Sunday, April 23, 2017

Book Review: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

The epic Hugo-nominated sci-fi thriller from acclaimed writer Neal Stephenson explores the process of human survival after the explosion of the moon. The cause of this explosion is never revealed throughout the over 800 pages of meticulous prose but that was never the point of this book. The explosion caused by whatever is referred to as the Agent leaves the world with only about 2 years to prepare for the oncoming rush of asteroid and meteor from the shredded moon. This space debris grows exponentially until what is referred to as the Hard Rain will come down after the White Sky. The only hope for humanity's survival appears to be a voyage into space. The crew of the International space station will lead the charge as new members will be shot up and join the swarm.

It is hard to review a large book in such a short amount of space as there are so many different aspects of it and I will only be able to mention so much. The perspective jumps around but the main characters consist of a popular scientist Doc Dubois, the leader of the international space station Ivy, a robot mining mechanic Dinah, and other various members of the operation. Doc Dubois realizes that the breaking up of the moon will cause the destruction of Earth in the first part of the novel as the crew of the station begin planning for the arrival of survivors. There are a lot of technical details and the book is not always a pleasure to read though quite informative about space travel.  

Deciding who will live and survive is left up to each society as they must choose two people to go to a training and from there, individuals will be chosen who have proven they have the necessary skills. Conflict breaks out between some countries who believe their people are not being treated fairly. Survival on the Ark in space does not appear realistic to most people as the strive to solve the multiple problems that arise before the end of Earth. The timeline is accelerated when a meteor crashes into the cloud of moon rocks sending deadly space projectiles crashing into Earth. Some go below ground while others take to the seas in submarines, but none are believed to survive except those in space.

The astronauts must take on harrowing missions to find a water supply, protect from bolides, and cover from radiation. Luckily, a billionaire sacrificed his life to attached a nuclear missile to a comet full of ice and another managed to pull that in behind the space station. The whole time the space station was using an asteroid for cover against flying debris but eventually, they would have to fly up into higher orbit. The president of the U.S. known as Julia, or JBF, escaped the debris and leads a rebellion against the leaders of the space station. A lot of people die from all the dangers of space steadily decreasing the number of survivors. It ends up that there are only seven women left and they use genetics and technology to start a new society within an asteroid.

The final third of the novel jumps ahead three thousand or so years to a new civilization. The seven eves are treated as the founders of civilization as there are seven races descended from these seven women. Each one exhibits the characteristics chosen by the women and the populations were dependent on a number of children each woman could have. There have been wars and huge leaps in technology as the humans have returned to Earth and split up across the planet. Major portions are just exposition filling in the development of the new culture. This plot revolves around the discovery of other races that survived on Earth. This book was long and felt like quite an adventure but I would only recommend to those with a lot of time, who like the minutiae details, and fans of Stephenson. 

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