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What if humanity reduced from 7 billion to just 7?

August 10, 2015

neal-stephensons-sevenevesFans of Neal Stephenson, (Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash) will love his science fiction novel ‘Seveneves’. It’s a feast…in fact it’s an 867-page blockbuster…or if you lose your grip on it, a toe-buster. It begins with something catastrophic happening to Earth’s Moon, and the roller-coaster ride begins.

Stephenson deals with all aspects of the catastrophe and its outcome in great detail, his scientific imagination is incredibly erudite and far-ranging. It’s not all techno–swamp however, his characters are very well portrayed, I found myself captivated by their desperate fight to preserve the human race.

Two-thirds of the way through Stephenson’s epic, the 7 billion strong human race has been reduced to just seven people, all of them women. These seven Eves must now re-populate the human race, beginning with artificial (digital) genetic information. Humanity thus begins a new phase of its evolution, in orbit around an uninhabitable Earth, and Stephenson’s book shifts into warp drive.

A few pages on, the chapter title is ‘Five Thousand Years Later’. You don’t see that as a chapter heading too often, do you? Stephenson describes our twenty-first century civilization as “puny and crumbling,” and given his vision of the future, it’s hard to disagree. (Actually given any scenario, it’s hard to disagree). His imagined future technology is mind-blowing, and his narrative style brings it to life.

If you like your sci-fi heavily loaded with gigantic technical marvels and mind-boggling adventure, you’ll love ‘Seveneves’. Stephenson is a master of scientific detail, in fact he just can’t help himself, and sometimes descends into trivia. Here he is on a completely irrelevant piece of science; “One of the ice cubes in Doob’s glass let out a little pop as it underwent thermal fracturing.” All of page 245 is devoted to the design of the little loops of ribbon that doomed humanity wear on their lapels, as they await their fate. Despite this trivia, in fact because of it all, I found it to be a marvelous book, a terrific futuristic epic…perpetually entertaining, despite the long haul.

Reviewed by Keith Smith

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