Bookshots: 'Seveneves' by Neal Stephenson
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
Who wrote it?
Neal Stephenson, author of Snow Crash and other acclaimed works of speculative fiction.
Plot in a Box:
After the moon explodes and the resulting cloud of rocks threatens to rain fiery death upon the Earth, the space-faring nations of the world scramble to turn the International Space Station into the last ark of humanity, ferrying our cultural and genetic heritage to the stars. While they survive the end of civilization, the crew of the ISS is unprepared to face a threat far greater than flaming cosmic debris: human nature.
Invent a new title for this book:
Seven Eves. It’s honestly a pretty perfect title, it just needs a space.
Read this if you liked:
If you’re a fan of Neal Stephenson and what he does, this won’t disappoint you. If you’re not, this book is unlikely to convince you.
Meet the books lead(s):
Dinah MacQuarrie: robotics engineer and asteroid mining pioneer who can’t believe she survived the end of the world and is going to be one of the mothers to humanity’s future.
Doc Dubois: serious scientist and beloved television personality, Doc was the first to discover Earth’s impending doom and a big part of literally getting the Cloud Ark project off the ground.
Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:
Charlize Theron and Denzel Washington
Setting: Would you want to live there?
While the space station and later the massive world-spanning habitat ring are fascinating marvels of engineering, none of the characters really love living cooped up in giant cans.
Neal Stephenson is one of those authors who is frequently classified as “speculative” rather than “science” fiction. What he’s great at is taking a big, crazy idea and making it sound plausible down to the most minute details. Seveneves pictures how the human race of today would react to a ticking doom clock with pragmatic realism—the biggest stretch of the imagination are the robots used to mine the asteroid, but they will only sound more and more possible with the passage of years. Even when the narrative fast-forwards 5000 years, the technology employed by the descendants, while fanciful and futuristic, is always grounded in some solid science.
And Stephenson will explain it all to you, at length. Like the rest of his books, Seveneves is a hefty tome thick with information dumps. I tend to forgive this indulgence because they range from fascinating to tedious, and you will definitely learn something reading one of his novels. While his exhaustive descriptions of the space habitats kept me enthralled, the detailed accounts of every shift in orbital mechanics got a bit tiresome. After the story shifts to the distant future, Seveneves begins to read even more like a textbook than a novel, as the well-developed and likable characters from the first half are replaced by cardboard mouthpieces spouting exposition about the future. A rather interesting premise about our descendants trying to reconnect with us ends up just feeling like an extended epilogue to the voyage of the ISS. Seveneves is an intriguing trip through some strange and complicated places, but it will suffer from comparison to Stephenson’s previous work. Its not a bad book, we just have published proof that he can do better.
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