The name of Neal Stephenson is one that has come across my desk and various internet feeds over the last couple of decades, and was always on my to do list. With his newest novel, Seveneves, I get to tick that box.
Stephenson starts the novel with the moon being destroyed. After that, things get worse. With characters based on Neil Degrasse Tyson,Elon Musk and Hilary Clinton, you know that things are going to be interesting. This is certainly true during the first two thirds of the book. As the human race deals with the consequences of the explosion, characters appear that are well developed, as is the habitat they now live in. There are sections here where Stephenson’s descriptions are so good, you start to feel the claustrophobia, smell the unclean people, and see gaunt figures moving around. That’s not to say that is entirely engrossing. To start with, there are information dumps on orbital mechanics; if you were looking for a primer on the subject, this would be a good place to start.
It is the ending where this novel is really let down. If a reader was to close the book and walk away before the final act, they would end with an ambigious ending that would have made this story a near perfect science fiction novel. Instead, we get this last act which feels almost tacked on. While it is interesting, it felt unnecessary.
If you are looking for a piece of hard science fiction, this would have to be one of the best examples around at the moment. It extraplolates current science and throws in some well developed characters, but is disappointed by its final act.