I’ve only read one Neal Stephenson book before (Snow Crash) and I did NOT like it. So that, combined with the fact that this book both features the end of the world (which I try to avoid because it makes me a-scared) and an 800 plus page count. Surprisingly . . . I didn’t hate it.
But there are some things you should know about Seveneves before going in:
This is not a book about characters. Characters are in it and everything, but they aren’t the focus. The thing that has an arc, that grows and changes, has a rising tension, a climax and resolution (well . . .) is humanity itself. Seveneves is not a traditional novel. It’s more of a thought experiment. What if the moon exploded? What would happen then — to humans, to the planet, to the future? What would happen immediately, and then waaaay past that?
Ultimately, I can’t be the judge of the accuracy of the science, or even of the plausibility of the actions humanity takes in the book. I can’t even fully judge what Stephenson’s vision of this future world turns out to be, because it’s his vision, and who even knows what’s going to happen ever, let alone after the moon pulverizes the earth and kills almost everything and everybody. The science, especially in the first two thirds of the book, seemed terrifyingly real. A lot of sci-fi glosses over the scary aspects of space travel in favor of adventure and imagination (two things I am fully in support of) so it was refreshing (if terrifying) to experience the other end of it.
But I was always engaged intellectually, even if I didn’t fully understand all the science. I was along for the ride. I wanted to know what would happen.
The only thing I definitely would have liked would be if it would have been a duology instead of one big book, because while the first part was the right length, the second was not. It needed to be much more fully developed. We come to care about the characters from the first section because we spend so much time with them. We barely have time to even get the measure of any of them in the second part before it’s over, so the end result of reading that section was that I felt dissatisfied upon finishing. It was way undercooked. It needed to have at least two hundred more pages of character development and plot, so that way we could care about what was actually there.
In all, I had a much more positive experience with this book than I expected, and I can see why it was nominated for the Hugo. This thing is bold and smart. It has scope. It takes new chances (that don’t always work) and doesn’t play it safe. I can appreciate that.