Sunday, February 19, 2017

SevenEves (2015): Neal Stephenson - When the world needs where (and with whom) do you want to be?

Seveneves (2015)  Neal Stephenson
First off there are two things you should know:
I like the writings of Neal Stephenson
This is a really long book
There is no way to give a truly detailed plot summary.

This book attempts to answer that age-old SF question:  What would you do if the world were going to end?  The answer for most people (according to Stephenson) is to help give a small group of people a chance to survive and possibly continue humanity. 

If you wake up tomorrow and the moon is in 7 (soon to be 8) pieces you had better get ready.   Those pieces are going to rattle together and chip off so many little pieces then in a couple of years they will start to fall to Earth (Hard Rain) creating an unlivable environment for thousands of years.  You must either find a way to survive way under the surface or get out into space above the turmoil. 

This book focuses on the process of trying to build a sustainable space station in a short time.  All of the political and technological barriers as well as the personalities and approaches to problem solving.  One would think that cooperation and compromise might be the best approach but not according to Stephenson.  For instance, the actions of Sean Probst to bring a comet to the party (dying in the process) had nothing to do with a committee but was essential for the success of the mission.  On the other hand, poor leadership decisions by the former President of the US almost results in loss of everyone. 

Most people will (like me) admire Dinah’s guts and bold actions which saved the whole effort.  The others Eves each have qualities that are key but Dinah was heart and soul of the group. 

I am not sure that Stephenson needed to add the Earth-based efforts to round things out.  It makes the Eves solution seem less important and less dramatic.  Also it is hard to understand how either of those gambles would have been successful.  I do not think that they would have been.  In any event, it is a thought provoking book  - another one from Neal Stephenson who is quickly becoming one of my favorites – Try Cryptonomicon.

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