Book review: “Seveneaves” by Neal Stepehenson

“Seveneaves” are two books in one. The first 2/3 are about international efforts to escape to space after the Moon disintegrates, the last third takes place five thousand years after the event and about people repopulating the  Earth. It’s refreshing that the nature of the Agent that destroyed the Moon is never clarified, although I kept expecting that aliens will turn up at the last moment, apologise and rescue everybody. No such luck.

“Seveneaves” strong points are physics and astronomy – I enjoyed Orbital Mechanics 101. Very unfortunately for a book that is equally heavy on biology, it’s not as good.

(contains spoilers)

In the beginning, the book follows a  mostly plausible march of adaptation to mass living outside the Earth gravity with usual surmountable mishaps of technical and social nature. The characters are well developed.

Surprisingly, the death of the Earth population is not the most depressing event. The author wanted to pass the survivors via the narrowest population bottleneck – Seven Eaves of the title – and for that, he described sudden and illogical deterioration of narrative and minor characters’ genocide.

The space station loses “Genetic archive” that has been collected to preserve the diversity of human heredity. It was repeatedly stated that the archive is more of a decoy project to keep the doomed Earth population in check. But then the space geneticist (there’s seemingly only one but a profusion of engineers) does not collect any genetic material from the visibly diminishing population, even from the last two males.

Even overlooking that definitive majority of Eves are white, the ideas of racial purity and “hybrids [between descendants of different Eves] are fine in big cities” sound very peculiar in the second decade of 21st century. The subservient by design race is non-white, which is even more depressing.

The other niggling problems:

  • “The Cradle” won’t work due to atmosphere resistance and lightning strikes. The author had admitted as much in the afterword.
  • Epigenetic has become a buzzword just as nuclear was 50 years ago. But epigenetics cannot rewrite character and one of the races depends on this. 

Despite all of the above, the book remains not just readable but unputdownable until the very end.

 

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