Aurora, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Its rock was mostly black dolerite, smoothed flat by the ice of an ice age. The ferries carrying people landed near its west coast without incident, close to the robotic landers they had sent down previously.

I am on the lookout for likely Hugo candidates at the moment, and given KSR’s two Hugos and three Nebulas this seemed a decent prospect when I saw it in our local FNAC. It’s also a good hundred pages shorter than any of the other novels by him that I have read (except Forty Signs of Rain).

Aurora is the story of a generation starship sent to Tau Ceti, where there are massive internal tensions among the population which spill over once they finally arise, causing a deep division and a surprising plot development. That happens half way through the book, and without spoiling it, I have to say that’s where I started wondering what the actual point of the story of the journey was. I felt also that the same narrative techniques which I found attractive in the Mars trilogy, written twenty years ago, were getting a bit stale here; and there is one central character whose thoughts are given to us (by whom?) right up to the moment of physical destruction. Huge numbers of people are killed, both in the main narrative and in the back-story, and hardly referred to again. I loved the Mars trilogy as an exploration of how a new world could lead us to new ways of thinking; at the end of Aurora, I wasn’t sure what this was all for. So I don’t think it will make my nominations list, but I did at least finish it.