What could be worse than a pandemic? How about a solar storm that knocks out power all over the world? A coronal mass ejection (CME) struck in 1859, but the chaos it created did little more than destroy telegraph systems, which were easily and quickly repaired. Technological advances might make all our lives easier, but also leave us vulnerable to a massive power shutdown that can disrupt all aspects of our lives.
While David Koepp’s Aurora creates a doomsday scenario, after the power goes down the focus switches to the humans involved, specifically Aubrey Wheeler and her brother, Thom Banning. Aubrey who lives in Aurora, Illinois, has split from her loser husband, Rusty, only to be left with his angry teenage son, Scott. Even though she is struggling financially, Aubrey refuses to accept help from her billionaire brother. She also refuses to take his concerns seriously when he warns about the coming CME disaster. Talking to the experts, Thom believes that the West Coast will be without power for four to six months, while the rest of the country could suffer for 18 months.
David Koepp (Photo Credit: Claudette Barius)
Thom has prepared well, building what is essentially a mini city contained in a fortified silo. Days before the shutdown, Thom, his wife, Ann-Sophie, and their children, take a private plane to Provo, Utah. Along with his family, Thom has offered sanctuary to some friends, as well as those, like doctors, whose help will be needed during a long time in isolation. But he’s upset when he realizes his pilot, Marques, has brought along his family. “I thought you were single,” Thom tells him. He responds, “I was, then I wasn’t.” But Thom relents when Ann-Sophie insists they all stay. Thom’s marriage to Ann-Sophie is on shaky grounds, and he’s hoping this time together will lead to a reconciliation.
Thom sends Brady, one of his most trusted employees who has the intellect and muscle to handle difficult problems, with $250,000 for Aubrey. The journey is tough and dangerous. With gas stations running out of fuel and store shelves empty, people are desperate enough to resort to violence. Brady has to use his skills to stay safe. And his errand could be for nothing if Aubrey refuses the money and he has to return to Provo.
For Aubrey, besides dealing with Scott, her biggest challenge is keeping Rusty away from her and his son. But when he gets a whiff of the money being delivered to Aubrey, he becomes more dangerous than the CME. Aubrey, however, finds strength she didn’t know she had. She’s the catalyst behind the neighborhood’s fight for survival, taking care of others and spearheading a victory garden. Scott and his girlfriend get involved and he and Aubrey truly become a family.
Thom also has an epiphany. Having money, even billions, can’t take the place of family. He needs to make things right with his sister and he risks his own life to do just that.
While Aurora is fiction, Koepp raises the possibility that the world is due for another CME, a catastrophic event that happens every 150 years. Are we living on borrowed time? Something else to keep us up at night.
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