It's Freya, the tallest person on the ship - the generation ship! - who acts as a focus for the narrative, though she might not be the real, uh, star of the story. (Because the star is Tau Ceti. Duh. I'm sorry.)
Now, it's been a week since the last page, and I find this story keeps coming at me in waves. When I pick up my kindle, I forget that it's over, I expect it to take me back to Devi's angry engineering, or Badim's stabilizing presence, or - oh, the voice of the most memorable character of all.
I keep trying to go back, and am reminded over and over again that their story actually ended, and then I have to think about how it ended for a moment, prolonging it, savouring it. Aurora is going to stay with me for quite some time.