The first hardcover edition is a beautiful behemoth of a book… 861 pages, quality binding, and 4 top-notch illustrations that really enhance the story. It’s a feast to hold in your hands. Stephenson clearly is on top of the commercial food chain. And when one starts reading, the first sentence (“The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.”) hits you like the instant classic first line it is. The first 50 pages are excellent, thrilling, and command a feeling of tremendous promise that is rare in any genre.
Gradually, technological and scientific exposition takes over. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But it is heavy, heavy, heavy. Somewhere around the halfway mark it struck me what a tour de force this book is: Stephenson’s vision is so detailed, so imaginative, so well researched that the constant awe becomes relentless. He has been explicit in interviews on a possible purpose for science fiction, as the genre to lead the way, to think big, to entice the imagination of scientists, leaders, the human race. He has expressed disappointment in that regard too, and sets the record straight with this book.
The fact that it is an intellectual achievement does not necessarily make Seveneves a good book. Not everybody will enjoy this, as the reader has to work, work, work. The focus in this book is on world building and science, not characters. At least, it seems that way at first, and just by page count, it is. This is true to content: in a real cataclysmic scenario about the demise of the human race, individuals wouldn’t be the focus. The book is about the bigger picture, the science that will get us out of the mess, about the human race working together. But then again, after about 120 pages the characters do become a wee bit interesting. Still, by page 240 I still didn’t really care for them.
Yet, somewhere around the halfway point the book had me teared up, for 2 pages. Those were 2 terrific pages. Emotional pages. Amongst the best 2 emotional pages I have ever read. There was so much truth in them. Continue reading