[625]: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

22816087 HarperCollins | May 19th, 2015
Hardcover, 867 pages
Adult Fiction | Science Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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.

When I first started my very own minimalism movement, I made a list of things I needed to tackle: 3 closets, 4 toy boxes, a wall-to-wall bookshelf, bedrooms, and a number of bathroom sinks. As the list got longer, I felt daunted. It got worse when I was faced with the debacle that was my bookshelf. I don’t quite know what to do. It was a mess of books to keep, books to give away. When it was all laid out in stacks before me, I wanted to put them all back and forget about the whole thing. I took a break. Stepped back and imagined the big picture. I was coasting after that.

Seveneves is that kind of read. First of all, it’s a monster of a book, a Sci-Fi of all things. Which means, my brain was fried by the end of the first chapter. I’ve never fully committed myself to reading something as elaborately plotted as this book. But once I gave myself some time to think about it, I realize the feat of what I was able to accomplish. Seveneves is a story that spanned thousands of years into the future. It is jam-packed with space jargon. So much so that I would dare suggest it’s the closest thing to a Rocket Science textbook as I’m going to get. The most significant thing of all is that it’s a story completely lacking in human emotion. It’s dry and sterile – and just like every other Sci-Fi books I’ve ever read. Only more involved. So did I enjoy this book? Surprisingly enough, yes. Yes, I did.

This book has quite a good hook: “The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.” And just like that, the human race was on the clock to save whom and what they can before Earth is engulfed in hellfire. Bits and pieces of moon rock debris will create a hard rain of high-velocity ammunition destined to destroy life, as we know it. In the meantime, a space ark meant to sustain life into the future will carry a select number of astronomers, scientists, and members of the general population needed for the human race to go on.

Life in space is frightful enough as it is. But if you add politics and ego to the mix, you have less of a chance of life evolving into something better than what you’ve known. That’s exactly what happened. The space ark is built into little arklets that can break apart in case of damage. So when some of the population rebelled, they didn’t think about the consequences of their actions. Humans, even the educated ones, become stupid when they’re led by egos. Water is scarce, food as well. The onset of space dementia accelerates. Populations quickly lessen from a few hundred to less than twenty. Where is the hope for humanity now?

Thankfully, there were few level headed scientists who knew what needed to be done. And this is where the title of the book comes into play. I’m not going to say anymore because that’s part of the charm of this book. It made me wonder if the author built a story around his fondness for this palindrome. In which case, I’ll come out and say, brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Even though I had to get past 600-some odd pages before the title was explained, the journey to get there was torturous fun.

Seveneves is an exhaustive tale of the human race’s resilience no matter the odds. Where it gives us hope that we will go on, it’s also a sad revelation of our tendency to destroy each other at will. Be advised, the author is quite fond of long narratives. I would say it’s best to listen to the audio book, but even that nearly put me to sleep.


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