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Book Review: Aurora, when the lights went out

By Robert McCool

When a monster solar coronal mass ejection (CME) strikes the Earth it destroys all of the power grids in the world, leaving our Earth in the literal dark as the electricity disappears worldwide. This is what  occurs in David Koepp's second book titled Aurora (ISBN 978-0-06-291647-1). Koepp is the screenwriter of many popular movies, including the first two Jurassic Park releases, Mission: Impossible, and War of the Worlds,  plus many more, some of which he also directed.

In this page-turner Koepp focuses on a particular family, split by two distant locations. Aubrey Wheeler is in Aurora, Illinois, a suburban single ex-wife and stepmother of her ex's child from a previous marriage. The ex is an obnoxious gambler and drug user who refuses to go away after the divorce. His son is an obnoxious fifteen-year-old Scott who hates everything including his father, while taking up space and dishing out his hatred to everyone, especially Aubrey, though he refuses to move out of her house.

On the other side of the continent lives Aubrey's estranged billionaire brother who has prepared a disused Minute Man missile silo in the middle of the desert as a “safe refuge” in the event of a disaster such as the one happening right now.

The book focuses upon the two sides of this family and how they cope with the new reality of a modern dark ages.

Aubrey, who is not a disaster prepper, struggles with the responsibility of Scott and some of the neighbors with whom she has a connection. Even going to the grocery to prepare for an uncertain future is a self-defeating chore that she shares with Scott's holier-than-thou drenched assistance. Still, she finds a way to normalize life as much as she can.

Meanwhile, her brother Thom, a Silicon Valley billionaire, has his hands full collecting the already committed professionals who will help him live the life he has grown accustomed to. He sends a quarter of a million dollars to Aubrey and pleads for her to come share his bunker, which she declines, as she wants nothing to do with her brother's help.

Bad guys develop, all after the money Thom has sent to his sister. Death occurs.

And Audrey joins in with a neighbor converting his lawn to a vegetable garden that will produce the food they desire, as they toil and till the rich earth..

How Audrey and Thom resolve their differences and come together in the end is a satisfying place to end their story.

Later, the power resumes in a reduced state. It is all happiness for the remaining characters, with a hope fulfilled.

I recommend this quick read as entertainment for the lighter summer days ahead; perhaps as a beach read. The characters feel solid in their roles and the plot moves like sighing waves slapping the shore. There is that inevitability to think about: what we would save if the world collapsed around us?