I have a confession to make.
I am deeply in love with audio books. Most of the time, physical or e-books can’t factor into my daily life. I work full time 9-5, Monday through Friday. Then I go home and work full time some more. I commute for about an hour and a half daily. Now, I am also a student taking night classes. In order to get my book fix, I typically use Audible. It’s great. I can listen on the part of my commute without children, and I can listen while working at my desk. At night, when my brain is fried and my eyes can’t focus on a single thing, I can listen in my living room after the kids go to bed. So, audiobooks have saved my sanity.
There are some books that seem like they were meant for Audible. Books with multiple narrators being one of them. I have just finished up listening to Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, and the narration is one of the components that made this book so much fun.
This is a science fiction book set over 200 years in the future. Humans (aka Terrans) have discovered a way to make space travel much faster by using a phenomenon known as “the Fold”, and by using the fold they have joined the Milky Way’s galactic community and co-exist with various alien species. Some are allies, and some are hostile. Tyler Jones is a graduating cadet of the Aurora Academy, and very much looking forward to “Draft Day”, where he can personally select his fellow cadets as his flight crew. After graduation, the cadets become Legionnaires in the Aurora Legion, a neutral military force, similar to the UN Peace Keepers.
Unable to sleep, Tyler breaks a rule, and slips out onto a ship to clear his mind. His ship ends up in the Fold, where he comes across a ship that has long been thought to have completely disappeared on it’s way to colonize a new planet over 200 years prior. Tyler’s gear detects a single living life form on the ship, so he goes to investigate. Aboard the ghost ship, among thousands of cryogenically frozen corpses, a lone girl sleeps undisturbed in her cryo-chamber (more on her later). Tyler is a hero type character, so of course he saves the girl, but in turn misses his draft. His sister and best friend refused to join any other team but his, but he also has the misfits that no body else would pick.
Our frozen girl, Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley has woken to a vastly different universe, and finds out that she is technical over 200 years old, and everyone that she loved has passed away. Once a cartography intern on her way to map out a new planet with her father, she is now the lone survivor. To make matters more confusing, she seems to have picked up the talent of telekinesis and seeing the future. As word of Aurora’s survival gets out, she becomes the #1 target of Earth’s Global Intelligence Agency (GIA), and she escapes the Aurora Academy by stowing away on Tyler’s outbound ship.
Aurora Rising can best be described as a Space Opera. The plot is filled with conspiracies, romance, a heist, and a crash course in galactic politics. Each chapter is narrated by members of Squad 312, as well as Aurora. While the each character comes from a different background and has different personal goals, the story follows the same linear narrative of solving the mystery of Aurora, her powers, what happened to the colony, and why the hell does the GIA want her dead?
Full disclosure- I do not really like most sci-fi, but space operas are like catnip to me. If it is really well done, the elements of the plot become less cheesy and much more believable and engrossing. This book accomplished that. There is a lot of snarky humor, but thankfully that balances out with genuine emotions. I also enjoyed that the legionnaires were over the age of 18, which makes a lot of their actions more believable. Sometimes in YA, it is really hard to imagine 16 year olds pulling off a heist and sneaking into galas run by gangsters without being noticed, because they look like teenagers. So I guess this book probably falls into the New Adult category as well.
This book worked for me on so many different levels. I think that might be due to this being read by a full cast. With a full cast, each character is read by a different narrator, and this fleshes out the characters that much more. When Ace pilot Cat falls out with the crew, instead of reading her despair and frustration, you can really hear it. Sometimes, really well done voice acting can illuminate a book’s world better than reading it on page. Aurora Rising accomplishes this. By the middle of the book, I found myself really rooting for the band of misfits. There are elements in the plot that deal with grief and loss, jealousy, prejudice, and disability. As some of the characters are different species, there is also a lot of cross-cultural learning.
The world building in Aurora Rising was pretty well done. The reader is thrown straight into a space world far into the future, but the transition wasn’t too clunky. Each chapter begins with a definition of the types of crew members, diplomatic relations, and certain species types which is narrated by Aurora’s snarky uniglass (think Siri/ Alexa). This works for me because it gets the wordy explanations out of the way so that the chapter can dive right into the plot.
Aurora Rising isn’t perfect, there are some plot holes, and other elements that I felt were unnecessary, but that gets heavily drowned out by the fact that the book is so much damn fun. There are some days where the world gets too loud, too bright, and too overwhelming. If you need to tune out and leave Earth for a while, Aurora rising will get you there.
Rating- 4 1/2 out of 5 Ultrasaurs
You can pick up Aurora Rising here: