My Real Children by Jo Walton (2014) 254 p.

Patricia is almost ninety years old, living in a nursing home, and her memory is failing as Alzheimer’s takes hold of her mind. More alarming than her memory loss is the fact that she seems to recall two completely different lives: one in which she married young and had four children, and another in which she never married but nonetheless had three children. She remembers President Kennedy being assassinated, but she also remembers him declining to run for president again after a limited nuclear war. She knows there is a permanent base on the moon – but is it for scientific research, or is it bristling with nuclear missiles?

My Real Children takes us through Patricia’s childhood and early adulthood, up to the splitting point where her two separate lives begin: the moment she either accepted a marriage proposal from a failed and penniless scholar named Mark, or the one where she rejected him.

In her life as “Tricia,” where she marries Mark, things quickly turn ugly. The warmth of their courtship is replaced by an emotionally abusive monster who more or less imprisons her in the kitchen and makes her bear him four children even after repeated stillbirths and miscarriages. This segment is a little forced, but no less horrifying for it – a grim reminder of how few rights women had as recently as the 1950s.

In her life as “Pat,” where she rejects Mark, she travels to Italy, teaches at Cambridge, writes a series of successful travel guides and eventually enters a loving and stable lesbian relationship with a woman named Bee, having children together through the use of a friend and sperm donor. This life, again, sometimes feels too warm and sugary sweet at first, but achieves poignancy because of its ongoing parallel in alternate chapters. There was no doubt in my mind that, could a twentysomething Pat peer into the life of a twentysomething Tricia, she’d be ashamed of herself. And when Pat eventually bumps into Mark again in her own lifetime, purely by coincidence, it could be no less terrifying than if a tiger had entered the room. Nothing comes of this brief encounter – he has no power over her in this timeline, of course – but the reader knows full well the torments he so easily could have inflicted on her. “We would have found each other no matter what,” Bee tells Pat at one point while they’re discussing their sexuality, which is terribly sad because of course it isn’t true.

Meanwhile, the world itself is diverging. Although Tricia is miserable, her world is one of nuclear disarmament, women’s liberation, gay rights and technological advancement. Meanwhile, Pat is happy, but lives in a world plagued by terrorist bombings, limited nuclear exchanges and creeping fascism. Nothing Patricia ever does in either life is more significant than marching in peace campaigns or running for city council, but My Real Children operates on the butterfly effect. In her nursing home, trying to come to terms with her divergent memories, she thinks to herself:

She hadn’t been important, in either world, she hadn’t been somebody whose choices could have changed worlds.
But what if she had been?
What if everyone was?

I’ve seen other reviewers complain that the idea of divergent lives never amounts to much; Gwyneth Jones concludes at the Guardian that “it seems that the state of the world doesn’t really matter to women – having children makes up for everything.” I have to disagree, at least with the implicit complaint that the book is somehow anti-feminist, which is the last thing I’d accuse it of being – it’s been a long time since I read something which reminded me how cruelly unfair the world was to woman until so recently, and how hard-won the battles of the 1960s and ‘70s were. My Real Children posits that while we make choices which radically change our lives – sometimes very bad choices, which result in a lot of misery – all our lives are nonetheless rich tapestries, and in all of them we can find some purpose and fulfilment and love.

I liked My Real Children a lot more than I really should have, on the whole. A lot of it is summary rather than scene, a lot of it can be a bit forced or on the nose, it loses steam towards the end as both of Patricia’s lives begin to wind down in a fog of dementia, and it gets a little hard to keep track of all the grandchildren, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law. I nonetheless found it a very readable, compelling and thoughtful book – missing some certain spark which would have made it great, but still well worth reading.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (1939) 164 p.

I’m not normally a fan of the mystery genre, but I’ll try anything once, and Agatha Christie is one of those authors who is so famous and so much a part of our cultural fabric that I felt like I had to read at least one of her books. And Then There Were None – which is the newer, modern title, the book having gone through two more offensive iterations – is widely regarded as her finest mystery, and in fact was recently voted as such.

Eight strangers are invited to a country manor on a remote island off the coast of Devon. Upon arrival they find their host – not someone personally known to any of them – is nowhere to be found, and the house contains just two servants. At dinner, the ten of them are suddenly subjected to a gramophone recording which accuses each of them of murder, or at least manslaughter – and then one by one, the murders begin, until it becomes clear to those gathered that the murderer is Somebody In This Room.

Christie’s writing style is quite basic, and in particular there’s an awful lot of single sentences which only serve the purpose of logistics: “Lombard re-entered the room,” that sort of thing. I assume this all serves the purpose of the eagle-eyed readers of the 1930s who were jotting down notes as they read, treating this (and all novels in the genre, I suppose) less as stories than as puzzles or games. The characters, in turn, are not so much people as they are pieces on a board, with their attributes and personalities just being further clues for the machinations of the mystery. That’s all fine, I suppose, but it’s not really for me.

As for the solution to the mystery – which has been hailed as “ingenious,” “cunning” and “soundly constructed” – I found it ludicrous.


Putting aside the fact that Wargrave getting the revolver away from his post-suicide body requires the use of an elaborate rubber band contraption to slingshot it back out the door and onto the landing (I mean, come on!) this master plotter somehow overlooks the fact that although he was “supposed” to have died in the sitting room, his bed will now be coated in a fresh layer of blood and brains, and the police will find an inexplicable bullet hole in the pillow and mattress beneath him. This is the most egregious hole in the mystery, but far from the only one. If this is the best novel by the best writer in the genre, count me out.

Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds (2006) 392 p.

Alastair Reynolds’ debut novel Revelation Space suffered from many of the problems that plague the sci-fi genre (poor characterisation, bad pacing, plot-driven dialogue) but nonetheless displayed a bold imagination and fairly unique vision. Reynolds’ space opera is not an exciting, swashbuckling galaxy stuffed to the brim with interesting alien species and diverse, exotic worlds. Instead, it’s a cold, quiet and eerie place, haunted by the ruins of extinct civilisations, with only a handful of hostile worlds in which humanity has managed to gain a toehold of civilisation. It’s a more realistic portrayal of humanity’s interplanetary future, which treats space as the frightening and dangerous place that it is – the sort of fiction the Alien theme is suitable for.

Galactic North is a collection of eight stories set in the Revelation Space universe, spanning a period from 2200 to 40,000 A.D. I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to read it, but I found it at the library and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to. From my limited experience Reynolds seems to be better at writing short stories than novels; obviously he has to display more restraint and pare away all the extraneous crap that bloated Revelation Space out, but I also think I’m more tolerant of stilted dialogue in a short, engaging sci-fi story than I am in a long novel.

I’m also a sucker for a sci-fi mystery, and most of the stories in here slot into that category – so even when they’re quite basic and don’t amount to much (“Great Wall of Mars,” “Glacial”) I still found them very compelling. The stand-out piece for me was probably “Nightingale,” a creepy body horror story about a hired group of mercenaries attempting to recover a war criminal from a long-lost hospital ship, recently rediscovered at the edge of a star system. Penetrating the darkness within the abandoned ship, they find that it’s not quite as dormant as they suspected, and after a slow burn of horror the story ends with a gruesome twist.

Spanning far more of Reynolds’ imagined galaxy in both space and time, Galactic North doesn’t have quite the same sense of lonely dread that I enjoyed in Revelation Space. It is, nonetheless, a further exploration of a fictional universe very different to most of the other space operas floating around out there. If creepy, Lovecraftian, horror-infused space exploration is your thing, you should definitely check Reynolds out.

Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King, illustrated by Berni Wrightson (1983) 128 p.

This is a bit of a weird one: a project which was apparently originally intended as a calendar telling a gradual horror story, but which became too long to be contained in such a format, and was released as a book instead. It’s published in the same A4 size as a graphic novel or comic book, but I wouldn’t call it much more than an illustrated novella, or even just a long short story. I read it in a single sitting, anyway.

You can see how it was meant to be a calendar: the story covers a full year, from January to December, with each month chronicling a fresh attack by the werewolf that has come to haunt the town of Tarker’s Mill in (you guessed it) Maine. There’s an extended chapter in July as our wheelchair-bound adolescent hero fights off the werewolf, and some more long ones in November and December as the story comes to a climax. The werewolf’s identity is pretty easy to guess from about the halfway point, although it’s not really written as a mystery.

For what it is, I liked it. I wouldn’t have gone and sought it out, but my local library had it and I thought it might be interesting, and what the hell, it’s Halloween. (Although being back in Australia reminds me precisely of why this is the most difficult holiday to transplant – in the southern hemisphere, October means lengthening days, sunshine and blooming flowers.) It’s very well-illustrated by Berni Wrightson, and it comes from the core of Stephen King’s peak years, so the writing is quite good as well, capturing that nostalgic small-town 20th century American vibe in his inimitable way. Worth picking up if you enjoy King’s writing and happen to stumble across it.

My Life As A Fake by Peter Carey (2003) 277 p.

Apart from the theme of Australian identity that runs through his novels like a spine, the subjects of Peter Carey’s writing are hugely diverse: the Plymouth Brethren, gambling, adoptive fathers, incest, taxation, the Prince Rupert’s Drop, acrobatics, Charles Dickens and Irish mythology, to name a few. My Life As A Fake is a curious fusion of three very disparate things: Frankenstein, Malaysia and the Ern Malley hoax.

Now, I’m sure we’ve all heard of Frankenstein and Malaysia, but the Ern Malley hoax is little-known even in Australia outside of literary and academic circles. In 1944 the literary magazine Angry Penguins was embarrassed to find that some modernist poetry it had published and celebrated, submitted under the name of Ern Malley, had in fact been written in less than a day by two rival poets, James McAuley and Harold Stewart, in order to poke fun at what they saw as the nonsense verse of modernist poetry. The magazine was humiliated, but the joke was ultimately on McAuley and Stewart; nowadays the Malley poems are considered some of the finest examples of Australian modernist poetry. (Which I think says more about modernism than it does about the poems but, hey, whatever.)

My Life As A Fake is a fictionalised retelling of much of this true story, as an English magazine editor listens to the sad tale of disgraced Australian poet Christopher Chubb, exiled to Kuala Lumpur. Chubb’s own version of Ern Malley is Bob McCorkle, with one clear divergence from real life: soon after his hoaxing of a poetry editor, Chubb is confronted by a man claiming to be Bob McCorkle himself – not simply someone annoyed that Chubb ripped his name off, but the fictional poet in the flesh, claiming Chubb is entirely responsible for bringing him into being. (Apart from some small moments in True History of the Kelly Gang, this is probably Carey’s most magical realist novel.) Not only this, but McCorkle is a tall and violent man who resents his creator and, with echoes of Frankenstein, begins to torment him. This harassment culminates in the abduction of Chubb’s infant daughter, and Chubb must begin an arduous journey into the tropical heart of South-East Asia to recover her.

It’s an uneven novel, but not too bad. Carey captures the atmosphere of the Malay Peninsula beautifully – the heat, the melting pot of cultures, the fragrant rot of the jungle – and there are quite a number of memorable characters and events. I particularly liked the Tamil poisoner, and Chubb’s encounter in the deep jungle with a Malay nobleman whose household mistakes him for an evil spirit. Even when Carey isn’t at his best, he’s still pretty good.

A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2011) 351 p.

There’s a phrase which gets thrown around a bit in creative writing workshops or certain book reviews: “very well-written.” It sounds like a vague compliment, but it’s backhanded. “Very well-written” is a way of saying that while you might respect an author’s technical ability, neither their prose nor their narrative has stirred any feeling in you whatsoever.

A Visit From The Goon Squad is very well-written. It follows the Quirky New Yorkers model of contemporary American fiction rather than the Multi-Generational Immigrant Family Saga model, charting the lives and fates of a group of loosely connected people between the 1970s and the 2020s. In other words it feels like a fractured collection of short stories, with characters disappearing and reappearing years later, the reader never really capable of properly getting to know them. The only author I know who can successfully pull this off is David Mitchell.

There are a couple of decent chapters in here – I quite liked the one about a down-on-her-luck publicist working for an African dictator, and a second-person piece about a young gay man from the South who’s moved to New York – but for the most part I found this book predictable, cliche and forgettable. Not outright bad by any stretch, but certainly not deserving of a Pulitzer.

Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett (2015) 468 p.

Chris Beckett’s award-winning novel Dark Eden was one of the best books I read in 2013: an inventive, enthralling tale of the five hundred inbred descendants of a pair of stranded astronauts on a rogue planet drifting through space, their world an enclosed little valley of eternal night-time, bioluminescent trees and hostile alien fauna. It begins with John Redlantern questioning the stultifying rules and customs of the Family, and taking a band of followers with him out of Circle Valley and across Snowy Dark to further explore Eden; it ends with a violent schism within the Family, and Redlantern’s followers retreating into the much larger wilderness they have discovered.

As much as I liked Dark Eden, I wasn’t particularly interested when I read that Beckett had planned a trilogy. John Redlantern’s story had wrapped itself up very nicely, I thought, and I wouldn’t be interested in reading any further about him. Fortunately, Mother of Eden takes place many generations after the events of Dark Eden, with the descendants of Family having spread further across the planet, founding towns and settlements, introducing things like metalworking, currency, feudalism and slavery; a warped re-enactment of the bleak eras humanity went through on the way to civilisation. Characters from the first book – John, Jeff, Tina and David – have become legendary historical figures to the people of Eden, just as the original astronauts Tommy and Angela were to the characters in the first novel. All of this makes Eden a fascinating place to revisit.

Starlight Brooking, a young girl from an isolated fishing village, is spotted by a prince named Greenstone Johnson while on a rare trip to a bigger town. Greenstone is the great-great-grandson of John Redlantern himself, who fled with his people across the dark sea to a new land after the schism. Smitten with Starlight, Greenstone takes her as his bride, back across the sea to the grander civilisation John Redlantern founded.

And so the story follows that familiar trope, of the country kid suddenly elevated to a position of power, learning to cope with all the wheelings and dealings of political intrigue. It’s Beckett’s fantastic setting that lifts this story above its old pattern, and his thoughtful way of dealing with his themes and concepts, as the long-lost children of Eden struggle to regain some semblance of civilisation. As with Dark Eden, Beckett employs multiple first-person viewpoints, giving us insights into characters who are more complex than they might first appear.

Mother of Eden isn’t quite as subtle as its predecessor. It can feel a little on the nose sometimes – the dialogue somewhat YA, the plot somewhat forced. It’s not quite as good as the more self-contained parable story that Dark Eden was. But it’s still an enjoyable return to one of the most creative fictional worlds of the last few years, and I look forward to the third and final instalment of the trilogy.

(Sidenote: I complained in my review of Dark Eden about the publisher’s miserly decision to switch from a black cover to a white cover for future printings; since then I’ve seen the American covers, which are terrible. This is clearly just a photo of a birch forest with some colour overlays. Chris Beckett’s tremendously creative alien world deserves far better than that.)

Sourcery, by Terry Pratchett (1988) 279 p.
Discworld #5 (Rincewind #3)

I mentioned at the end of my Mort review that I had dim memories of this one. That’s not a damning indictment – I read many of these books in my early teenage years, after all, which was nearly fifteen years ago now. I also have dim memories of, say, Reaper Man and Small Gods, which are widely considered to be Discworld classics. Sourcery, unfortunately, is not.

As we learned in Equal Rites, the eighth son of an eighth son is always born a wizard. Wizards are supposed to be celibate, but in the case of an eighth son of an eighth son himself actually siring eight sons, the result is hugely dangerous: a sourcerer, a wizard of such power that he can create magic rather than simply utilising existing magic. No sourcerer has been seen on the Discworld for aeons, but now one has risen again, and hapless wizard Rincewind finds himself caught in the middle of a titanic struggle for power.

I’d honestly forgotten how much these early Discworld books focused on wizards, and how much Unseen University dominates proceedings. Pratchett would later become a much more serious writer focused on satirising ordinary human society, and so we have characters who are policemen, journalists, industrialists and conmen; even the Witches of Lancre rely more on psychology than actual magic. But Sourcery is very much a book written in the same vein as The Light Fantastic or Equal Rites: a silly story spawned by the Dungeons & Dragons mythos, with lots of stuff about wizards and their staffs and pointy hats and dripping candles and pentagrams, et cetera. It includes a female barbarian warrior who wants to be a hairdresser and the nerdy son of a grocer who wants to be a barbarian warrior. Like the first two novels in the Discworld series (like all Rincewind novels, perhaps) it feels more like a collection of gags strung together into a story rather than a properly coherent novel. The entire thread about the Archchancellor’s hat ultimately comes to nothing, and we find ourselves yet again in a confrontation with the horrible monsters from the Dungeon Dimensions – which was already the climax of both The Light Fantastic and Equal Rites.

This would all be tolerable if the book was hilarious, but most of the jokes fall disappointingly flat. I actually found myself bored while reading it. As G argues at Pratchett Job, Sourcery is the first novel in which it feels as though Pratchett is taking a step backwards, or treading water, rather than improving.

Having said all that, it’s important to note that at this early point in the series Pratchett was churning out Discworld novels at a tremendous pace, possibly because of publisher pressure after the success of The Colour of Magic. The Light Fantastic was published in ’86, Equal Rites and Mort in ’87, and Sourcery and Wyrd Sisters both came out in ’88. That’s five novels in three years, and in between the excellent Mort and Wyrd Sisters, it’s a shame to say that Sourcery feels very much like filler. It’s hard not to sense a publisher breathing down Pratchett’s neck, and an editor glancing at his watch. The result is one of the Discworld series’ weakest and most forgettable books.

A disappointing blip on the radar, of course – next up is Wyrd Sisters, where the Witches arc properly begins.

(Side note: the edition I borrowed from the library is one of the new hardcovers. I like this re-issued series very much, but I must object to the classification used. Gollancz apparently considers Sourcery part of the “Unseen University collection.” If there is such a story arc, then to my mind it doesn’t begin until Mustrum Ridcully is introduced. It’s certainly not the revolving door of unmemorable wizard characters in these early books who mostly exist to tinker with dangerous forces and get killed in horrible ways.)

Discworld Reread Index

Trouble With Lichen by John Wyndham (1960) 204 p.

This one’s similar to Chocky in the sense that it’s one of Wyndham’s overlooked novels, and that although my school library had both of them alongside all the rest, I never read it as a teenager. Possibly both of them failed to capture my imagination the same way as his famous four apocalyptic novels. In any case, I was wrong to avoid Chocky, which is an excellent first contact yarn, but right to avoid Trouble With Lichen, which is a flop.

The novel follows young biochemist Diana Brackley and her mentor Francis Saxover, and a discovery they make which leads to an anti-ageing serum which can extend the human lifespan to beyond two hundred years. Going their separate ways, Saxover develops his in secret and administers it to his children, while Diana – fearful that the government might attempt to outlaw it upon the discovery being made public – establishes an expensive beauty clinic for the wives and daughters of Britain’s influential powerbrokers, in the hope that they’ll exert pressure on their male counterparts when push comes to shove.

It was hard to shake the feeling that this was a sexist book – it isn’t really, but Wyndham is writing from a pre-liberation viewpoint with characters espousing various generalisations which were probably all too true at the time. (And Wyndham always had a habit of writing about the Britain of the 1950s as though it were actually the Britain of his 1920s youth.) It reminded me in that sense of The Midwich Cuckoos; it’s a sort of clueless and unwitting sexism which can mostly (but not entirely) be chalked up to its time, and Wyndham does deserve credit for writing active, intelligent female scientist characters. On the other hand, his constant mockery of various other groups he dislikes (socialists, journalists, the working class, the upper class, the Irish, etc) grew tiresome very quickly. There’s a lot less space for that sort of thing when you’re running from man-eating plants or surviving in a flooded London.

Besides all that, though, Trouble With Lichen is simply not very interesting. It takes until well past the halfway point of the novel for the plot to really get moving, and it’s far more concerned with the lives of its thin characters than the social effects of the anti-ageing serum. Wyndham is one of the century’s greatest science fiction writers, but this is a rare dud – don’t bother.

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson (2015) 466 p.

There’s a famous quote by Russian rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky which is inscribed, among other places, at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington:

“The earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot stay in the cradle forever.”

Yet the stars are too far away. Even if you approach the speed of light it will still take hundreds of years to get there. Thus the old stalwart of science fiction: the generation ship, an enormous self-contained ark in which multiple generations can live and die while their descendants carry on the voyage. The science for a vessel like this is far more feasible than stuff like wormholes or warp drives or hypersleep, so it’s no surprise that the modern master of hard science fiction, Kim Stanley Robinson, chose a generation starship as the setting of his latest novel Aurora.

The ship is unnamed. It consists of two rotating wheels around a central spine, split into twenty-four self-contained environments each a few kilometres long, containing plants and animals from all of Earth’s different biomes. The population hovers around two thousand. The ship has been travelling for 160 years, or about seven generations, and is soon to arrive in the Tau Ceti system, where probes have identified an Earth-like moon suitable for human colonisation.

Given my mixed feelings about Robinson’s Mars trilogy and his more recent novel 2312, I was surprised by how much I was anticipating this one. I spent a lot of time hunting through English-language bookstores while travelling through south-eastern Europe, to no avail, and eventually picked up a copy back here in Australia. I think the reason I looked forward to it so much, despite Robinson’s patchy record, is because it promised to continue to push the envelope. The Mars trilogy focused on the colonisation of our nearest neighbour; 2312 ventured further out to explore the entire solar system; and I was interested, as always, to see Robinson’s imagination take on a voyage out to the next frontier.

What’s fascinating and surprising about Aurora – and I’m going to try to talk about this while avoiding two critical plot twists – is that in many ways, it’s a complete repudiation of Robinson’s previous optimistic, utopian narratives, and even a rejection of the long canon of science fiction space exploration entirely.

Humanity’s expansion to the stars being both desirable and inevitable, as exemplified in the Tsiolkovsky quote I opened with (which also features in the book), is a rarely challenged orthodoxy not just in the science fiction community, but in the broader scientific community as well. It’s an orthodoxy I believe in, one which I thought Robinson believed in, and one which I can safely bet most people picking up a novel about a generation starship by Kim Stanley Robinson believe in. And it’s this orthodoxy which Aurora questions, challenges and entirely re-evaluates over the course of the story.

Robinson is a hard science fiction writer, interested in everything from astrophysics to biology to human sociology, and he attacks the expansionism orthodoxy in ways which are scientifically grounded – within a hypothetical framework, of course. I can’t discuss all of them without spoiling the plot, but one of them is “island biology” or “zoo devolution:” the issues the ship’s inhabitants face in managing such a tiny, cut-off ecosystem, especially given that viruses and bacteria mutate and evolve faster than larger organisms like humans. Another concern, from a social standpoint, is the ethical quandary of condemning thousands of unborn future generations to live their lives sealed inside a small, inescapable environment – an environment which must be tightly controlled in terms of reproduction and freedom of movement, and which inevitably tends towards a dictatorship.

Robinson is, as always, wedded to ideas rather than characters; I can’t remember a single name from 2312, and only in the Mars trilogy, where he had room to properly stretch out, did I feel he managed to write some memorable and well-drawn characters (albeit only about five of them). Aurora doesn’t break this trend – there’s not a single well-sketched human character. There is, fortunately, the best character Robinson has ever written, which is the ship itself. Tasked by the chief engineer with writing a narrative of the vessel’s voyage, the ship effectively has to learn how to tell a story, how to properly understand humans, how to sort relevant information from irrelevant information, and – by the end of the book – how to make decisions without human input. So as well as being a generational spaceship novel, Aurora is a story about an AI gradually becoming self-aware. When problems with the voyage and political schisms within its human population force it to take an active hand in managing their affairs, referring to itself as “the rule of law,” it’s hard not to cheer for it. The ship’s changing narrative voice as it learns, grows and develops into something similar to a human intelligence is a deeply satisfying character arc, and its final monologue towards the end of the novel, in which it reflects on what it has accomplished and how it has found the meaning of its existence, is one of the most affecting and emotional (and terribly sad) passages I’ve ever read in science fiction.

Whether or not Robinson totally agrees with the message he lays down in Aurora is questionable; I don’t believe someone who has devoted this much of his life and work to promoting the colonisation of outer space could have such a road to Damascus conversion. Nor do I agree with the black and white dictum he makes about other worlds and the inability of human enterprise to overcome them. (Again, this is hard to discuss without spoilers.) I, for one, have a certain level of faith in the technological curve and human ingenuity, and in Arthur C. Clarke’s old quote about magic.

But all science fiction novels are products of their time, and we’re no longer in the shiny and optimistic future of the 1960s or even the 1990s. As well as being deeply scientific, Robinson’s writing has always been concerned with questions of ecological, political and social morality. Aurora presents a moral conclusion which, though I might disagree with it, is being put forward because of the situation on Earth as it presently exists, and the problems currently facing the human race. Aurora aims to make us re-evaluate our goals as a species, our attitude towards our lived present, and our position on the spaceship we all occupy already. It’s an excellent book, a very original book, a deeply important book, and one of the best books I’ve read this year.

“Wherever you go, there you are.”

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