It’s hard to read Neal Stephenson’s “Seveneves” without assuming that its nominal hero is actually Neil Degrasse Tyson. (Actually, it can be hard to read “Seveneves” PERIOD, but we’ll get to that in a moment.)
“Seveneves” is an ambitious descendant to the Jules Verne “From the Earth to the Moon” science-fiction model. Here, our friendly satellite has disintegrated into many pieces, life on Earth is doomed, and the only possible way to preserve the best of human society involves launching ourselves into planetary orbit pronto. It’s not even that outré a premise, and Stephenson, as usual, exhaustingly details the processes. He is possibly the most ambitious writer out there, capable of thinking his way through highly detailed scientific scenarios. But his grand, challenging ideas need to meet an editor at some point, someone to let him know that “Seveneves” would have been a mind-blower at 300 pages, but gets to be a drag at 800. Most readers will feel the gravitational pull (this is what makes a book put-down-able) around the 2 thirds mark. And the man still hasn’t learned to write about human beings: his people are all prodigious automatons involved in the complex calculation of every single move.
I’ll leave this sexy bit here:
“He was in Amelia’s arms, and she in his, as they got busy making an embryo for him to carry up into space for implantation in some other, unknown woman’s womb. He was already thinking about the videos he was going to make to teach his baby about calculus when he climaxed.”
RATING: COOL! for the brilliant ideas, SHRUG for narrative drive.