Aurora: A Child of Two Worlds by David A. Hardy (book review).

There are many authors whose artistic skills are practically zero, though they may think otherwise. Some artists are unable to write coherently. There is however, a small band of professional people who can do both. One of these is Freda Warrington. Another is David Hardy. While Freda concentrates more on her writing and employs her artistic talents secondarily, David Hardy is better known as an astronomical artist. The cover ‘Aurora’, with its limited colour palette, is an excellent example of his work.

The novel itself is a revised version of the volume originally published in 2003. It opens in dramatic fashion during a German air raid on London during the Second World War where baby Aurora is a miraculous survivor of a direct hit. Since the book takes place over eighty years, Hardy does not fall into the trap of trying to relate the whole of Aurora’s life and only describes the highlights. This includes an episode when she is briefly the star of a rock group. (This section of the book was originally published as a short story in ‘Orbit Magazine’ in 1986.) At this time, she is beginning to believe that there is something weird about her. She never gets ill – in fact, she was an unexpected survivor of the crash that killed her mother – and appears much younger than her chronological age.

Most of the answers to the mysteries in the first fifty pages are resolved in the final two-hundred. By 2028, Aurora has changed her name, adjusted her credentials and got herself onto the first manned mission to Mars. Although actually seventy-eight, she passes for thirty-five and is accepted for what her credentials say she is, a geologist with an interest in astronomical art. Two important story arcs are played out in the confined circumstances of the expedition. The first concerns Aurora’s abilities which are not confined to her longevity. The second, the discovery of artefacts of an advanced technology. These two arcs come together at the end of the book.

Hardy can probably best be described as a traditional exponent of hard Science Fiction – the emphasis is on the technology and the scientific discoveries that come from the hard graft of exploration. He doesn’t neglect other areas, hinting at developments in biology and certainly does not dismiss what others might call pseudo-sciences such as dowsing and telepathy giving them roles within his projected future. While many authors would have taken a plot outline similar to this and padded it out to doorstop thickness with detailed angst and emotional upsets between the principal characters, Hardy prefers to keep this mostly off-stage. Like Arthur C. Clarke, his focus is on the technology and the sense of wonder to be found by looking outwards and exploring the universe rather than inwards and following others in an exploration of the psyche.

In this revised volume, Hardy has updated the text in line with developments and discoveries since first publication. With a renewed interest in the exploration of Mars, this book will be worth looking at by readers who like the spare style of such old masters as Clarke.

Pauline Morgan

(pub: Borgo Press. 262 pages enlarged paperback $14.99 (US), £9.99 (UK).. ISBN: 978-1-4344-4500-1)
check out website: www.astroart.org/
Interview link: http://sfcrowsnest.org.uk/interview-with-david-a-hardy

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