I didn’t know my Star Trek loving heart was waiting for The Aurora Cycle books until I read the first one. It’s been four long years since we were treated to Chris Pine as Captain Kirk and I was craving the camaraderie of the Enterprise crew, epic-space romances that only this 50-plus-year-old fandom could produce and the spectacular mayhem that only Jim Kirk’s genius could provoke.
Enter The Aurora Cycle Books by powerhouse team Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.
Together, they soothed the ache I felt for new Star Trek movies (I’ll binge Discovery one day, but I can’t get into another TV show at the moment). Their explosive sequel, Aurora Burning, gave me the most Trek vibes, as Squad 312 dodges galactic law-enforcement, bounty hunters and a particularly headstrong Syldrathi warrior. When we last saw them, they were shocked from the loss of one of their own and burdened with the knowledge that a a vicious ancient parasite capable of destroying the galaxy was already spreading throughout the ‘verse. And they may be the only ones willing and able to stop it—thanks to Aurora’s new status as the trigger of a weapon powerful enough to take out the threat.
The book follows a high-octane plot across the galaxy and every chapter became harder to put down. My heart happy sighed as I balanced the new normal—social distancing life—with this welcome reading escape. It was the perfect distraction to quarantine woes.
I was delighted to find that the Syldrathi’s are obviously Vulcan analogs—all the way down to the “pull” they experience for their “Be’shmai” (t’hy’la much?). The Squad distinctions match the Starfleet tracks, though I like the names of Squad 312’s roles better. Who wouldn’t want to be a Face instead of a Communications Officer? But you don’t need to be a Trek fan to enjoy this romp. The unique voices of the six crew members (plus Aurora) provide a foundation for the crew’s bond that really shines through the book. It’s easy to find yourself deep in the Squad 312 fan club, enough that you wish you could join the Aurora Legion and suit up with them yourself. I could read an entire book of the easy banter that the Squad shares. There’s a particularly lovely scene, the calm before the fold-storm, so to speak, where the Squad plays a dice game after waking up from nightmares. This slice of life among the action early on in the book was a balance for the intensity that only Amie and Jay could deliver.
I also find it hard in books with ensembles to really get behind a specific character. Usually I find myself rushing through certain chapters because the characters and their specific actions seem extraneous and unnecessary. However, Amie and Jay create a group of characters that are no longer together but each feel purposeful in their role in the overall story. I found myself deeply wishing I could get more glimpses of them from their time in the Aurora Academy or flashbacks and anecdotes because this cast of characters is fascinating and well-written. It speaks to Amie and Jay’s strengths as writers and collaborators that each member of the Squad feels like they belong. It’s even hard to pick out your favorite, though for me, that changed a few times. Although, can I cheat and say I love them all equally? Especially because despite being space disasters and the misfits of their Academy (with the exception of Tyler, the golden boy and Aurora who didn’t actually go there), they’re all ridiculously competent at their jobs. I love the bits where Scar charms someone, Zila is brilliant, and Tyler shows off his strategic know-how. Bonus points for Finian’s much-needed comic relief throughout the books. And I loved Saedii for being fierce and terrifying, another formidable character in the series.
I’ll also say that I went into this book expecting one thing and being happily surprised by a nice plot development early on. (No spoilers but it involves what was in the vault.) I would have accepted a book about the crew coming into their own as galactic fugitives just fine, but by adding deep conspiracies and mystery onto that space sundae, I happily devoured it and the cherry on top. Amie and Jay are good at layering these unexpected moments so that their readers can still be happily stunned by new developments.
I don’t want to spoil anything because that would be rude. (Readers of this review, who also enjoyed the book, should find me on Twitter so we can discuss.) I could only urge you to read the series (or listen, as the audiobooks are fabulously narrated by a full cast and are wonderful). It’s a wild (starship) ride and one that is worth every moment spent listening or reading. Especially now when we could all use a bit of an escape. I promise that it’s worth it.