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Seveneves

Reviewed by Galen Strickland

With a writer of Stephenson's caliber, even his less than perfect work is better than many others. The only negatives here have more to do with what he doesn't do rather than what he does. It's a long book, nearly 900 pages, but it flows well and reads quickly. However, it should have been longer, in fact should have been at least two novels, if not more. It's hard to tell from the cover image, but the title is one word when it should be two, but the story of the Seven Eves doesn't begin until two-thirds through the book. Then we flash forward 5000 years, and very little of the intervening years are covered in later exposition. He also seemed to forget about a minor subplot, or I missed a brief mention of it, or else we might learn about it if he ever continues this story.

It would be very easy to spoil things if I go into much detail, so I'll have to limit my comments. The setting is the near future, maybe ten years or a little more. The International Space Station is still our only manned presence in space. A mysterious 'agent' (which remains unknown) causes the break-up of the Moon into seven large fragments. I initially thought this was what the title referenced, but it's not. Due to the various sizes and densities of the fragments, gravity causes them to move at different speeds, and the inevitable happens. They begin colliding with each other and breaking up into smaller fragments. The projection is that within two years a lot of the debris will begin falling on Earth. A massive project is undertaken to enlarge the ISS as well as launch other craft that will become habitats for as many people as possible. At the same time, some private groups plan underground shelters. But will that do any good? It is speculated that once the 'Hard Rain' comes, the surface of the Earth will be uninhabitable for thousands of years.

In some ways this is a depressing book, in others it is very inspiring. Man has met many challenges throughout his history, has had high levels of culture fall into ruin, only to rise again. In spite of these lows, there has been a generally steady progession of civilization, culture and technology. But could we survive the destruction of our home planet, or at least as long as it would take before we could return to it? Could humanity survive psychologically, or would depression and suicide be our end? I won't reveal Stephenson's answer to those questions. As much as I would have liked more details, I enjoyed it every step of the way, and I highly recommend you read it for yourself to be dazzled by the ingenuity and resiliency of the human spirit.

 

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Author
Neal Stephenson

Published
2015

Available from amazon.com