Seveneves is my first exposure to author Neal Stephenson and I probably would have passed over Seveneves if it wasn’t for a recommendation from the Still Untitled podcast. I finally picked up a copy of the book and dove in, not sure of what to expect and after finishing the book I thought I would share my thoughts and opinions.
The premise behind Seveneves and I’ll keep this as spoiler free as possible is that the moon for some reason explodes, this as you can imagine causes issues here on Earth. A radical plan is set into motion to save the human species from possible extinction. The remaining humans carry on, a lot of bad things happen, eventually some good and fast forward 5000 years into the future we get a glimpse into what has become of our species. This is a very broad and over generalized view of the book, which at close to 900 pages is highly detailed and possibly over descriptive.
As a first time reader of Stephenson, I wasn’t sure what to expect but the idea of the moon exploding and humanity trying to save itself was just too good not to explore. At times, it wasn’t easy and I found myself walking away from the book and near the end only finished it just to see it through to completion. I wanted to like this book, I really did but by the end of it, I just wanted it to be done.
It’s not that Seveneves is a bad book, in fact there is plenty to like within Seveneves that I could recommend it to certain readers.
- The world that is created within Seveneves is fully realized and very immersive. It starts with present day Earth, moves into space and then into the future. Every detail about the world of Seveneves is fleshed out, down to the minutiae and allows the reader to be immersed into the struggles of the characters within the world.
- The tech used within Seveneves is not so far advanced as to make it unbelievable and with the robots and algorithms described that control the robots, you can imagine a not so distant future where this happens.
- The science within the book and without being a scientist myself, seems plausible for the most part. This leaves me to enjoy what I’m reading, rather than looking for faults within the science and being pulled out of the world.
There are other great examples within the book, but I risk divulging them as they could give away plot points that could ruin the book for some.
While there is good, there is also plenty of bad that may not be the fault of the author but instead me as the reader not enjoying the writing style.
- Over detailed everything and I mean everything. A simple dialogue taking place between two individuals could span pages and pages as Stephenson describes the shape of a window, what it represented to the character as a child etc…all to accomplish something as simple as “Do you want lunch?”, “Sure” and while this may be a slight over exaggeration, it does happen.
- Characters feel very flat and I never actually cared about them. The single character that I cared even remotely about was the former President as I loathed her and wished for her to not make it through certain events. Other than that, I could care less whether certain characters lived or died.
- Characters that go nowhere. This is very evident in the final part of the book where it just ends and you’re left wondering what became of certain characters.
- The ending has no payoff. There is a massive amount of buildup where things are happening so quickly and then it all fizzles out with no payoff and the book ends.
- At one point I was ripped violently out of the book by a mention that a computer program that they use in the future is the same one that was used 5000 years previously when the humans first left Earth. I was stuck on this point for a while as I had a hard time believing that an advanced society did not attempt to fix problems with previous code, did not try and improve it and that 5000 years later they were still using a computer language that was compatible with all their hardware and software 5000 years later? It was a small point in the book but I had a hard time glossing over it.
- Certain plot devices were skimmed over to move the book ahead. Why did the moon explode? It just did and Why not colonize Mars? Too far away! Are just two examples that were within the book.
As I said, Seveneves is not a bad book and judging by the reviews on Goodreads, there are many people that really love this book. For me though, the writing style of Neal Stephenson is one that I did not enjoy. I loved the idea behind Seveneves, I loved many of the ideas within Seveneves but found the majority of characters to be flat, dull and boring and the ending to fall so flat as to make me dislike the book as a whole.
I would give Seveneves a 2 out of 5, but if you are a Stephenson fan, enjoy hard science fiction or space exploration this may be the perfect book for you.