Monday, August 31, 2015

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

Without warning or explanation, the moon has just exploded. Scientists calculate that within 2 years, a “Hard Rain” of debris will exterminate all life on earth. Humanity marshals its resources and modifies the International Space Station, “Izzy,” into a new Ark. A world-wide lottery of a few thousand lucky(?) souls, DNA samples and as much equipment as can be assembled, are sent to the station where they hope to ride out the 5000 year cataclysm. 

Thus begins Seveneves, the latest epic novel of ideas by Neal Stephenson. The nearly 800-page story is divided into two parts. At first the space colonists struggle to survive against accidents, radiation poisoning, and even civil war. After years watching the earth turn to a glowing orange ball, only seven women are left alive: the Seveneves. 

5000 years have passed and the descendent of the original seven survivors have diverged into seven distinct, often antagonistic, races. Over the millennia, inhabitants of the orbital Ring have begun re-terraforming New Earth. Rogue settlers have also established a toehold on the slowly recovering planet. 

Seveneves is a tour de force in what some have called speculative fiction. As a novel of ideas rather than characters, Neal Stephenson has created an almost clinically terrifying examination of the plausible. The reactions of the colonists as they watch the earth succumb to bombardment moved me to consider what I would do if I knew that I and everyone around me had two years to live. And yet, it was also comforting to know that in the future, buying a real paper book before a long journey was not just a luxury because, “nothing was worse than getting stuck in a situation like that with nothing to read.” 

Neal Stepehnson’s Seveneves is a powerfully moving ride from the present into the distant future. Sit back and enjoy the ride. 

And you can reserve it here.

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