Seveneves is about what happens after the moon explodes…well, not exactly. That’s what happens on page one but this is the event that sets the following 879 pages of this epic into motion.
No. As I’m a new recruit to the Watch, I’ll call a mulligan (assuming the Lord Commander allows) and start again.
Seveneves is about the highs of human endeavour and the worst parts of our ingrained instinct to survive…
Ugh, I loved this book so maybe I should review it in a way that’ll actually make people want to read it…take three.
Seveneves is about the problems (physical and emotional, philosophical and psychological) that living in space creates and the science that we can harness to get ourselves off this rock.
Nope, nope, nope. That’s what happens but it’s not what it’s about. Maybe I was hasty in my choice to take The Black…deep breath.
Civilisation is what Seveneves is really about.
It strips humanity right back as far as it can go and then builds it back up again in a number of fascinating, terrifying ways before letting them interact - like putting different strains of a virus into the same petri dish to see what happens. In the past, Stephenson has shown his ability to make hacking into a server feel like a high-octane car chase. He’s taken the intricacies of cryptology and imbued them with the feel of a Las Vegas magic show. This all seems like a warm up to what he manages to do in Seveneves.
High-concept events litter the pages of many a sci-fi novel but the approach taken with such hard science concepts such as Lagrangian Points, whip dynamics, and inter-generational genetics means that they’re explained in such a way that they’re easy to understand. You never feel like things have been dumbed-down. It’s like that moment, about four episodes into The Wire when you realise that you understand all the slang and you’re not turning to the other people you’re watching it with to ask, “What did Barksdale just say?”. And you feel smarter for it.
Despite all the science on display, the heart of the novel lies in the careful characterisation. There’s a the large cast that will occasionally cause you to flip back when a player reappears after a 200 page hiatus, but the core characters stand out in a way that makes you care about them. Unlike the majority of Hollywood disaster movies, you grieve the misfortunes that befall them and sit reading, on the edge of your seat frantically scanning the page, eager to see who survives and how.
And this doesn’t even cover what happens in the second half of the book. I’ve seen some reviews that discuss the final part but if you can, I’d urge you to go in blind. It’s a left turn that I wasn’t expecting. As it dawned on me what had happened, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning that got the GI.Joe with the Kung Fu Grip and a talking Buzz Lightyear.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Neil Stephenson book if it didn’t end suddenly and leaving you wanting more. In this case, I actually wondered if there were some pages missing. Had my dingo of a dog ripped out the final section? After checking a couple of times I physically threw the book down and placed a blood curse on the author if he denies us more stories from the world of Seveneves. There’s such potential there and it really feels like we’ve only just had a taste of life on The Ring.
From the Earth to the Moon meets The Martian via Mass Effect. Don’t be intimidated by the size of the book, there are rewards on every page.
Suspense, surprises, and space travel
An amazing piece of world building
- It feels like Stephenson loves his micro-robots a bit too much at times
- There’s still so much left untold