Twenty-Fifteen: I’m doing something I’ve been putting off for far too long. I’m getting serious about reading, again. I’ve dusted off my paperbacks and charged up my Kindle. It’s time to take the time to feed my poor television-adled brain with a selection of healthy, nourishing fiction. So, read on, little brain. Read on. We’re going Book to the Future!
I’ve been devouring “Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson. Having beautiful few days with an (unofficial) long weekend in the mix helps, particularly when said weather and weekend involves a comfortable hammock.
The hammock is a little jarring, however, a starkly contrasting state of existence to set against the novel’s backdrop of an impending apocalyptic Earth peppered with end of the world static cluttering the senses of a global ark-building exercise. This comes in the form of modding up the international space station into the last remaining vestige of humanity, described in rich and techno-babble cluttered detail from the author… surely off-putting to some readers, but delicious literary nectar to loyal fans.
I’m about three hundred pages into the deluge of story.
The novel starts with a bang, literally, and dives into the thread of classic Stephenson-style human drama surrounded by a richly lathered layer of techno-wonder, detailing a oozing mess of orbital mechanics, robotics and long-arm human sociology set against timescales that boggle the mind. And within “Seveneves” I’m finding a peppering of character allusions and scientific jargon overlaps between many of the author’s past novels.
In 2013 we had the good fortune of listening to a live podcast recording by Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and I have profound respect for our generation’s guru of all things falling into the sphere of “public science ambassador.” The good doctor’s thinly veiled doppelganger –in spirit if not in name– is a prominent character in “Seveneves” and this character’s complexly faceted personality in the novel seems to be a modern testament echoing Stephenson’s penchant for fictionalizing real personalities in many of his books. I’m not sure if this is a strategy or a crutch, though I suspect the former, but the result is a kind of reality-based anchor that makes the action all that much more entwined with a grounded perspective too often lost –or never found to begin with– in many science fiction novels.
I’m loving it so far, but with two thirds of the book left to read and the first culmination of epic events just drifting behind me like a first act-break reprieve, I can’t help but wonder if this is where stuff gets really weird. If Mr. Stephenson holds true to form, it probably is.