Robinson gets good reviews from Scientific American, Science, and other hard science sources. His educational background, however, is in writing, not science. Perhaps this is why I was surprised that this novel seemed too heavy on the science jargon and too light on the storytelling. It is the story of the first interstellar flight of settlers, destined for a multi-generational trip to the Tau Ceti star system where they are to terraform and settle Aurora, an Earth-like planet there.
The author has conjured up some interesting and mostly credible characters that we follow throughout the book, despite the hurdles of time passage. The narrative is created by the AI that controls the ship and even calls itself ship. The setting is hundreds of years in the future. The central character is Theya, a child at the beginning of the book, much older at the end. For reasons unknown, the author chose to make her taller than anyone else on the ship, over two meters (at least six foot six) but her height became irrelevant and wasn’t mentioned in the second half of the book. She was also a slow learner, not very bright, scientifically ignorant, and somehow became the leader of the mission. (Remind you of anyone?)
The plot was interesting enough, but slow to develop. The author must have been paid by the word, like Dickens or Trollope. He was rather pedantic, too, choosing never to use a simple word like rut or gulch if there was a technical or scientific term for it. Use of robotic arms was waldo work. Every disease had to have the precise medical term for it, somebody’s syndrome, etc., rather than the common one. It made the reading rather tedious. There was an excess of every kind of babble – psycho-, techno-, medico-, and socio-.
It’s clear the author is promoting a certain pro-environmentalist world view, and part of the message is the harm we may do if we don’t straighten up our act here on earth. The book will appeal to hard SF fans with patience.