‘Seveneves’ by Neal Stephenson – a spoiler-free review.

Do you know where the moon is?

And is it still intact?

Within the first few pages of Neal Stephenson‘s ‘Seveneves,’ these become Earth’s biggest and most important questions. But before I get to that, let me make something clear.

sevenevesI had no idea what this book was about when I started reading it. I managed to avoid any reviews, all synopses, even the back-cover copy. I literally did not know what I was getting into. This was not much of gamble, at least to me. I’ve been a fan of Neal Stephenson’s for a long time. I loved ‘Snow Crash,’ and ‘The Diamond Age’ is one of the best sci-fi novels of all time. Why would I bother wondering what his new book was about?

I wasn’t disappointed. Not at all.

The beginning act of ‘Seveneves’ finds Earth in a crisis. A cataclysmic event is about to occur, and Earth’s citizens are scrambling to preserve their history and ensure the survival of the species. During this madness, some of humanity’s ugliness rears its ugly head, but for the most part, ‘Seveneves’ is a record of man’s spirit and indefatigability (I can’t believe I just typed that word).

Some of the book’s content is highly technical. We get into orbital mechanics, space survival, genetics. Much of the book is pages-long infodumps, the sort of thing a less-established author would never get away with. Mr. Stephenson keeps it moving, though, combining the mass amounts of information with insight into the characters’ lives in space. To be honest, I loved the space stuff. I could’ve read a book that was nothing but a Wikipedia-style record of these people’s survival. Mr. Stephenson gives us plenty more than that. This is a novel of immense scope, an epic record of both our ingenuity and our savagery.

I hear they’re gonna make ‘Seveneves’ into a movie. I’d rather read the book again. And I will. You should read it, too.

Special addendum: SPACE!

I always wanted to be an astronaut. My grades sucked, and I’m about as physically fit as a wet bag of grass clippings. Still, I can’t help thinking about life in space. On a space station, on the moon, wherever.

I visit NASA‘s website regularly, especially the ISS sightings page. I like seeing it go over my house. A few weeks ago, I had some friends over to watch ‘The Big Lebowski’ and drink White Russians. When the movie was over, I checked the sightings page and saw that the ISS would be flying over in a few minutes. I gathered everyone outside and we all looked up, waiting.

And after we saw it speed across the sky and disappear into Earth’s shadow, those guys thanked me for showing them that. They liked being reminded that that stuff is up there. So do I. I realize I may not live to see humans go to Mars, or return to the moon, or even leave near-Earth orbit. But I love that those people are up there, working toward future space missions and humankind’s destiny among the stars.

And as soon as I get that rocket built in my backyard, I’m going up there, too!

(To any government agencies that may have read that: Just kidding about the rocket. But you probably already knew that.)


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