Friday, January 27, 2017

Review: Seveneves

Seveneves is Neal Stephenson's book about planetary disaster. The premise behind the book is that an unknown agent bursts the moon into the 8 fragments, and the resultant collisions between the fragments eventually comes down on earth as "hard rain," resulting in ecosystem wide destruction and loss of atmosphere and water.

The first part of the book feels a lot like traditional, Heinlein like science fiction, tales of technological feats, derring do. Elon Musk even makes an appearance in the form of an analog. Of course, the events of the past year have probably convinced you that even in the face of impending total disaster and destruction, humans would never behave as nicely as those in a Heinlein novel, and to Stephenson's credit, they don't. Politics abound, intermixed with technical heroics, and humanity is reduced in size as a result of self-serving actions until its not clear that there's going to be humanity left by the end of the book.

This is a typical Neal Stephenson novel: you're going to get massive multi-page info dumps in the middle of a story to explain the technical details behind the technology, which may or may not be interesting to you. If you don't like Stephenson, this novel is not going to change your mind, and in many ways, it's nowhere as interesting as Snow Crash. Characters are caricatures, and the last third of the book is incredibly unbelievable, as we're asked to believe that the remnants of the first part of the book are capable of rebuilding civilization without being at each others' throats over past behaviors.

So: bad science (at least, if the moon were to blow up in such as a way as to kill the Earth, it's unlikely we'd have time to launch any sort of crash survival program!), unbelievable plots, and pretty stereotyped characters. But it's still the most readable Stephenon since Cryptonomicon. Mildly recommended.

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