Seveneves

Well, it took me just under two weeks to read this nearly 900-page saga about the end of the world and what that world – and human civilization – might be like 5,000 years later.

And I enjoyed it. There’s a lot I’ll remember. What I won’t remember, though, are the characters. With a couple of exceptions, they barely register because people aren’t really what this book is about. What you get here, in page after page of highly readable prose, is Neal Stephenson’s fascination with the science of survival. The how and the what, not the who. So we learn about delta-vees; the use of asteroids as protection for the ISS; shifting orbits; designing living quarters in space; building cities off-earth and travelling between them… The book is practically a disquisition on what all this would look like and what it would take to achieve it.

So if you’re expecting something along the line of Niven and Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer – and moments as gripping as the surfer riding a tsunami into Los Angeles – you’ll be disappointed. In Seveneves, the earth is destroyed in less than a page. No attention is given to what the people who don’t make it into space feel. Or experience. And any action that does happen off-earth is all over fast. Because this isn’t an end-of-the-world adventure; it’s a building-a-new-world-in-space story, where Science sits in the driver’s seat and Character sits in the back and asks if they’re nearly there yet.

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