Sunday, May 24, 2015

SEVENEVES by Neal Stephenson

Forget Facebook. Welcome to Spacebook. In the future, according to Neal Stephenson in SEVENEVES, that will be where everyone goes for sharing. Why? Because the moon has blown up, and mankind is facing extinction unless we can get into orbit and figure a way to clean up the falling bolides (rocks)…an impossibility, and so various descendants of evolved humans must try to reestablish a sustainable civilization out of the rubble while the diminished population lives in space. This is a massive book to read, which would be no problem were it really, really good. It is not. At least not as a novel that inspires readers with poetic imagery and tightly controlled action. There are impressive ideas floated here, and much argument on how technology can solve the problems humanity faces. So science geeks will appreciate the depth of the story. But this should have been, somehow, a non-fiction book. There are simply too many characters and too slow a pace for it to work as an epic-sized novel. Other books by Stephenson have obviously succeeded brilliantly. Snow Crash was one of my favorites. This book is no Snow Crash. (Since Neal is adept at research and ideas related to history, not to mention skill at creating characters which many lesser writers are not, let me recommend instead MONGOLIAD, a relatively recent collection with various authors like Greg Bear assisting, or STAR CARRIER by Ian Douglas.) Reader Mary Robinette Kowal can’t be faulted for bringing a believable interpretation to both male and female voices, it’s just that much of Seveneves is exposition rather than dialogue or action. Many authors deliver overwrought books to their editors, it just seems that Neal’s editor was out of the country on extended holiday. Emphasis on the word “seems." 

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