Aurona, by BB Prescott - a short review
All, I am posting this here first... @clash_bowley could you check with your brother he is OK with me posting it to Amazon/Goodreads?
Aurona, by BB Prescott, is a Young Adult science fiction book - the blurb suggests ages 12 and up, which seems about right as a starting age, though I feel that older teens might not be so interested. It is fast-paced, with a plot that takes the reader from Earth, via a journey of several centuries spent in hibernation, to the planet Aurona, on which many other adventures await. While there, they discover a reliable way to time-travel, so that if they wanted to all go home again (and it's not clear whether they do or not) they won't have lost well over a millennium of Earth's history. It was an exciting read, which kept me absorbed through to the end.
The YA nature of the book shows in the level of vocabulary expected, and the depth of interpersonal relationships. All this is fine, and the book makes no attempt to pretend to be anything other than it is - an upbeat and optimistic look at a possible future, introducing scientific concepts and ideas at an appropriate level. I personally would have found it interesting to explore the same concept in a more adult way, but BB Prescott remains consistent in his approach. The occasional line drawings add an unusual and engaging dimension to the story.
The book stands in the long tradition of space opera, and more than once I was reminded of EE (Doc) Smith's Skylark series. Here, as there, an older race with advanced technology is able to tutor humans, who assimilate the lessons blindingly quickly, and soon surpass their teachers in both power and scope. The older race has the knowledge, but has lost the capacity to enjoy it - the Earthlings are able to restore a sense of fun and joie de vivre. But not too much fun: whether because of the 12-year old age target, or the preferences of the Christian publishers, nothing really wild or risque occurs. As one of the characters is careful to tell the reader, "no hanky-panky I assure you, just best friends".
Again like Skylark, the science is light-hearted and consistently positive in its non-stop introduction of technological wonders - nothing, it seems, is too difficult a technical problem to be resolved. Unlike Smith's writings, however, Aurona wraps itself firmly around Christian themes and prehistory. This is done in an oblique and light-handed manner: some people will enjoy and appreciate this, and no doubt others won't.
An area where I thought more depth could have been introduced was with reference to the lack of crew diversity. Certainly there are crew members from different social backgrounds, including very difficult ones. But national and religious diversity is missing, and there is an overall impression of uniformity in the people described. One wonders why 350 people are needed, since neither the plot nor the workings of the spaceship require such a number. Gender reactions and assumptions seem very conventional - as is commented at one point, "the crew was divided right down the gender line in their reactions". So is the book. Among so many men and women, only a handful emerge as distinct personalities, or establish close and intimate relationships with each other. Almost all of the character development is focused on the leader, Adam, and his immediate subordinates.
Judging the book in terms of what it sets out to do, and its capacity to achieve it for the intended audience, this seemed to me a 5* book - the impact on me personally was 4*. It has pace and imaginative sweep, and some intriguing insights on future science. As mentioned, I do feel that older teens or adults would chafe at the lack of relational depth. It's probably a book that could captivate and inspire a young person if they encountered it at exactly the right age. I'd happily read another book by BB Prescott, but next time I'd hope for a more adult storyline.
And here are a few extra thoughts on gaming, separate to the review...
I didn't get much sense that there is an easy game to be had here - the settings seems to diverse, and the story moves too quickly between them. The planet Aurona, with its unusual and diverse biology, might well lend itself to a context. There are what one would probably called psychic or psionic powers, but it wasn't clear to me how far these could be separated into particular talents, or whether they were just a seamless cluster of abilities. There are certainly explorations of different environments - above and below ground - but the narrative largely rewards a gung-ho strategy rather than analysis and thought!