I love Isaac Asimov’s books. They excel at telling stories that would be impossible to tell without sci-fi elements, but the stories are not sci-fi for the sake of sci-fi. They’re using it as a tool to tell a real, interesting, and unique story.
Seveneves is a book very similar in tone to some of the Foundation books by Asimov. It’s a bit more emotional, and had me in tears at a few key plot points, but overall it’s about the people and the story, not the technology or lasers or spacebats or whatever.
In fact, it’s similar to the Foundation series in another key way: it’s not a book for the impatient or the easily distracted. It’s grand in scale and heavy on undertones. It’s also over 800 pages.
You now have enough information to make a decision. Are you the sort of person who loves long, detailed sci-fi story arcs? Do you read Asimov or Heinlein or even Tolkien and enjoy them?
If you’re adamantly sure that the answer to these questions is “yes”, then I’m going to suggest you click this link, buy the book, and stop reading this review. Seveneves is best served raw, with no lead-in or even tiny spoilers. It’s jarring and bold when you know nothing about it.
I’m assuming you’re unswayed by the statements above and that’s why you’re still reading. Or you’re just defiant in general. Whatever. The point is, while I’m not going into spoilers here, I’m going to speak broadly about the storyline for the sake of interest and any surprise you miss from having read this is on you. I wash my hands of it.
Seveneves is about humanity. Specifically it’s about humanity’s reaction to impending doom. It comments heavily on modern culture, picking apart politics and ignorant self-interest.
The book opens with the moon exploding. Nobody knows why. Nobody ever finds out why. The book isn’t about the science-y answer to that. In the story, scientists quickly figure out that humanity has a couple of years, at best, before all the pieces rain down on Earth in the “hard rain” and basically kill everyone. How do people react to this? What happens after the pieces rain down?
The book takes place in three movements. This is a bit of a spoiler, so be careful.
- The time leading up to the “hard rain” – the book is very science-focused, fast-paced and urgent. Hope, cleverness, and sacrifice abound here.
- The time immediately following the “hard rain” – things get bleak. Internal politicking starts happening. You learn to hate some characters. The pace slows and it’s a bit tedious, plus your urge to space some of the folks makes this portion a bit of a bog to tread through.
- 5,000 years in the future – this whole piece seems almost like a new book. I feel like it could’ve been longer, but yet it was far more descriptive than previous parts, reminding me of The Fellowship of the Ring. The pace picks up as it approaches the end, which felt a bit sudden to me.
Overall this book sets up a completely new, amazing world. Stephenson has written himself an opening to an entire series of books that could be dreamed up from this genesis, and I find myself wanting to know more of the stories that are hinted at, but not explored.
The name “Seveneves,” being a palindrome, comes into play heavily in the story. The politics and conflict that happen on Earth, even today, exist through something as big as the tragedy of a moonsplosion-induced armageddon. While the majority of people in a dire situation will work together through a sense of commonality, there will always be a struggle for power, differences in beliefs, or simple ignorant instigation that causes rifts in humanity.
Seveneves is a great story with a variety of unique characters told through the lens of disaster and recovery. I absolutely recommend it to anyone who enjoys the long-form sci-fi tales of the older generation of authors.