by Kim Stanley Robinson, 2015

Book Review by Ray Herrmann

The storyline is about a people leaving Earth in a multi-terrain spaceship, run by an AI computer around year 2500 to populate a star system 11 light years away. 170 years and 6 or 7 generations later they arrive. Yet this is so much more than a futuristic story, as the scenario also serves as a background with which to explore the inconsistencies of human nature.

The author is a genius in understanding and elaborating how human nature works and how political movements and power grabs form. Published in 2015, as fictional story, it is ruled by how people think to such an extent that it even describes the behavior of some people today (including the recent violent attack on Congress of January 6, 2021). It also suggests reasonable ways to deal with them.

Another theme here, which is subtly developed is a plausible scenario of how an Artificial Intelligence (AI) computer could evolve a "consciousness" much like our own. Indeed, the meaning of consciousness is explored throughout the book as the computers that run the ship are encouraged (i.e. verbally programmed, by the character, Devi) to examine their past history and to develop better solutions.

As are probably with all his books, this story is both riveting and informative. It was hard to set down!