20 April, 2021

[Review] Seveneves by Neil Stephenson

Cover image from the goodreads website.

Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Release Date: 19 May, 2015
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Genre: Adult Science Fiction/Alternate Time Line
Edition: Audio CDs/Hardback (also available in audiobook, eBook, and paperback)
Review Written: 14 December, 2020
Warnings: mass death, destruction of the moon, space race
What would happen if the world were ending?

A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain...

Five thousand years later, their progeny -- seven distinct races now three billion strong -- embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown ... to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.

See more by Neal Stephenson at his website.
Read for the Charlotte Sci-Fi Book Club, December 2020 meeting.

Seveneves was an interesting book. Had I been left to my own devices, I don't know that I would have picked it up. The premise is interesting considering the current state of the world. What would happen if the world were ending? One would like to think that there'd be an effort to preserve humanity by shooting them into space or by finding homes below the surface of the earth. In reality, I'm convinced that we'd all be doomed and there'd be no nice unified effort to do anything but nuke each other off as it ends. 

Anyways, Seveneves first portion spends a fair amount of time focusing on the very pretty, and idealistic view that perhaps the world could come together to save the human race. Upon the destruction of the moon by THE AGENT (which you never find out what THE AGENT is), a countdown is started on humanity's time left on Earth. Under the guidance of Doc Dubois, a celebrity scientist akin to Bill Nye, Earth's leaders are forced to face the facts and to accept that the Earth will be under the impact of "Hard Rain" or lunar debris impacting the surface for 5000 years. Which, let's face it, sucks. 

The solution? Shoot as much as you can into space and hope the human race survives. Starting with the current crew on the International Space Station, the ISS begins to grow into a massive network of tubes and modules to support the growing population in space. At the end of the part one, there are 1500 people in space ranging from older people established in their fields and "arkies" who are teenagers sent up to help with the bio-diversity of the population. Unfortunately, as things tend to follow Murphy's Law, things go terribly wrong. From the Former President of the United States (who I'm sorry, I just wanted to punch a witch in the face for the entire time she was present in the book) turning up in space when she wasn't supposed to be there, to her staging a coup with more than half of the Arkies, things go wrong. Towards the end of part two, there are only 8 people left, all women. Of them, 7 are of an age where they can still have children. With the help of Moira Crewe, a geneticist who becomes one of the Seven Eves, the seven fertile women create new races of human beings who live in space.

Fast-forwards 5000 years, and we have 7 distinct races in Space, each named after their "eve". 4 of the 7 get along well with each other, while the other 3 have banded together resulting in a cold-war like status among the Spacers. This section felt very disjointed from the rest of the book (could have been a novella?) and ultimately leads to the discovery of at least 2 races that survived on Earth, the diggers (descendants of Eve Dinah's family that were left on Earth) and the pingers (descendants of an underwater ark system similar to the space cloud-arc where Eve Ivy's former fiancĂ© Cal was. 

I liked this book a lot, though again I feel like part 3 could have been it's own book. I did have a complaint with the audiobook. The narrator changes between parts 2 and 3, and it threw me off. While I loved the imagery of the book, many times the description of the situation took a bit too long for me. Overall, I enjoyed this book and would potentially read more of Neal Stephenson's books in the future.

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