Friday, August 7, 2015

Review: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

I almost didn't write this one. Why?

I've been a Stephenson fan for years, and I adored Anathem. I wasn't so keen on Reamde, but everyone has an off day.

I have rarely been so disappointed in a book as I was in this one.

The concept is intriguing. An unknown force blows up the moon (Most likely a wandering singularity). Fortunately, the moon takes an extended time to explode. Humanity launches a massive project to evacuate a small but genetically diverse population to space. Needless to say it doesn't go well.

Then the book (no spoilers, this is in the blurb) leaps forward to the recolonization and reterraforming (it's a word now) of Earth.

Unfortunately, the execution was deeply flawed. In the first two thirds of the book, Stephenson repeatedly stops the story to educate his reader on orbital mechanics - either through straight up exposition, lectures given by a thinly veiled Neil DeGrasse Tyson insert (I'm sure he had permission ;)), or the repeated introduction of new characters to give the experts somebody to explain it to. In fact, there's more exposition about orbital mechanics and space survival than actual story. What could and should (Stephenson has written brilliant thrillers) have been a dramatic apocalyptic story turned into, frankly, a bit of a yawn.

The second part of the book skips through a ton of stuff I actually did want to read about, but is at least more like what I expect from Stephenson. Until it practically stops mid sentence.

I don't know quite what happened here - too tight a deadline? Arguments with his editor? It's still Stephenson, so it doesn't quite cross the line into terrible...but it's not what he's capable of. Nor is it the book I actually was hoping I'd get when I picked it up and read the blurb.

Sorry, Mr. Stephenson. You missed the mark with this one.