Friday, July 22, 2016

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

Moon is destroyed somehow; an unknown object apparently hits it and it falls in pieces. A few years later, parts of it will fall on earth and destroy everything. The only chance humanity has, is to build a space habitat where at least some will survive (and perhaps repopulate the Earth thousands of years later). The first three quarters of the book tells the story of how the space habitat was built and what happened after the destruction of the Earth. The last part tells what happens 5000 years later when Earth is being terraformed back to a place with life. The destruction of Earth happens largely off screen and the emphasis is on people living on orbit. As can be imagined, life isn’t easy and mortality is high. Ultimately, very high.

The book is very long and, in places, mind numbingly boring. The descriptions of mundane things take pages and pages. Sometimes, something interesting happens and then the action is halted and a few pages are spent on description how an app for calculating different orbits works. Why should I care? The basic premise is also hard to believe. If the moon actually would break up into a few pieces, the most likely scenario would be that the pieces would stick together by gravity and a new moon would be formed comparatively soon. I can’t believe that the different pieces would have enough speed differences to cause cascading breakdown of the moon pieces. Also, the moon orbit is pretty far and the pieces would need very high speed change to be able to “fall” back to earth. And if there are so many falling meteorites that Earth’s atmosphere super heats but a huge orbital platform survives? (there are some explanations for that, but they amount pretty much to hand waving). Some of the choices the characters made weren’t very smart, but on that situation serious mistakes would surely happen. On the positive note, the writing was pretty good when the book wasn’t describing the technical details in excruciating detail. It won’t be one of my top choices for the Hugo award, but neither it will be below “no award”.

861 pp.

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