STARRED REVIEW
May 19, 2015

Humanity’s full-circle future

By Neal Stephenson
Review by
One of the defining characteristics of much of the best science fiction writing is ambition, but the trick is to filter that ambition into something meaningful. A big story idea is a start, but a great science fiction writer knows how to channel that into an inventive, emotionally affecting story that’s as much about science as it is about characters. Over the course of his career, Neal Stephenson has become one of the poster children for just that kind of storytelling ambition, and with Seveneves he takes it to a level unlike anything he’s done before.
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One of the defining characteristics of much of the best science fiction writing is ambition, but the trick is to filter that ambition into something meaningful. A big story idea is a start, but a great science fiction writer knows how to channel that into an inventive, emotionally affecting story that’s as much about science as it is about characters. Over the course of his career, Neal Stephenson has become one of the poster children for just that kind of storytelling ambition, and with Seveneves he takes it to a level unlike anything he’s done before.

The novel opens with the moon exploding. There’s no fanfare, no slow suspenseful buildup to anticipate this event. The moon just explodes, and suddenly Earth and everyone on it is caught in the grip of disaster. The planet is a time bomb, and the moon’s explosion has lit a fuse that can’t be extinguished. Humanity has no choice but to take to the stars and find a new home, a new way of life, and a new method of survival.

Plenty of science fiction writers have imagined this species-wide departure from a planet, and while Stephenson renders it deftly and compellingly, the key to Seveneves (whose title comes from the “seven Eves” who repopulate the world) is that he doesn’t stop there. Instead, he charts a course for the human race that spans five millennia into the future, to a time when future humans are contemplating visiting a ruined old planet known as Earth. Stephenson’s not just interested in setting the stage for the future of the human race. He wants to bring it full circle, and Seveneves does exactly that in spellbinding fashion, driven by Stephenson’s practical, yet mesmerizing, prose. This is an author who’s always been able to construct stories like airtight starships, packed with detail and moving parts and concepts that work from the inside out, but he wouldn’t be the giant he is if it weren’t for the passion he pulls into his stories.

Seveneves is a novel of big ideas, but it’s also a novel of personalities, of heart, and of a particular kind of hope that only comes from a Stephenson story. Science fiction fans everywhere will love this book, as will anyone who loves a tale with great scope that also has great heart.

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Seveneves

Seveneves

By Neal Stephenson
Morrow
ISBN 9780062190376

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