Seveneves by Neal Stephenson - A Book Review

Hardcore Scifi and Soft politics, this book is an enjoyable long haul. 

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.

This book has pretty much my perfect combination for science fiction. An apocalypse, a good scientific foundation and a good chunk of space. As the author worked with scientists the fact that it's hardcore sci-fi isn't surprising. This can be offputting to some people, especially since there are several paragraphs explaining how different kinds of spaceships and their cooling systems work. But I found it interesting, and it even drew on my biology knowledge from college, explaining epigenetics and how humans can survive and evolve. 

But let's go back to the semi-beginning. Although a massive 800 pages, this tome is split into roughly two stories.

The first pretty much dominating with 500 pages where the moon explodes and the human race has to deal with the world ending in two years; deciding who gets to live and go into space, and who gets to perish on Earth. This bit is wrought with politics, with the USA President featuring heavily and being criticised for some of her decisions. It establishes how the surviving members will find a new home and continue the human race. 

The second part starts 5000 years after the last and explores how future generations go back to Earth and find what has happened there. This is where the epigenetics comes into play - the fact that our surroundings and environment have a biological, physical effect on our genes. But its more speculative - it has to be for something that happens far beyond our lifetimes. 

Frankly, I loved the first part more than the second. The second being a little lacklustre in terms of plot progression, but I get why. The characters of all parts are thoroughly explained, we get the backstories of nearly every single one without the book falling into the traps that Suicide Squad (2016) did. There's a tearjerker moment during watching Earth's apocalypse, which is surprisingly more detailed than any other apocalyptic scene I've read. 

You immediately get sucked into the black hole that is Stephenson's writing; full with action, curiosity, and mystery. The world building was fantastic enough that I could envisage it when I put the book down - the diagrams of space shuttles at the front of the book helpful (one of them is the banner of this blog). 

The pacing drags a little with the long scientific monologues but if you happen to like science - a little like me, especially when it concerns space - then you can get through them and back into the main plot flow. 

Overall, I recommend it for anyone already into science-fiction - perhaps it's a little hard-hitting if you're entirely new to the genre. For me, its an inspiration and fuels the inner research fiend. 

 

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