TLDR; Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson provides valuable perspective on how difficult it is for us to colonize other planets
Growing up I wanted to be an astronaut and I know many others who did. It’s not surprising in the least then, that Elon Musk is so revered & Jeff Bezos wants his lasting legacy to be space & not the everything store.
I’ve read my share of space operas that fetishize space travel and have multi-planetary protagonists & plotlines. There’s hard sci-fi like Tau Zero or more recently Project Hail Mary & there’s a tonne of other themes sociology (The Hainish Cycle), war (Starship Troopers, The Forever War, Ender’s Saga), politics (Dune), colonization (JEM) and much more.
I got started with Aurora expect it to be more of the same, except it wasn’t.
Aurora has its share of problems – character development is not ideal, there are verbose, somewhat technical descriptions that appear in places where they shouldn’t, the plot meanders unpredictably and there is a disconcerting lack of closure at the end of the book.
But what Aurora does unequivocally through it’s eminently credible narrative is explaining how difficult & improbable terraforming a Class M planet is.
If you feel at home on planet Earth, that is because you’ve evolved to survive it over 3 billion years. Life as we know it on this planet is delicate. It takes just a minor imbalance in the composition of our atmosphere to precipitate climate change at a scale that could displace billions of us and wipe out life at a grand scale.
Our chances of surviving and thriving post a nuclear holocaust or equivalent dystopia most definitely surpass our odds at being able to travel to a Class M planet and set ourselves up to survive there for any meaningful period of time.
Our only hope is to make things work at home, on the one planet whose resources we’ve evolved to exploit successfully.
Whether your idol is Elon Musk or Greta Thunberg, I would advocate Aurora as essential reading to build much needed perspective on how difficult it will be for us to become a truly multi-planetary species and the importance of respecting and preserving what we’ve got.