Micky Hingorani    About    Archive

Seveneves: The Book Review Nobody Asked For

If the moon blows up and threatens to rain itself down on us in fiery meteorites, Neal Stephenson should probably be one of the few we send into space to carry humankind forward.

He'd be a a good fit, not just because of his clear attention to detail and devotion to a variety of, sometimes soporific, subjects. He also wrote the book on it with the truly epic Seveneves.

Long story short, the moon mysteriously blows up and, as it collides with itself into smaller and smaller pieces, will ultimately rain down on us killing everyone on earth — sort of like the dinosaurs except not really and on a vaster scale.

While I found it hard to put the book down, Part I is gutwrenching. I'd get home a little melancholy after reading on the subway. "What's wrong?" "Oh, just reading the book where everybody dies."

But while I would have liked to have seen more of the human side of an earthly apocalypse, Stephenson's space epic is mesmorizing. The challenges are legion but, ultimately, we are our own worst enemies. Somehow we, humans, can be just as dangerous, or even more so, than the cosmic radiation, lack of oxygen and water, and the whole not being able to get more stuff from earth dilemma.

As such, Part I is a tough but rewarding read. Really devastating at times, especially as the world comes to an end. But we move on quickly — to five thousand years in the future — where we perk up. There are three billion people alive and all those people who died with the moon bombardment would have been long dead by now anyway. It's interesting how quickly we all just move on and it's ancient, truly ancient, history.

That said, it is too bad that Part II didn't quite deliver. Stephenson revels in imagining future technology and strives to explain how it would work thoroughly. It may have been my lack of imagination but they're hard to comprehend and slow the story down.

And while Part I did read thematically to me — about how we are our own worst enemies, the very end of the book pushes a different theme on us but Part II did very little to explore that idea. Nor does Stephenson develop the plot as intricately. Seemingly every detail is explored in Part I and the early portions of Part II but by the end he seems to have either just wanted to get it over with or he was setting things up for sequels.

As such a long book, I almost wish Stephenson had simply ended the book at the end of Part I. I so enjoyed it up until then, I was thinking this may be one of my favorite books.