Hugo Novel Review (First Look): Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

written by David Steffen

Seveneves is a science fiction novel, written by Neal Stephenson, published in May 2015 by William Morrow, and was one of the novels nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel this year.  The story begins with a bang as something inexplicable happens to the moon.  Something punches a hole through it, fragmenting earth’s only natural satellite into seven fragments.  No one knows how this could be possible, or what caused it to happen, but soon they realize that these aren’t the most important questions: the most important question is “How can humanity survive this?”  The moon is going to break up into smaller and smaller fragments and start a catastrophic meteor shower in only about two years.

I’ve been reading material from the Hugo Packet as fast as I can, and I am up against the deadline as I’m reading this one.  I’ve only made it about 40 pages into this 867-page book, so it is by any measure still very early in the book.  We have met who I’m guessing to be the main characters:  “Doc” Dubois Harris is the American astronomer who first predicts the catastrophic after-effects of the breaking of the moon, and is involved in trying to plan for survival plans thereafter.  The other main characters are Ivy and Dinah, astronauts aboard the ISS, which will serve as the basis for preserving as much of earth culture in space as they can.

This is an interesting premise for a book but, despite the breaking of the moon happening on page one, it feels like it’s been off to a fairly slow start.  At page 40 they’ve only just started coming to the conclusion that there are bigger consequences coming, after Doc had noted that earth life seemed to be generally unaffected.  Presumably things will pick up pace from here, since there is a pretty short time limit on getting as many people and archives and resources either below ground or in orbit to avoid the death zone that the surface will be.  I’m interested in seeing where this goes, and I hope it gets going at a faster pace soon, or at least give me some more reason to empathize with the characters.   I think it’s an interesting premise, but so far there hasn’t really been anything that would make me feel compelled to buy the book to find out more.