Spoiler Book Review: Seveneves by Neil Stephenson

The last Neil Stephenson book I read, I didn't finish. It was Cryptonomicon. I know that is a favorite of many of his fans but for whatever reason, I just couldn't slog through the rest. If you think Stephen King can prattle on with pages of exposition, I'm not sure he has anything on Neil.

Of course, Neil wrote probably the best cyberpunk novel of all time (sorry Neuromancer fans) in Snow Crash. That was such a fun and inventive book that was unlike anything else I had read at the time. I still haven't had the nerve to tackle Neil's Baroque Cycle, though, I do plan on reading it one day.

[Spoilers from here on out] When I heard the premise of this book, something clicked in me because I knew it was a subject Neil could take on and make very interesting. Seveneves is about the moon suddenly exploding into seven different pieces by some unknown agent. Shortly afterward, two of the rocks collide to make an eighth one. Following that event, scientists realize that the rocks of the moon will keep running into each other at an exponential rate. Eventually, trillions of these will fall toward the earth and burn up in our atmosphere and essentially light the sky on fire. The face of the Earth will be sterilized in two years and there is nothing they can do to stop it.

The solution they come up with is to send lottery-selected people up to the ISS in "Arks" that will act as a swarm that can move out of the way when asteroids threaten to hit them, like a school of fish evading a predator. The hope is that humanity can survive in orbit for the thousands of years the Earth will remain uninhabitable.

The book has three parts: The first deals with getting ready up in space before the "Hard Rain;" the second deals with the catastrophic event and it's immediate aftermath; and the third shoots forward 5,000 years later.

I felt like the first two parts were the strongest of the story. There's political bullshit that goes on, even in space under such dire circumstances, and it feels all too plausible as to why and how it happens.

Part two gets pretty dark when the ramifications of said politics prove devastating and almost wipe out humanity.

Part three is interesting more from a possible future engineering point of view rather than from story. It was a long book and I did feel like it drifted into exposition hell a few times, especially in part three, but the overall story and writing are good enough to carry you through those parts.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to those who enjoy hard science fiction. I give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

What did you think about it?

David