Seveneves

I am deep in the middle of Neal Stephenson’s giant new book Seveneves – at page 602 of 880.
I am so annoyed. That I have to be at work. That I have to write this. That I have to put the washing out, feed the cat, talk to people. Sleep.

I just want to read this book.
So far it is just fantastic – it had me at the first sentence about the Moon blowing up and it rockets along from there with ‘the world’ readying a Cloud Ark with all the stores and equipment they can for the few humans (the seeds of a new population) they can get up to the International Space Station to sit out the planet-destroying Hard Rain that will fall on Earth from about two years after the explosion for the next, oh, five thousand plus years. I now know all sorts of things about orbits, asteroid mining, solar radiation and the logistics of space living that (a) I had no idea I didn’t know and (b) I didn’t know I would find so fascinating.

The plot is great, and Stephenson’s seemingly casual but spare and rather elegantly crafted prose is a delight to read. He is particularly good at switching between the personal, the lives and thoughts of a variety of humans, and the sudden pulling back to allow us to glimpse the big view, all the technical whizz-bang and gadgets being prepared and then used in the light of a burning Earth.

For Stephenson’s characters (and for the reader) much of what is occurring is too big, too much to think about for very long at any one time. You just have to do the next thing on the list or throw out the list and get through the next emergency. His ability to write coherently and usefully about the uses of, and theories behind, all the various sciences being used in this great undertaking makes what could be dull technobabble instead vital, interesting and thought-provoking, and in the process throws up all sorts of philosophical and cultural questions and considerations.
People who know the genre will be aware of Stephenson’s groundbreaking work already; this is great science fiction to suggest to those readers who say they “never read sci fi”.

Now I’m off – I have 278 pages to read before I next have to feed the cat…

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