Seveneves

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Just started this book, about two hundred pages in. This is my first Stephenson book and I intended to start with Snow Crash but this plot sounded interesting. So far really enjoying it. The basic plot is the moon has broken apart and is calculated to rain down on the earth in a few years. This gives the scientists time to get a small percentage of the population off the planet and into an expanded international space station, where they plan to wait out the planet's destruction and rebirth in 5000 years.

The reviews weren't as good on this book as Snow Crash but it is good so far. It is a long book, about 828 pages, so a long way to go still. Did anyone here read it yet?
 

dask

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Just finishing Snow Crash now with only a few pages to go. Brings new meaning to the idea of "roller-coaster ride of a read." I'm liking it better than either Anathem or Cryptonomicon, both really long and excellent novels themselves. How he ties all his story elements together is impressive and bewildering. Snow Crash is something else. I think you'll enjoy it when you finally get to it. As for Seveneves, lately I've been getting one Neal Stephenson book a year for Christmas. Perhaps next year...
 

Dave

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I've just bought this with the intention to read it on holiday. I'm reading another huge book (not a Stephenson) first so it may be some time before I talk about it. I was just wondering what anyone thought about Seveneves.
 
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I finished it and liked it enough. There are two acts really. First the initial destruction of the earth and building a new society. Then 5000 years later when they start returning. The first part was better from character standpoint.
 

Dave

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I really liked it and I'd say Stephenson is now a much better writer. The way that he can make a "Haynes Manual" on orbital spacecraft into an interesting read is incredible. This was a New York Times bestseller, which means a lot more people are reading it than SF readers, and yet the first half is pure "hard science fiction." It means his trademarked, little asides were being understood by those without any science background, and yet still interesting to those who already understood, and that is a difficult line to walk.

As @jobs.jdfournier says, this was really two books. I liked the ideas in the second half better, but that couldn't exist without building upon the clever ideas set up in the first, especially the 'Council of Eves.' So, despite the length of the book already, I wanted the second half to be longer and to have gone further and into more detail. I really wanted to know what happened next. The bigger ideas demanded bigger exposition.

I hope I won't spoil but the two big reveals were well signposted, even right back in the first pages, so no great surprises. The social aspects of the genetic manipulation and the decisions taken during a ten minute meeting having effects for 5000+ years was what interested me most. It was almost 'Ringworld' but updated and better. One of the Eves was loosely based upon a real living person. I wondered if they all were, and whether anyone might sue. And I think he has the edge on GRRM for the number of characters he kills off.
 

Venusian Broon

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Just finished reading this, after it had been sitting on my to-read pile for a while (probably at least 18 months.)

So, that was a ride.

In terms of Neal Stephenson's canon, I felt that the Baroque Cycle was deeper and more satisfying, yet Seveneves was "un-put-a-downable". I devoured it in about 4 days.

As a writer I find Stephenson fascinating. You always get two books with him. One is the novel, the other is - interspersed between - his research notes. It's way more pronounced than most golden age SF. (I am drawn to comparing it with Arthur C. Clarke's The Fountains of Paradise, only it is even more heavily loaded with exposition.) Which makes me think that most modern SF&F writers would be dismissive of his style. If he were a new writer putting in some critiques here, I sense that most respondents would shot him down and tell him it wasn't working. Chapters that start with a three page aside on orbital mechanics, before returning to the action that the last chapter had hung up on, half page omniscient biographies of virtually all the characters and huge chunks that take you through the physics of journey that are really nothing to do with character or plot. It's unashamed world-building.

Yet as a writer he's huge and best-selling. And I was mesmerised. The exposition I was generally fascinated with (there were moments, especially with the future tech where I didn't quite have the energy to try and visualise the specifics of what was happening, but they were few) and the drive of the plot had me wanting more and more. How were we going to get the survival of the human race? And then in the final third (no spoilers required here, it's on the blurb on the back of the book) was what had the descendants built in the intervening 5000 years and what would they find on Earth after the catastrophe.

There are a lot of characters and there are really no heroes journeys, but a team effort from a the cast list - collaborative like the project being described. A disaster movie like the Towering Inferno or Poseidon Adventure than an Indiana Jones or Star Wars. Because of the huge cast list and because the story was no aSoIaF, even with 850+ pages in paperback, I am sure some will find the characters a tad shallow. However this is SF, slanted towards old school hard SF: a bit more focus on plot and 'big space things & how they work' need more detail. Despite this the characters were compelling enough for me. Well...perhaps the humans were all a little too good. If this was to happen in real life, I'm sure we'd be much worse at handling the situation :). But when the 'devil' turned up it was a wonderful way to stir the pot.

Clearly the black hat in the book is Julia, she's the one that splits up the human race at its most vulnerable and by her actions causes the development of Aida. So I blame her!

I'm sure many character-driven 'show don't tell' writers really don't like Stephenson, and fair enough. But I have to draw a line in the sand and say that I really, really enjoyed this :). Yes the ideas in it are not unique, at least for me - I've read a lot of SF. But Stephenson really puts it all together in a great package. For me personally, as a reader, this sure beats the acres of turgid single-character driven quasi-Star Wars/Star Trek/Military pulp-SF that still seems to flourish. Just my 'umble opinion ;).

Finally, yes they were busy for the first part of the hard rain, getting things set up and surviving. But in 5000 years, no one had gone to have a look to see what happened to Red Hope?
 

hitmouse

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Just finished this. Quite enjoyable, competently crafted and interesting, but I felt it lacked the zing found in his early sf and in the Baroque Cycle. Didn't quite get into top gear. Know what I mean?
 

Boaz

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@hitmouse I know what you mean.

Spoiler Alert!!!

Seveneves was picked for my book group. I noticed in buying it that the title is a palindrome. So I was on the alert for the concept of the story being the same forwards and backwards... And I anticipated in spotting the seven eves (as in Christmas) and the changes each eve would bring.

It turns out I was mostly wrong in those assumptions. I did not get the title until Doob's demise.

If you like maps and reference pages (as I do), then you'll appreciate the diagrams of Izzy and the Habitat Ring.... except that they did not really provide the detail I wanted. In fact, they only added to the way that I did not get the information that I wanted while getting all the information that I did not. Seveneves feels a lot like a Tom Clancy book... you get a lot of detailed explanation on the schematics of equipment... and unless you are a real geek for hard sci-fi, you don't need it... and I did not need it.

As @jobs.jdfournier says, this was really two books. I liked the ideas in the second half better, but that couldn't exist without building upon the clever ideas set up in the first, especially the 'Council of Eves.' So, despite the length of the book already, I wanted the second half to be longer and to have gone further and into more detail. I really wanted to know what happened next. The bigger ideas demanded bigger exposition.

I agree. Bigger exposition and a ton of practical explanation for the survival of other humans.

I hope I won't spoil but the two big reveals were well signposted, even right back in the first pages, so no great surprises. The social aspects of the genetic manipulation and the decisions taken during a ten minute meeting having effects for 5000+ years was what interested me most. It was almost 'Ringworld' but updated and better. One of the Eves was loosely based upon a real living person. I wondered if they all were, and whether anyone might sue. And I think he has the edge on GRRM for the number of characters he kills off.

The first sentence of the back cover revealed that Earth will be destroyed... and I wondered how long it would be until it was revealed in the book. Well, it happened in the first sentence of the book.

As for the "ten minute" "Council of Eves" that Dave mentioned, I was appalled at the decisions and how they determined the future. Moira's pronouncement of amnesty towards Aida and Julia was shocking. This decision to preserve humanity and yet allow Aida and Julia to determine their ofspring's DNA profiles ruined humanity. All the others made choices to combat A&J and their progeny were still fighting the same fight 5,000 years later. Moira used her power to usurp Ivy's position. Dinah used her power to blackmail the others. Only Ivy and Tekla did not prove themselves inhumane at that meeting.

Stephenson's story absolutely lent itself to killing off characters. It's in the title...

I did not hate Seveneves. I did not love it either. But it does provide a number of thought provoking themes. Fans of contemporary hard sci-fi, the International Space Station, orbital mechanics, genetic bottlenecks, asexual reproduction, genetic engineering, terraforming, and epigenetics could find a lot to like.
 

DeathFusion

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I finished Seveneves a couple of weeks ago, it was my first Stephenson book. I thought it was great, I will definitely read more of his work.
It was interesting that society kept going when they stood on the verge of apocalypse.
Maybe it was a bit too astonishing that the father of one eve and the fiancee of another were key members of the two other surviving groups?
Did anyone else picture Neal deGrasse Tyson as "Doc" Dubois?
 

Venusian Broon

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I finished Seveneves a couple of weeks ago, it was my first Stephenson book. I thought it was great, I will definitely read more of his work.
As I put in my quick review above, I found the Baroque trilogy better, but it's not hard SF, more a sort of reimagining of history. But its still Stephenson and I devoured it!

Did anyone else picture Neal deGrasse Tyson as "Doc" Dubois?
Definitely! :)
 

Michael Bickford

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I loved Seveneves. Read it twice, once with audio. “this sure beats the acres of turgid single-character driven quasi-Star Wars/Star Trek/Military pulp-SF that still seems to flourish.” Sums up how I feel about a lot of SF. More creative concepts less military conflict, please.
i wondered about Red Hope as well. Grisham does that a lot in the pop thriller genre—develops a plot line or characters who never appear again, like he forgot. Benefit of the doubt is that Stephenson thought the shoe-string go-to-Mars crew were too stupid and obviously doomed to bother with—yeah, it’s realistic to assume some would try that route, but we can assume it’s going to fail and leave it at that.
lots of fun tech speculation. Loved the glider and the way she flew it and her epigenetics—Cath? Read it a couple years ago. She was my favorite character.
I don’t mine his exposition. I often feel dialog is stilted so that an author can “show” info in dialog where character’s natural interactions and conversations would never contain that information, and that it would be better revealed—told—in a well-written exposition. A lot of great books—Steinbeck and Melville come to mind—are half exposition. It can be written as prose poetry.
Yes, he puts together a big package. Ambitious to cover 5000 years—yet clever the way there were character echoes accross the millennia. Shades of Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas in that, another fave.
 

Michael Bickford

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I finished Seveneves a couple of weeks ago, it was my first Stephenson book. I thought it was great, I will definitely read more of his work.
It was interesting that society kept going when they stood on the verge of apocalypse.
Maybe it was a bit too astonishing that the father of one eve and the fiancee of another were key members of the two other surviving groups?
Did anyone else picture Neal deGrasse Tyson as "Doc" Dubois?

YES, Once I saw him like that very early on, I couldn’t shake it. But I like Neal, and Doc’s job was so similar to Neal’s, and several other details made me think it was completely intentional and I ended up liking the technique—even it I was accidental, which I doubt.
astonishing is kinder that “too coincidental”, but yeah, astonishing. Sort of inverted Dickensian? But it was functional and made reasonable by their relative positions in the science/military world at the time of the disaster, so he sold me on it and the connections enhanced the flow of over 5000 years. we had a nice level of intimacy with the characters, even though there were so many and it was 3rd person. He switched POV to do that quite well.

gotta say starting off with the moon exploding in the very first sentence was killer engagement. Then unspooling the physics reality of the hard rain on the world, convincing people—reminded me of people warning about climate change for decades being seen as “chicken littles”. We need a few bolides to hit to convince people.
 
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