Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves explores the premise ‘Could mankind in a couple of years take to high orbit to survive a world-destroying catastrophe?’ The catastrophe in question (early spoiler) is the moon blowing up. Enough of the debris is calculated to hit earth eventually, so mankind must mobilize to survive. Dreary stuff indeed.
This is a hard science fiction tale with no easy outs for humanity. Aliens do not swoop in to rescue a chosen few nor do scientists come up with any pseudo-science gadget to save the day. Mankind must figure it out using (mostly) tech that we now have to get everything into orbit that a surviving population might need for an indefinite stay before Earth gets pummeled.
Stephenson’s story explores the multiple tasks at hand without getting bogged down into mere procedure, yet addresses the complexities with a believable level of detail, all the while fleshing out characters dealing with the overwhelming stress brought on by the task at hand. I couldn’t stop rooting for some of the characters who get piled on by the harshness of their challenge and found myself hating one character moreso than any other in a Stephenson book. I won’t say who to avoid spoilers, but when she does what she does, you might agree with me.
This is also a generous book. It could have concluded at the end of the second part and the last portion could have been a follow-up novel. But the third part does change gears, and it is of the highest quality. I won’t reveal anything about it here, but the last portion becomes a mystery informed by events in the previous sections of the novel.
The actual science is grounded and believable. Very little hand-wavy stuff here. Space is a dangerous place, and this book is one of the few that underscores that it’s not a place that suffers fools or the unlucky. Some of my favorite bits involved the solving of zero-G combat problems as well as the exploration of epigenetics.
This is a meaty book that delivers a solid story of speculation. I strongly recommend it.