Neal Stephenson can be a divisive writer – his science is, indeed, merciless, but some readers feel it can overwhelm his storytelling. Our reviewer Jason Sheehan has some choice thoughts:
“The moon blew up with no warning and with no apparent reason.”
That’s the beginning of Neal Stephenson’s newest epic,Seveneves. And in terms of opening hooks, it’s up there. I mean, he isn’t destroying L.A. or merely reducing some single nation to slag. No, Stephenson goes old-school mad scientist — straight for the pulp main vein and buried Saturday morning memories of Thundarr the Barbarian still ticking along in the heads of his audience, and blows up the moon.
But then, this is a Neal Stephenson book (a modernStephenson book, meaning post-Snow Crash/Diamond Age and, therefore, kind of post-fun) which means that the world as presented, moon or no moon, isn’t really the same as ours anyway. It’s a drier world, a rigidly mapped and exhaustively cataloged one where the first 565 pages read less like the script for an awesome moon-wrecking Michael Bay blow-em-up than a primer on global disaster preparedness.
Still, he says,
While most hard science fiction writers would concern themselves solely with explaining something like how their star destroyers make the jump to light speed, Stephenson is discussing (likely for 20 pages) how to keep the janitors on the Death Star from getting osteoporosis. His science is merciless. Hard like diamonds, and murderous in the extreme. Where most hard SF really means “a bunch of ray guns, then some talk about wormholes,” he plays with hard ballistics, hard genetics, hard sociology. And what thrills me, is that he makes it interesting. That he makes life and death in space about actual life and death — about the million things that will kill you and the two or three things that really smart people can do to stay alive.