From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Anatham, Reamde, and Cryptonomicon comes an exciting and thought-provoking science fiction epic - a grand story of annihilation and survival spanning five thousand years.
What would happen if the world were ending?
A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.
But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain....
Five thousand years later, their progeny - seven distinct races now three billion strong - embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown...to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.
A writer of dazzling genius and imaginative vision, Neal Stephenson combines science, philosophy, technology, psychology, and literature in a magnificent work of speculative fiction that offers a portrait of a future that is both extraordinary and eerily recognizable. As he did in Anathem, Cryptonomicon, the Baroque Cycle, and Reamde, Stephenson explores some of our biggest ideas and perplexing challenges in a breathtaking saga that is daring, engrossing, and altogether brilliant.
©2015 Neal Stephenson (P)2015 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.
This is a tough one to rate. There are long stretches of the book that are fascinating and fast moving. And there are stretches that feel even longer that are dishwater dull. Stephenson is usually able to keep technical discussions interesting -- Cryptonomicon, for example, deals with heavily complex subjects but doesn't get boring. Seveneves does.
Not sure about who I'd have read it instead, but Ms. Kowal made some very strange choices for main characters' voices. The producer/recording engineer/whoever was sitting in the booth also wasn't paying close attention--there are more than the usual number of garbled and mispronounced words. I get it; it's a long book. But this is not anywhere close to the best of all possible recordings.
I liked the science. It seemed researched and thorough and plausible. And fascinating. Got me interested. Some sections are less riveting, but they play into a general feeling of the book being thorough and comprehensive.
Well, for me it is a good follow up to THE MARTIAN. Science oriented with modern day humans looking to current technology for solutions to thorny problems.
I would avoid Ms. Kowal like the plague. I have never encountered a stranger narrator choice. Her sections of omniscient narrtion are perfectly good - a bit robotic, but it works. But her "voices" are preposterous and distracting. How the author could have okayed this narrator is beyond me. Every male character sounds like he is participating in a bad community theater production of a Gilbert and Sullivan musical. She can't do a British accent without making everyone sound like Colonel Fudgewiggens. Which really destroys all men as romantic creatures. Her accent work is appalling. I really can't say enough- every voice - male and female is distracting and aritificial. She needs to receive a cease and desist order NOW. It's a shame because she reads the narrative well. She should just skip voices altogether. Nod to them, so to speak, without attempting to do them. I almost want people to listen just to be amazed.
Well to the narrator, yes. I gasped and continue to gasp every time a new accent arrives.
I think I have made my point.
This book was very interesting with great characters and plot. It's super long and you really get into it. However you get towards the end and all this development is still happening and bam it just ends. Maybe I missed somewhere that this was going to be a series. But if not this book ends like the author was tired of writing so he just quit. Hopefully it is a series and I'm just stupid.
No. There's a couple of diagrams in the book that really help with visualizing the latter parts of the book. But more importantly, I really thought the female narrator who begins the book was not a good choice. Her vocalization of the male roles is really poor. I really wish they could have used the same woman, Jennifer Wiltsie, who read Neal Stephenson's "The Diamond Age". She did amazing work with that book and would have done a much better job with this one. The male reader was fine.
I think Seveneves is a lot like Stephenson's other works like Cryptonomicon and Anathem. Building worlds and describing tech without as much emphasis on plot turns and twists.
Not really that kind of book.
A good addition to the Neal Stephenson library. Not his best, but I enjoyed it.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
Neal Stephenson’s novels are ambitious, and Seveneves is no exception. Though this one has a few issues, which I’ll get to, it still has much to recommend it.
The setup is that a mysterious event in the very near future causes the moon to break apart into large chunks. The question of “why” is soon buried under the realization that many moon fragments are going to rain down on the Earth in about two years, scouring its entire surface clean of life.
It’s a scenario so awful that’s it hard to even begin to get one’s mind around it, and Stephenson, other than a few scenes here and there, seems to have decided that the emotional and psychological response of humanity to such an event wasn’t a worthwhile thing to focus on. Instead, his attention goes to the gears and wheels of how the world’s major countries might plausibly establish a small population in orbit, there to live out the next few thousand years. The first two thirds of the book explore this Ultimate Prepper Challenge, and center around two protagonists: Dinah, a classically blunt-spoken uber-geek who’s a master of robots, and “Doob” Dubois, a brilliant science popularizer clearly modeled after Neil Degrasse Tyson.
It’s all well-thought-out and interesting, and I learned a lot about the issues of living and operating in space. Yet, I wasn’t totally convinced by the plot, which relies on people being able to pull off heroic feats of engineering in a compressed timeframe, under profoundly demoralizing circumstances, without anything catastrophic going wrong. While accidents happen and individual characters go on suicide missions, the main danger to the space exodus is an implausible political situation that develops around the one-third mark. NS is great at explaining technical things interestingly over many pages, but he has a tendency to cram explorations of human psychology and motives into short, reductive character sketches. The political figure was a blatant straw man for the author to whack at, and several other characters were also more “types” than people.
At around the two-thirds mark, the space colonization story runs out of steam, and enters a sequence in which the few remaining humans make a crucial decision about the genetic future of their descendents. Then, suddenly, it’s five thousand years later, and we see that humanity, now established in giant space habitats, has split into seven distinct branches, each built around a different genetic line (hence the “seven Eves”).
I enjoyed this part of the book the most. The plot involves a special team of seven, representing all the races, coming together to travel to newly terraformed Earth to investigate a mystery hinted at in part one. The speculations on how an orbiting society might function, technologically, culturally, and politically, are the kind of thing NS does well. The division of humanity into “races” with distinct personality traits and mythos might be troubling in other hands, but is an interesting thought experiment here. The story and its colorful touches are fun, and closer to classic NS than the preceding portion, though the ending wrapped everything up a little too hastily for me. I wish NS’s editor had gotten him to geek out a little less in part one, and to focus a little more on being a fiction writer.
In sum, this wasn’t my favorite in his oeuvre (that would be Cryptonomicon or Anathem), but I did enjoy it. Like Reamde, it has some notable flaws. Audiobook reader, Mary Kowal, who handles part one, is pretty bad at foreign accents and overly dramatic with some characters. Will Damron, who takes part two, is much easier on the ears.
male narrator was fine. almost returned it due to female narrator. trying to use a gruff voice for masculine characters just doesn't work for me (ditto with men trying to imitate lighter feminine voices). Overall, I do better reading Stephenson than listening to him, as I can't visualize worth a damn and he is so dense in terms of description, particularly technical details. Still think he's one of the more creative minds out there
I am only a couple of hours into it but the recording quality and narration are distractions.
I usually enjoy reading Stephenson. This is the first of his I have tried as an audiobook. I'd be reluctant to try another Brilliance Audio production if this performance is representative.
First, the recording has a tinny quality to it that is off-putting. Second, the narrator so far (MRK) has poor dialog skills with respect to switching gender and using a British accent. Her regular narration is pleasant enough and I would be enjoying the story more so far if she had stuck to that voice when doing dialog.
It remains to be seen. I am sticking with it so far.
Terrible narration. Really grim. She can't do accents or male voices without sounding like she's mocking them. All the men sound like pompous douchebags and they all have the same uncomfortable faux british accent. If the story wasn't so fantastic i would have stopped listening within the first hour. As it is, after three hours I'm on the fence.
l'enfer c'est les autres
I'm glad this one is finally over with. The author essentially wrote two completely different stories after all the time is separated by 5000 years. I enjoyed the first story. It had a lot of cool physics, biology, genetics and science speculation. Also it had a lot of nuanced themes such as much of what we do in life we do not because we believe in what we're doing but we can't see a better alternative and end up playing the roles we think we should (our world is always under-determined by our experience).
It's the second story that just doesn't click. All those points he's trying to make about our genetic race predetermines us and how they will be even more true after 5000 years of living in space; I just found it tedious. You know how there are two kinds of books, the one you don't want to get to the end of because it's so good and you don't want it to end or the other kind you just want to get to the end of it so you can finish it. This book belongs to the latter kind.
There are similarities between the first part of this book and "Aurora". I strongly recommend "Aurora" instead.
Each new Neal Stephenson book must inevitably face comparison with earlier efforts, some of which were truly amazing. My personal favorite is ANATHEM, and in my view his two books since, REAMDE and now SEVENEVES, couldn't live up to the very high expectations of an ANATHEM devotee. Of course, this is hardly fair to either of the two more recent books, both of which are fine novels. It's just another case of an author laboring under the burden of an already great legacy. The same thing happened to Ursula K. LeGuin, whose wonderful LATHE OF HEAVEN seemed pallid after the truly transcendent DISPOSSESSED and LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS. So it takes a conscious effort for me to review SEVENEVES on its own merits.
Those merits are considerable. The scope of the narrative is grand, and the sheer scale of the tragedy unfolding, one ghastly event at a time, throughout the first two thirds of the book, is gripping. To judge by the state of the world tech base when the novel opens, the story begins approximately ten years in our future, with cultural motifs as familiar to any current resident of the developed world, and of North America in particular, as are viral cat videos. The US President is a kind of hybrid of Sarah Palin, Carly Fiorina, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, selectively combining many of the least admirable traits of all three politicians, along with a few of their more admirable ones. As is clear from the book's blurb, and revealed in the first fifteen pages, all of the characters--indeed, everyone--must soon come to grips with the knowledge that all life on Planet Earth is irrevocably doomed, with perhaps two years left on the clock. One question posed in the first two-thirds of the book is, how might a civilization with essentially the technology available to us today, attempt some sort of long-term survival strategy for the human species? What technical, social, political, and personal challenges would such an effort pose? These questions have been asked and addressed in earlier science fiction, but perhaps no where as well, or as plausibly. By the end of the first part of SEVENEVES all such questions have been settled, for better or worse. I should add a trigger warning here for the benefit of listeners who may be disturbed by the idea of seven billion people dying, all at once, along with all their hopes and dreams.
I'm not entirely sure I can believe that the global economy would continue to function as well as it seems to in the two years between the proclamation of doom and its arrival. But Stephenson doesn't shirk this issue, addressing it with enough detail and color that I was prepared to suspend my disbelief.
The second part then extrapolates long-term consequences--where by "long-term," I mean, 5,000 years later--of the status quo at the end of the first. On the timescale of human history, five millennia is a very long time indeed, as long as from the beginnings of the Early Dynastic Period in early Bronze Age Egypt to the present. Obviously a lot can happen during that time, and we still have no idea of the effects of durable records and universal literacy on the pace of cultural evolution. So the future societies depicted in this book may be a little too similar to our own to be completely plausible, despite some explanations provided within the narrative. The second part of the book also contains some coyly enigmatic devices that are never properly cashed out, somewhat to this reader's frustration.
Mary Robinette Kowal narrates the first, and longer part, Will Damron the second. Kowal doesn't have the range for this book, and I'm afraid she gets in the way. The text provides substantial information about the background and accents of various characters, described as upper-midwestern, upper-class British, West Indian Londoner with Cambridge overlay, Russian, Swiss, Filipino, etc. As performed by Ms. Kowal, none of these is even remotely plausible. Most male characters get the dropped-larynx treatment, and their voices sound strained and stentorian, but not really male. Most of the main characters of this first part are female, and a female reader is appropriate, but I can think of half a dozen audible.com favorites who could have done this much, much better (Kate Reading and Gabrielle DeCuir come to mind). Will Damron does not get in the way of the second part, but he has a much easier job. Characters 5,000 years in the future are not assumed to be speaking English, let alone in accents whose geographical and socioeconomic significance is familiar to the contemporary listener.
Despite the defects that keep me from giving either story or performance a five-star rating, this book definitely deserves a listen from any Stephenson fan, and from any fan of epic science fiction.
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