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In March, Netflix announced a film adaptation of David Koepp’s latest novel, AURORA. Koepp is a celebrated screenwriter, so it’s only natural that his story may end up being acted out on screen.

The book follows Aubrey Wheeler during a post-COVID solar storm that disrupts electricity to most of the world for many months. Aubrey lives with her ex-husband’s 15-year-old-son, Scott, and they find themselves surprisingly well equipped to survive. Less prepared for survival are Scott’s father, Rusty, and Aubrey’s brother, Thom. Rusty and Thom actually make the dark months more dangerous for Aubrey and Scott as they try to adjust to a world in which civilization is at risk of total collapse.

"With smooth writing, solid plotting, great characters and a compelling premise, AURORA is a thrilling, action-packed yet thoughtful book that you will want to immerse yourself in."

Perry St. John, a researcher who monitors solar events at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is one of the first to notice the impending coronal mass ejection, which is big enough to catastrophically mess with electrical systems across the globe. He calls his mentor, retired physics professor and solar scientist Norman Levy, in Aurora, Illinois. Norman’s quick study yields the same results: the world must prepare for this event as soon as possible.

Aubrey and Scott are Norman’s neighbors on Cayuga Lane. Aubrey runs a conference business that pivoted to online events during the pandemic. She has continued to step-parent Scott ever since he refused to leave with his father when she and Rusty split up. The uneasy but pragmatic partnership between Aubrey and Scott deepens as the CME looms and then becomes a reality. They have to prepare for the worst while also keeping the devious and dangerous Rusty out of their way. Scott brings his girlfriend, Celeste, to live with them, and the trio keeps an eye on the sweet and wise Norman after the electricity is gone. As time goes on, Aubrey leads her block to a vision of cooperation and sustainability that verges on idyllic.

As Aubrey does her best to take care of Scott, Celeste and her neighbors, she also must manage her precarious long-distance sibling relationship. Thom is a genius tech billionaire who has been doomsday prepping for years. Whereas she and the others on Cayuga Lane try to ration their water and canned goods, he has relocated to a state-of-the-art survival bunker with his wife, children and a carefully selected staff.

But Thom realizes almost immediately that he has lost control of the situation for which he spent years preparing. His wife wants nothing to do with him, and his staff chooses to take their chances in the increasingly dystopian landscape rather than stay in his employ. And Thom is really worried about Aubrey. After a disastrous attempt to help her and a frightening phone call, he drives cross-country to check on her and Scott, knowing that he is coming into a perilous situation and hoping to pay off a decade's old debt.

AURORA is an exciting disaster-adventure novel, but Koepp infuses it with a remarkable tenderness for some of his characters. Aubrey is tough and smart, Scott and Celeste are an unexpected look at teen romance, and the relationship between Aubrey and Thom is complicated in interesting ways, even though Thom is occasionally a caricature more than a character. Norman steals every scene in which he appears; he is, in many ways, the heart of the novel.

Koepp subtly addresses current anxieties about climate, violence and economic disparities without moralizing, resulting in an astute and entertaining outing. With smooth writing, solid plotting, great characters and a compelling premise, AURORA is a thrilling, action-packed yet thoughtful book that you will want to immerse yourself in.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on June 17, 2022

by David Koepp

  • Publication Date: June 6, 2023
  • Genres: Dystopian, Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0062916483
  • ISBN-13: 9780062916488