Seveneves: A novel

by Neal Stephenson

Hardcover, 2015

Status

Available

Publication

[New York] : William Morrow, 2015.

User reviews

LibraryThing member justifiedsinner
The latest Neal Stephenson novel is a technological tour de force with all the emotional engagement of a dead fish (I might be doing dead fish a disservice since even they register activity on an fMRI machine).
The end of the world is nigh, something has shattered the moon and all the pieces are going to drop to Earth in two years time and sterilize the surface. But not to worry we have lots of time to build stuff. Enter a cast of characters who will save a small select portion of the human race and do so in glorious two-dimensional color which is rather surprising given that they are based on real-life people - Neil Degrasse Tyson, Malala Ypusafzai, Hillary Clinton etc.
We are supposed to believe that building a international space station that will house a few thousand people will be enough to keep the billions of people on Earth from descending into anarchy and take their government issued euthanasia pill when the time comes like the good little background actors they are. Whatever - it's Technology people! And when the time comes our intrepid heroes are given 720 seconds to mourn it's passing because we have to build more stuff and allow space for massive info-dumps and not waste time on that messy emotion stuff.
The final third of the novel jumps 5,000 years into the future so we can have even more massive info-dumps and an entirely predictable and slow moving plot. The seven cardboard cutout women who are the only survivors on the space station (seven eves, get it ?) have become seven races because stereotypes are genetically transferable as any bad writer will tell you.
I can't help but compare this novel, unfavorably, to Ben H. Winters Hank Palace series. Go read those and don't waste time on this.
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LibraryThing member ieure
This book is a mixed bag, with some terrific space action, annoying characters, and quite a lot of clunky dialogue.

The good: The action scenes are well-written and gripping. Some of the main characters are believable and relatable, Ivy and Dinah in particular.

The bad: Characters. Many of the characters are blatantly based on living people, which feels both lazy and like Stephenson is trying too hard to make the book seem real. J.B.F. is a synthesis of Sarah Palin, Carly Fiorina, and Hillary Clinton. Sean Probst is Elon Musk. Doob is Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The bad: Dialogue. The book is littered with nonsensical dialogue, in that the context in which it's spoken doesn't fit and the other characters ignore much of it. You're left wondering if you turned two pages instead of one, because the topic veers off so far for no reason. Much of this could have been simply omitted and improved the quality of dialog substantially.

The bad: politics. In the third section of the book, the colors of the opposing sides are, again, obviously based on the real political parties sharing those colors. Again, it feels lazy, and perhaps a little preachy.

Two stars, because I expect better from Stephenson.
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LibraryThing member JGolomb
“The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason. The time was 05:03:12 UTC. Later it would be designated…simply Zero."
- from Neal Stephenson’s “Seveneves"

Neal Stephenson’s “Seveneves” is an imaginative, realistic and absolutely mythic work of hard science fiction. Essentially two novels in one, Stephenson takes the familiar ‘end-of-earth’ sci-fi tale and renews ones faith that an apocalypse can have nothing to do with viruses, zombies or aliens and still be visionary and intelligent.

While Stephenson certainly delves into the human-side of his drama, much of his focus is on the science and practicalities of how the Earth community would deal with the explosion of the Moon and "the world...ending in a fractal blooming of dust and gravel, an apocalypse in a gravel quarry.” Stephenson does not deal in melodramatics; he’s realistic and pragmatic.

The first third of the novel is told primarily through the eyes of the characters living on the International Space Station - forbidden from ever returning to Earth and tasked with the development of a ‘Cloud Ark’ - seemingly the only refuge for humans able to survive mass extinction. An Earth-wide apocalypse is a common sci-fi trope, but I was reminded specifically of Greg Bear’s “Forge of God” and even Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2015 release, “Aurora”. The survivalist aspects reminded me of Andy Weir’s terrific “The Martian” - realistic scenarios with believable MacGyver-like solutions.

"I believe that the human mind is almost infinitely malleable and that people are going to adjust…within days or weeks…We will simply turn into a different civilization altogether from the one we grew up in. Our whole idea of nature will be forgotten."
-from Neal Stephenson’s “Seveneves"

The last third of the book skips forward 5,000 years and we see the results of humankind’s efforts to survive their space-bound existence. It’s here we see the breadth and depth of Stephenson’s inventiveness. He’s created a well-thought out future of humanity that’s based in space, and learning how to reestablish itself on a plant that’s been vacated for 5 millennium. In this part deux, sci-fi fans will not have to look far to find more than a nod to Larry Niven.

What’s most magnificent, however, is Stephenson’s wonderfully vibrant world-building with plausible and believable science, which is only overshadowed by his mythic cultural conceptions. Stephenson exposes his understanding of history, religion, as well as all-things technological. The cultural and historical foundation for the humans of 5000 years in the future is based on the events that we’ve witnessed 2/3 of the book. I could not have been more fulfilled by Stephenson’s satisfying integration of early plot elements with the story’s conclusions.

In typical Stephenson fashion, his plot and narrative are an excuse for his own exploration of a plethora of themes, including (but not at all limited to): orbital mechanics and swarm dynamics, ethics and mechanics of genetic manipulation, the sociology and psychology of space-based living which could be the same as any life in the extreme - the need for food, water, protection from the elements and social interaction. He also spend numerous pages on the future of robotics, and the capabilities of living within and above the Earth’s atmosphere.

This may be the best book I’ve read in several years, and has immediately gone near the top of my all-time favorites.

I received this book through the Amazon Vine program.
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LibraryThing member carriehh
I absolutely loved the first part of this novel. And I loved the concepts put forth in the second part. But I had a hard time reading the second act, just could not get in to it. Once I finally finished I thought it could have done with a whole lot of editing.
LibraryThing member santhony
Neal Stephenson has written some of my favorite books. Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash were magnificent. Anathem was very good, if a little over my head. I was very disappointed in Reamde and there were aspects of this work that reminded me of why I disliked Reamde so much. Put simply, it suffers from some utterly ridiculous fact scenarios that I was unable to look past.

MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW (not really):

This book can be easily divided into three distinct sections, 1) pre-Earth destruction, 2) from earth destruction to the nadir of human population, and 3) five thousand years into the future when Earth is recolonized.

Earth’s moon is destroyed by a quantum singularity. Having been fractured into several pieces, these pieces will ultimately degenerate into millions of fragments which will bombard the Earth, creating a firestorm that will end life as we know it. Fair enough, I buy that as the premise of the novel.

However, when all of the leaders of the Earth’s major countries address the world and announce that everyone will die within two years, and nothing changes in day to day life during those two years, you’ve lost me. I’m pretty sure that were such an announcement made, looting would begin immediately, and anyone not participating would not live long. How many people are going to get up and go to work every day under such a death sentence? The financial system would certainly collapse. Are you going to pay any debts in the face of impending death?

Transportation of goods and manufacturing would almost immediately grind to a halt. Food shortages would show up in a matter of days. Yet in Stephenson’s world, a year into the crisis, one of the characters “hops a commercial flight to Washington”. Really? Who is flying the plane and checking in passengers? Who is maintaining the fleet and handling the baggage? How are they being paid, because money would essentially be worthless? How did she pay for her ticket, with a credit card? In that event, why wouldn’t everyone simply quit their jobs and stay at a high end resort and put it all on credit? Bars and restaurants are sponsoring “end of the world” specials. Really? With only months to live, you are going to operate a bar? Who are your bartenders, cooks and waitresses? Where are you getting your food and beverages?

Maybe it is my fault that I can’t simply suspend belief and buy into such an absurd scenario. From the day of such an announcement you would be living in Thunderdome. The thought that an outer space “Ark” project could even be envisioned and engineered, much less constructed in the time frame envisioned is even more absurd. This is a government that takes ten years to construct a highway overpass and a United Nations that argues over the temperature of the Security Council conference room, yet they are going to “come together” and pull off such a project? This wouldn’t happen in 100 years, much less two (in the face of what would be a complete economic shut down).

Once the “Hard Rain” begins, however, the remnants of the human race, in orbit around the Earth face a number of pressing issues, not the least of which is to avoid the raining meteors bombarding the planet. This section of the novel is very well presented and does an excellent job combining the politics and technology involved in preserving the last vestiges of humanity. Some of the astro-physics is a bit daunting, but Stephenson walks the tightrope between explaining just enough, but not too much, in my opinion.

The final section of the novel, set 5,000 years into the future, contains more of what made the second section so engaging, politics and technology. Some of the futuristic landscape modeled by Stephenson is mind-blowing, and while one of the main premises borders on absurdity (a total lack of cross breeding among the survivors, after 150 generations), I am inclined to accept it in order to advance the basis of the story. Then, however, we are presented with one of the most ridiculous plot twists I’ve ever come across, Reamde on steroids.

So, it is an intriguing scenario, and Stephenson injects numerous plot twists that are entertaining and thought provoking. There is a lot of science that is relatively well explained without being too deep, and if you can get past the absurdity of the opening third of the book and the utter ridiculousness near the end, you will be amply rewarded by the balance. Neal Stephenson is simply an incredible writer and creator of worlds.
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LibraryThing member arubabookwoman
If you were a character in this book, and you happened to look up on a typical evening at precisely the moment it occurred, you would have seen the moon break up, disintegrated into thousands of fragments, some large, some small. At first the scientists of the world occupy themselves with trying to discover the why of this event. However, within a few days they determine that the more important question is what the effect of this event will be, and it is quickly determined that in about two years all life on Earth will be destroyed by a raging bombardment of meteorites (bolides) from the moon debris. Thus begins this fascinating and exciting book.

The (longer) first part of this book concerns itself with what happens during those two years, as heroic efforts are made to ensure that some remnant of humanity, as well as other forms of life on Earth will survive this apocalyptic event. Efforts are directed at survival in space. The international space station ("Issy") is enlarged, and dozens of "arklets" are built to "swarm" around Issy. Genetic information on all forms of life is sent into space. Potential survivors are chosen to occupy the arklets.

The first part of the book also details the immediate aftermath of the destruction of life on Earth, and what happens to the few thousand survivors of humanity. Unfortunately, the cataclysm hasn't quelled humankind's propensity for conflict, and, to make a long story short, at the end of the first part what remains of humanity are the seven "Eves" of the title.

The second part of the book fast-forwards 5000 years. Earth has been undergoing a terraforming process for a couple of thousand years, and it is now habitable. All humans are divided into races or groups determined by the Eve from whom they descended--Dinans from Dinah, Ivans from Ivy, Teklans from Tekla, and so forth. Each of the races has retained the distinct characteristics, physical and mental, of the seven women, each very different, we got to know in the first part. Most of humanity lives in a vast "ring" of cities orbiting the Earth. Very few live on Earth--mostly scientists who are documenting the development of new eco-systems. However, recently signs have appeared that perhaps some pockets of humans who remained on Earth survived.

I loved this book. It was a perfect blend of hard science, exciting plot, and interesting characters. Despite the plethora of detail I never found myself skimming or bored. (Well, okay, a few times the discussions of orbital mechanics went on a bit much for me.) This book has it all--apocalypse, epigenetics, terraforming, asteroid mining, robotics etc. etc.

I had only one major quibble that picked at the back of my brain while reading the second part. After 5000 years all seven races remain rigidly separate, and every person is identifiable almost immediately as belonging to that particular race. It bugged me that there had been no intermingling of the races over 5000 years.

As a side note I have to point out that in the second part I loved one particular character named Sonar Tax Law. I would have loved her regardless of her personality because my daughter Sonia's nickname as a child was Sonar, and because as an attorney I practiced exclusively Tax Law.

Highly recommended.

4 stars
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LibraryThing member yarb
With "Seveneves" Stephenson fills 800+ pages with one humongous mcguffin, a bunch of barely-fictionalised celebrities, and vast screeds of technical writing.

For me the most disappointing aspect was the lack of imagination. Why couldn't he make up some new characters instead of pressganging poor old Neil Tyson, Elon Musk, Malala Yousafazi, et al? (Those not obviously torn from real life are forgettable). Why could he not try and convey a sensawunda through his prose, now and again, instead of writing the whole thing to a metronome? Why did every plot point have to progress from previous ones according to inexorable causal logic? Actually there's one big exception to this flaw. The final part of the story, which would be a coda were it not for the interminable scene-setting indulged in to no purpose, sets out a scenario further fetched than it is in the future (5,000 years). Three civilisations meet and have no trouble understanding eachother - they even speak the same language! There's a perfunctory action sequence and then finally Stephenson has had enough, about 500 pages after I had.

It's garbage from start to end.
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LibraryThing member Gwendydd
It is really rare for me not to finish a book. It is even more rare for me to stop reading a book by one of my very favorite authors. But I stopped about a third of the way into this (arguably, I stopped right when things were starting to get interesting, which tells you how much I did not care about what was happening).

It was tedious, too much science not enough plot (and I like lots of science in my sci-fi), and so many major plot holes... When humanity realizes that Earth is going to be uninhabitable within 2 years, they focus on sending humans into space. There is almost zero discussion of what happens on earth. No discussion of how they keep the food supply chain going, how they keep basic human services functioning, how the world economy reacts. Apparently people are optimistic enough to throw all of their efforts into a poorly-conceived and expensive plan to keep humanity going on the International Space Station. There are long discussions of orbital mechanics, but very little information about how they plan to keep people alive in space for more than a few months. The politics are downright strange and inscrutable. The characters are dull. Stephenson is normally good at writing interesting characters, but in this book he just puts in Neal de Grasse Tyson and Elon Musk and changes their names - that's how lazy his character-building is. And to top it all off, the writing is utterly lack-luster, which is really surprising coming from Neal Stephenson. If it didn't have his name on the cover, I would never guess that this was by Stephenson.

Eventually, I got to a point where I found myself arguing with every paragraph of the book, so I stopped reading it.
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LibraryThing member lostinalibrary
“The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.”

So begins Seveneves, the latest scifi opus by author Neal Stephenson. The moon’s explosion creates an impending disaster for mankind of epic proportions. Dr Doob, who is kind of a Neil DeGrasse Tyson kind of guy, an astrophysicist with his own popular TV show, calculates, that in approximately two years, pieces of the moon will start entering earth’s atmosphere at a remarkable rate of speed, force, and number and it is very unlikely that anything or anyone can survive this ‘hard rain’. Governments throughout the world begin to make plans to hold a lottery to save at least some remnants of humanity by sending a few lucky souls representing as diverse a gene pool as possible (except Venezuela) up to a Cloud Ark beside a group of real science guys. Everything seems to being going, if not swimmingly, surprisingly well until politics rears its ugly head led by an extremely egocentric and cunning ex-President of the US and soon chaos ensues eventually leading to the demise of all but eight women, one of whom is postmenopausal resulting in the seven Eves of the title whose job it is to repopulate the human race and eventually the earth. But they will not allow a genetic lottery to decide the future of mankind:

“What keeps us alive isn’t bravery, or athleticism, or any of the other skills that were valuable in a caveman society. It’s our ability to master complex technological skills. It’s our ability to be nerds. We need nerds.”

All of that’s in the first 500 pages.

Fast forward 5000 years and to the last 300 pages: the human descendants of the Eves have survived and thrived but have remained as seven distinct races who have divided into two antagonistic groups. They have begun to terReform the earth to make it eventually inhabitable for the populations. However, earth may hold secrets that neither group had anticipated and, in their push to gain and maintain control over larger areas of the surface, the two sides are in a race to be the first to uncover these secrets.

No one does speculative fiction like Stephenson and, if at times, the characters seem to take a far-back seat to the science and if the science becomes at times, somewhat overwhelming for those of us who are not science nerds, well, isn’t that the point? We rely on science daily for our very survival, something we rarely notice except in the case of a major disaster and they don’t get any bigger than an exploding moon. I will admit I did wonder, for example, if the moon exploded wouldn’t there be more immediate concerns like tides and gravity and stuff but putting that aside, I found all of this fascinating even the parts I admittedly didn’t fully understand. -Stephenson’s visions of this future world pushed my imagination in wholly new directions. And if I tend to feel that a world made up exclusively of nerds (and only science nerds at that) might be a bit, well, socially awkward, it certainly makes for some very original and exciting reading.

Despite its length, Seveneves is one rollicking adrenaline-fueled ride. In the immortal words of the Man in the Magic Mirror ‘Be prepared to be amazed beyond all expectations’. After all, that is what Stephenson does.

“The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.”

So begins Seveneves, the latest scifi opus by author Neal Stephenson. The moon’s explosion creates an impending disaster for mankind of epic proportions. Dr Doob, who is kind of a Neil DeGrasse Tyson kind of guy, an astrophysicist with his own popular TV show, calculates, that in approximately two years, pieces of the moon will start entering earth’s atmosphere at a remarkable rate of speed, force, and number and it is very unlikely that anything or anyone can survive this ‘hard rain’. Governments throughout the world begin to make plans to hold a lottery to save at least some remnants of humanity by sending a few lucky souls representing as diverse a gene pool as possible (except Venezuela) up to a Cloud Ark beside a group of real science guys. Everything seems to being going, if not swimmingly, surprisingly well until politics rears its ugly head led by an extremely egocentric and cunning ex-President of the US and soon chaos ensues eventually leading to the demise of all but eight women, one of whom is postmenopausal resulting in the seven Eves of the title whose job it is to repopulate the human race and eventually the earth. But they will not allow a genetic lottery to decide the future of mankind:

“What keeps us alive isn’t bravery, or athleticism, or any of the other skills that were valuable in a caveman society. It’s our ability to master complex technological skills. It’s our ability to be nerds. We need nerds.”

All of that’s in the first 500 pages.

Fast forward 5000 years and to the last 300 pages: the human descendants of the Eves have survived and thrived but have remained as seven distinct races who have divided into two antagonistic groups. They have begun to terReform the earth to make it eventually inhabitable for the populations. However, earth may hold secrets that neither group had anticipated and, in their push to gain and maintain control over larger areas of the surface, the two sides are in a race to be the first to uncover these secrets.

No one does speculative fiction like Stephenson and, if at times, the characters seem to take a far-back seat to the science and if the science becomes at times, somewhat overwhelming for those of us who are not science nerds, well, isn’t that the point? We rely on science daily for our very survival, something we rarely notice except in the case of a major disaster and they don’t get any bigger than an exploding moon. I will admit I did wonder, for example, if the moon exploded wouldn’t there be more immediate concerns like tides and gravity and stuff but putting that aside, I found all of this fascinating even the parts I admittedly didn’t fully understand. -Stephenson’s visions of this future world pushed my imagination in wholly new directions. And if I tend to feel that a world made up exclusively of nerds (and only science nerds at that) might be a bit, well, socially awkward, it certainly makes for some very original and exciting reading.

Despite its length, Seveneves is one rollicking adrenaline-fueled ride. In the immortal words of the Man in the Magic Mirror ‘Be prepared to be amazed beyond all expectations’. After all, that is what Stephenson does.
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LibraryThing member RBeffa
With a page count close to 870 pages the author has written a novel that requires quite a commitment from a reader. In truth this is 2 or 3 books in one. As a reader I expect a payoff from that commitment and upon finishing the task I feel like I didn't get it, or if I did, just barely. This is an ambitious project, there is no doubt about that. The setup for the story is not the most original - Jack McDevitt covered the breakup and planetfall of the Moon nearly two decades ago in [Moonfall]. In McDevitt's case I believe it was a stray comet hitting the moon. Here I don't think we quite know what did it, but among the theories it is speculated on page 16 that a "primordial singularity", a tiny black hole "The Agent" from the birth of the universe may have zoomed through our system and pierced the moon, and in an instant or two it is broken. Once the Moonfall is about to begin we ignore the earth (mostly) for 5,000 years.

The book is in three large parts - one set in the near future that covers the roughly two year period from moonstrike until moonfall, what is called the "Hard Rain" when the pieces of the moon fall to earth en masse and obliterate the surface of the earth in a firestorm and life on it. The second part of the novel is life and politics and survival of the remnants of humanity that have taken refuge in and around an enhanced International Space Station. The third part jumps forward "FIVE THOUSAND YEARS LATER" as the subtitle of Part 3 tells us, and is the return to earth in the future.

I liked elements of the story. There are some very good things in here, but I had problems with each part as well, and the middle third of the story was a mix of interesting things and very disturbing things with the scenario of a power hungry megalomaniac former President. I did not like the storyline. To condense my criticism I'll say that the story is buried in too much information, a numbing amount of scientific detail in too many places and an excess of politics. I am a reader who likes science in his science fiction, but the amount of science in here is several orders of magnitude larger than I need or want. I would add that a few character choices bore too much of a resemblance to real world characters or amalgams of them, and that was distracting to the extent that I could only see the real world characters in my mind - this was obviously an intentional choice by the author, perhaps to make the story seem more real, I dunno, but it bothered me a lot at first and although that annoyance lessened it never quite went away in the first two thirds of the book. To a lesser extent I was reading about characters in each part who I disliked or I didn't sympathize or bond with in any way. I prefer to be hooked into a story rather than just an observer receiving a science lesson. This is of course a personal criteria and other readers will react differently. One of my biggest minor gripes is that I find it impossible to believe that facing known death society worldwide is going to keep on doing what it does, you know, flipping burgers, driving the buses, filling your Amazon orders, selling you shoes, growing and harvesting crops, doing all the things of everyday life for the greater good - to build rockets and materials to hoist a few selected people into orbit before the hard rain and the end of life on earth. The 99.9999% is gonna work their butts off, worldwide, for the 1000 or 2000 survivors and a cache of DNA collected worldwide.

The last third of the book, 5000 years in the future is rather different than the rest of the story. It started off well and I found some of it intriguing and although it required events in the first two-thirds of the book to establish this, the third part could almost really be read as an entirely separate novel. There are a bunch of references from things in the future back to people in the earlier books which was for the most part lost on me (and I would assume other readers) because we got so little on many of the people other than names and brief interludes in the earlier parts of the novel. We get bits of information of how we got from there (present day+) to here (5000 years from now). The future tech is imaginative. Unfortunately the author still has to bury things in mind numbing detail. The characters manage to be even less interesting to me than the previous batch of people in the story. And, unfortunately, we have politics again. The third part was probably my least favorite of the entire book.

Overall this was on the low end of an OK story. The extraneous information overwhelmed the story. I could have used more actual story and character development. It started off looking like it would but it only covered a few people that way. There were token bits of backstories on many people. There was a lot of noble sacrifice in here and yet the Megalomaniac and the big baddie survived. Perhaps that is the moral of the story.

I received a copy of the book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review. There you have it. I wish I could have raved over the book, because that would mean I loved reading this.
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LibraryThing member Citizenjoyce
Stephenson has absolutely no sense of discipline. It seems that he is completely taken by any stray thought that tickles his imagination and can't stop himself from running away with it. If his editor had been able to do the job of reining him back to his topic, this would have been a fascinating book.
LibraryThing member jillbone
This book is 861 pages. The plot, however, can be boiled down to a mere 150 - 200 pages. The rest is filled with "hard science facts" that is either plain boring or unneeded in some cases. For most of the book, there is little to no character development. Characters are added, and later killed, with the reader caring very little about it. In some instances, Stephenson interrupts characters in mid conversation to spew science for six pages. All in all, it leaves the reader with a sense of a much greater book lurking behind the intriguing premise of the story, if only it could be uncovered from the barrage of facts buried on top of it.… (more)
LibraryThing member shabacus
Oh, Neal Stephenson. I keep trying to read you, expecting something different, and I keep feeling unsatisfied at the end.

First, a bit of context. The Stephenson I've read in the past has presented a bit of a pattern to me. He manages some of the best world-building I have ever read. His understanding of society and the way it reacts to new circumstances or technology is inspired, bordering on prescient. He truly understands the way that people AS A GROUP will react, and can use that insight to generate a thoroughly inventive and entertaining world.

But, and here is the part that distances me, he cannot seem to translate the way he writes about people down to the level of a person. That is, his individual characters are broad-stroke caricatures, or else puppets whose strings are clearly pulled by the requirements of the narrative. I did not find myself truly invested in any of them -- while on a macro level, I was thoroughly invested in the fate of the human race as a whole.

The result was an odd dichotomy of experience. I found that I did not thoroughly enjoy any single part of the book, and yet it has stuck with me. The subjects it raised have come up in conversations, especially late-night philosophical discussions over a nice glass of wine. It is the epitome of a book that I am glad to have read, but would not ordinarily have chosen to actually read.

In terms of recommendation, it all depends on how you like your sci-fi. If you're interested in big, broad strokes of characters, detailed population world building, and some nitty-gritty science in your sci-fi, then you'll love it. If you are looking for a personal story, people you care about, and an outcome that makes the sci-fi real, then you may want to skim or move on.
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LibraryThing member Kristelh
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson is a apocalyptic story of survival after the moon blows apart and the earth is set to be bombarded by the white rain in the aftermath. A work of speculative fiction by Neal Stephenson, this is my third book by the author and I have liked them all and they have all been different. The first part of the book was so gripping. I was so drawn into the book that I cried over the end of earth. The next part is 5000 years later as life has evolved from the seven races. This part was interesting and is the part where the name of the book is captured as the seven (eight) women who survive create a new world. And in the final part, the people of space (spacers) are slowly renewing earth to a thriving planet. The ending leaves the reader with a sense that life is still evolving. Faults with the book would be the excessive details that the author indulges in as he describes these new worlds especially the robotics, orbiting habitats, giant sky trains reaching down into the Earth’s atmosphere. I like Stephenson's writings and I know when I read his books there will be a lot of details. I listened to this book, and read on the kindle and I recommend not getting bogged down and just push your way through. This book grew out of the idea and fear that the earth will be bombarded by space debris, the originality is the seven women creating seven races through pathogenesis. The plot was complete (maybe excessively so) with plenty of tension. Characters were well developed and settings were overly constructed. I found the work engaging. Seveneves was shortlisted for the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel. Prometheus Award (Novel, 2016), Time Magazine's Best Books of the Year (Fiction, 2015), Locus Award Finalist (2016.1|Science Fiction Novel, 2016). All items involving political correctness, sex and language were handled well. Rating 4.29… (more)
LibraryThing member bness2
This is quite an amazing hard scifi epic that spans a 5,000 year history between an apocalyptic destruction of nearly all life on earth, through the survival of a chunk of humanity in space after being whittled down to seven ( 1) women and the final return to earth and its re-terraforming. It is a very long novel, full of the kind of detail expected from good hard scifi. I am not a physicist or astronomer, and my knowledge of celestial mechanics is rather rudimentary, so I cannot comment much on the scientific rigor of those aspects of the story. They seem to be in good order, as far as my expertise goes.

The only criticism I have is from the biological side, and more specifically the genetics of the story, something on which I am more qualified to comment. It is difficult to place exactly what the historical setting is, but it doesn't seem to be too far in the future when the break-up of the moon occurs. I think that the author overestimates the degree to which geneticists will understand the relationship between genome sequence and phenotype. For the genetic manipulations described at the "seven Eves" stage of the story seem too focused and precise (and too technologically sophisticated) to be possible, even at some future time, given what we know about the genome sequence and its effect on complex phenotypes such as emotional traits and intelligence. It may be possible that at some future time such manipulations could become possible, but given the complexity of genomes and the statistical nature of phenotypic expression, I have my doubt that what is described in the story would be possible in the historical time-frame of the story. This includes the reintroduction of the male sex by reconstruction of the Y chromosome, a feat that may never be possible, although time will tell.

Another genetic aspect that gave me pause was the author's description and application of epigenetics. Epigenetics, as currently understood, is fairly limited in its effects on phenotype, once an individual is mature. The description of what is called "going epi," in which an individual human or animal goes through some kind of rapid shift in phenotype due to presumable epigenetic changes seems unrealistic. It was an interesting story device, but may be overplayed a bit. Still, in spite of these shortcomings in the area of genetics, it is a great read.
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LibraryThing member ssimon2000
DNF at the 51% mark; no rating given.

There is simply too much infodumping going on with this book. The "show don't tell" rule doesn't apply to Mr. Stephenson, apparently, and the plot suffers greatly because of it. The story itself is very good, with all sorts of potential going in. It starts out extremely strong, but goes down faster than a Russian satellite losing orbit.

Get an editor that is willing to help you pare down the non-plot stuff, and publish a book that is readable. Please.
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LibraryThing member lavaturtle
I loved the first part of this book. It's nonstop action, it's a crazy what-if scenario and how humanity deals with it, it's how a handful of well-drawn characters cope with the end of the world.

The second part... eh. The plot never quite comes together or goes anywhere. It feels like Stephenson is too distracted by all the cool future tech he invented, or perhaps the suspense has just fallen out the bottom of the story. I kind of wished the book had just ended before jumping 5000 years into the future.… (more)
LibraryThing member nbmars
Note: There are no spoilers in this review.

A short review of this 861-page book might go: Life isn’t always fair, and sometimes people are really awful, but scientific knowledge and technology are very cool, and supremely useful.

But one could also go into a bit more detail without spoiling the plot.

The book begins with this astounding paragraph:

"The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason. It was waxing, only one day short of full. The time was 05:03:12 UTC. Later it would be designated A+0.0.0., or simply Zero.”

What would happen under such circumstances? Stephenson explores the answer in the rest of this often brilliant book which includes a lot of discussion of earthbound physics, orbital mechanics, and robotics, inter alia, in writing sometimes dubbed “techsposition” - i.e., technological exposition. Most of the action, at least for the first two thirds of the book, is centered on the space station which was orbiting the Earth at the time of the Event.

It seems that even Stephenson may have been happier with the technological aspects of this saga than the characters he drew. He spends a lot more verbiage on the technological whiz-bang aspects of this story, which are truly amazing, and about which he wants you to understand everything. As for the characters, we get to know most of them more by sporadically-spotlighted actions and decisions than by their internal thought processes. They are more aptly described as one-and-a-half rather than two-dimensional. And while some are brave and smart and wonderful, there are others I dearly wanted him to kill off in some way or another. Alas, the author is more realistic than I about the inevitable mix of good and bad in the human race.

There is a division between the first two-thirds of the book and the last third. The first section seemed entirely plausible to me, but I’m not so sure I found the last third convincing. Nor did I find some of the “surprises” of the latter section unanticipated. Nevertheless, there’s a lot to think about, and a lot to discuss if you are lucky enough to find someone else willing to read this very long book with you!

Evaluation: This is a masterwork of science fiction imagination. You won’t find the detailed character development and interactions one would get with, say, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, or Robert Heinlein, but you’ll get much more analysis of the scientific background for whatever takes place in the story.
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LibraryThing member gendeg
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson is as hard as hard science fiction gets. Digressions about orbital mechanics (‘deep vee’), robotics, the physics and aerodynamics of glider transportation, amistics, and epigenetics—the bolts and bits of technology and future culture that might never see the light of day or be shunted to an appendix at the back of the book—are marvelously weaved and threaded into the main narrative like no-big-deal. It makes Andy Weir’s The Martian feel as light as a Hardy Boys novel.

Reading books by Stephenson almost feels as if I’m reading nonfiction; the writing is freighted with Big Ideas and and the speculative aspects are on full burn. His imagination is futurist in outlook but always grounded in the realm of possibility and what we know now, even if it is the frontier of human of knowledge. There is no talk about extra terrestrial life and faster-than-light travel here—the kind of hyperventilating, cowboy science fiction you might see in other books. Humans don’t go far, maybe just a few hundred miles into space. But it still feels epic and grand. And nothing is ever glossed over. Nothing. It’s one reason this book is a redoubtable 800+ pages. I do admit that I skimmed a lot of the long tracts of technical detail—not because the information was irrelevant or boring—but because I was impatient for Stephenson to get back to his main narrative, which was as compelling and riveting as they come. There is a long, rambling section narrating a mission to bring back a comet to the International Space Station and fly it into the same orbit as the ISS, and it is, hands-down, one of the better dramatic action sequences ever rendered on the written page (reminded me of that 100-plus page chase and gun battle sequence at the end of Reamde.

For all the hard science, Stephenson is a consummate storyteller, who just happens to be a total nerd who wants to tell you everything. All that baroque detail is the brick and mortar of his world building. It's not a style for everyone. It's almost as if Stephenson, his brain, is its own character or presence in the book. Some people might find that grating and intrusive. I don’t know anyone who comes close to this kind of dense writing, perhaps Peter Watts.

The political gambits involving a slightly unhinged former US President who stows away on a secret launch to the Cloud Ark, rebel faction groups on the Ark and later on earth, and the first contact with descendants of humans left behind on the planet after the Hard Rain had me reading long into the late night. My eyes might have glazed over the bits on engineering and physics but the social machinations and discussions on biology and genetics were fascinating. Geekery isn’t monolithic here; there is a sprawl of geekery for everyone to latch on to.

I loved that the protagonists are women—strong, ridiculously-smart polymaths, who are still vulnerable and non-caricatured. I loved that a large swath of the characters are diverse; people of color drive the efforts to put into motion the Cloud Ark. I loved the sense of humor: there is a character named Dr. Hu, an old wise man, and Sonar Taxlaw, after a particular volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica. I loved the premise of the Seven Eves and the cultures and racial identities that develop in that 5000-years-later final movement of the book. I loved the idea of “going epi” and evolving into different people within a lifetime—all through deactivated or activated genes (cutting edge but still realistic). I loved how Stephenson goes into the hard facts about how men are actually more vulnerable than women in a space colony and that you don’t even need men to reboot the human race (Stephenson goes feminist!).

The premise for Seveneves is a dark one—total annihilation of life as we know it on Earth—and yet with total destruction looming on the horizon, humanity manages to rally together to get the Cloud Ark going in just two years. There are hitches, and one potential disaster averted that needed a nuke, and yet Stephenson gives us a world where the technocrats and the by and large reasonable people get their way. I don’t know. Maybe I have a more pessimistic, brutish view of homo sapien, or maybe Stephenson just didn’t want to dwell on the dystopian possibilities (which would have been cliche anyway). Don’t expect melodramatic disaster movie porn here; but keep in mind that the clear-eyed, this-is-really-a-possibility tone in the book is probably more chilling than anything you might read that focused on cheap cliffhanger beats. There are heroic acts and suicide missions and hard decisions—and yet it’s all thrown at you in a matter-of-fact way and always, always grounded in science and rational thinking.

At its heart, Seveneves is an optimistic, pro-tech and science story of survival with the highest possible stakes. It’s a brainy thriller. Darker, sociologically complex things are hinted at at the end of the book with the meeting and colliding of cultures of the two Spacers factions (descendants of the Seven Eves) and the Diggers and Pingers. Giddy already for the next book, which comes out in 2017.
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LibraryThing member gregandlarry
Good story, but not as satisfying at previous books like Reamde.
LibraryThing member Insolito
Read this because it was recommended by David Mitchell ( Bone Clocks, Cloud Atlas ) during one of his interviews. For me it was just OK. Well written and an interesting story of apocalypse & post apocalypse, but it seemed to me it was filled with too much scientific filler. It digressed into long passages of scientific detail that sounded like a textbook and didn't add that much to the plot. Anyway, I finished it.… (more)
LibraryThing member pgmcc
Seveneves was disappointing for a Stephenson novel. Near-future, hard Science fiction with plenty of detail for people to consider and verify. Some of his technology is wishful thinking but that is neither here nor there. Too long by far for the story that's in it.

I was wondering why I stuck with it to the end. To an extent I was giving Stephenson the opportunity to make it more interesting. Also, his writing, while not brilliant, is not off-puttingly terrible. I did want to know where he was taking the story.

The underlying theme for the final parts of the book were racism, politics and diplomacy.

In the earlier parts of the book someone with an interest in contemporary space travel might like the book. The story focuses very much on the International Space Station.

If you want to start reading Stephenson do not start with this one.
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LibraryThing member fpagan
A long and awesome tale of what might happen if Luna exploded and eventually caused Earth's surface to be utterly destroyed, leaving a much-expanded International Space Station to orbit a dead planet. The time settings: two-thirds at points near the present and one-third at a point 5000 years from now. The ending does not completely wrap everything up, so I wonder whether we will be treated to a sequel someday.… (more)
LibraryThing member JBD1
If you're looking for some real, in-depth, technical science fiction with lots of scientific detail about everything from orbital physics to heterozygosity, look no further. Neal Stephenson's latest will be right up your alley. And if you're in the mood for a thorough-going exploration of what might happen if a planet-wide catastrophe were about to engulf Earth, this may also be the book for you. It's long, there are a few trudgy points, a couple of the caricatured characters were a little cloying, and at least one plot twist had me rolling my eyes ... but it's a truly absorbing read. The three sections of the book (immediately preceding the disaster, during and slightly after, and then five thousand years in the future) work well, with at least some of what happens in the third well foreshadowed earlier.

Not perfect, and certainly unnerving in what it has to say about humanity as a species, but boy did it keep me reading.
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LibraryThing member julie10reads
What do you think would happen if the moon blew up? How would people react? What would governments do? Could scientists around the globe work together to save humankind?

Neal Stephenson provides answers to these questions and many more in his science fiction opus,Seveneves. It’s like a manual for surviving global disaster with the best opening sentence since A Tale of Two Cities’ “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times”.

"The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason."

Dr. Dubois Harris, known to millions as “Dr. Doob”, presents the President of the United States with the facts of the approaching doomsday. As a result of the moon exploding into seven large chunks caused by an unknown “Agent”, space rocks will continue to collide and break up, eventually causing “Hard Rain”, an unrelenting global meteor storm the likes of which has not been seen on Earth since its formation after the Big Bang. Doob and his post-doc students estimate that humankind has about two years to evacuate the planet before it becomes a huge fireball. Scientists of other nations have come to similar conclusions.

Two imperatives emerge: to send people and materials into space as soon as possible and to inform the rest of the population of the impending apocalypse without causing worldwide panic. International space agencies aided by private companies tackle the first item on the agenda by building upon the existing framework of the International Space Station, ISS, nicknamed Izzy. A Cloud Ark is envisioned with discrete ships linked to Izzy via docking ports but able to detach to evade destruction via space rocks and debris. That’s the good news. The obvious bad news is that there is not enough time to build enough ships to provide refuge for seven billion people. The second item on the agenda. A Casting of Lots is announced by leaders around the world in which a male and a female from each country will be chosen to represent their nation on the Cloud Ark. In addition, digitized DNA samples of every race and organism will be carried aboard Izzy to be incarnated when circumstances and place allow. You don’t have to be a mathematician to realize the inherent unfairness of two people from each country (China, population 1+ billion, sending the same number of heritage carriers as, say, Mauritius, population 1+ million) nor a scientist to come to the conclusion that only personnel with the best scientific knowledge and technological skills should become members of the Cloud Ark community. “Doob” and others manage to sell the deception with false hopes and ceremonies. For those whose panic cannot be sublimated into fervour for the preservation of the human race, suicide pills will be distributed gratis to be taken ad libitum.

Part Two chronicles the day-to-day ups and downs of life in the Cloud Ark whose population is just under 1,300 souls. Thousands of years must pass before Earth will once more be capable of supporting life. This is where Stephenson really weighs in with the “science” of “science fiction. In a style similar to described video, he walks the reader through all the major -ologies, -ics and -onomies as they relate to living and working in space, including orbital mechanics, the physics of moving chains (think bullwhip), nanorobotics, chemistry and astrophysical fluid dynamics. Ways must be improvised to renew the Cloud Ark’s supplies of water, oxygen, fuel and food. A parade of experts, many female, work to solve the puzzle piece by piece. Pilot extraordinaire, Ivy Xiao commands Izzy. Dinah McQuarrie, her unofficial second in command, specializes in asteroid mining for which she has designed an army of wifi robots. Dr. Moira Crewe is a geneticist with experience in de-extinction. Everyone on Izzy and in the surrounding “arklets” will contribute their expertise to preserve humanity.

Part Three begins with a heading you don’t often see in fiction, “Five Thousand Years Later”. Seven races engineered from the DNA of seven women (the Seven Eves of the title) from Part Two now number three billion, living within the Habitat Ring suspended above “New Earth”. The next step is to colonize the planet. But surveys have spotted bipedal creatures. Who could they be?

Neal Stephenson has done his homework, and then some. Years of scholarly research have yielded a highly credible pre- and post-apocalyptic scenario that is hard to resist. 861 pages of “hard” science fiction, Seveneves might not be an easy read but it is a completely fascinating one. There is so much information to digest that it deserves a second reading. And maybe a third.
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