Thursday, April 7, 2016

Book Review: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

This is my favorite Neal Stephenson book. That's not to say it's without flaws, but his obsessive technical skill in plotting and engineering a story (as well as his high page count) finally fits the broad scope of his subject. Basically, this book is "Stephenson reboots the world." As you'd expect, there's everything here from problem-solving on the level of The Martian times a thousand, to philosophical and psychological ruminations on being the only ones left after the surface of the Earth is sterilized. I only wish that the emphasis was different -- a major shift that happens two-thirds of the way through the book should have taken place one-third of the way through the book, in my opinion. It feels a bit like Stephenson is cutting off the second half of his story early because even he can't figure out how to make some of his surprises work in detail given the huge nature of the narrative shift. Stephenson is no utopian, and parts of the story get very dark and desperate, but if you stick it out to the end things open up to glimmers "more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy." First contact is here but it's inverted and subverted and, to me, felt fresh. I'd say more, but part of the point of Stephenson is the surprises that happen in the last third, where this novel really shines. File this one under "gets better as it goes along," and it starts out pretty good, at that.

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