I liked this book, but it didn't bowl me over. It takes a lot to get me to read a series, and the fact that I read through all nine books of this saysI liked this book, but it didn't bowl me over. It takes a lot to get me to read a series, and the fact that I read through all nine books of this says something for it, but I was reading it for the weight of it as a series, and especially due to a lot of goodwill earned in the first few books. I felt that the series went downhill later on. This book picked things up a bit, and was almost up to par with the early books, but also suffered from some of the same issues.
In particular, for all of this series, I've felt that the ends came rather abruptly, and left me with a sense of having wanted (and expected) much more from the story. Also, plot lines, side quests (for lack of a better term) and side characters' stories often don't really go anywhere, or don't go anywhere nearly as satisfying as you'd hope.
Also, certain characters (or, well, character) who have become convenient Deus Ex Machina tools throughout the series are even more so here. Previously you could kind of gloss over it because it was worked into the story at least a little. Here it's quite glaring.
All of that said, it did bring a nice ending to the series, and if the arc of the specific novel's resolution was a bit abrupt, the way some of the central ongoing themes were worked out was satisfying.
I'm left feeling like I wouldn't run out and tell all my friends (who hadn't done so yet) to grab the books immediately -- which I actually was doing after the first few -- but that I wouldn't hesitate to mention it among other titles....more
This is really a polemic about interstellar colonization. I gather that the author has also published an essay laying out his argument on the topic, aThis is really a polemic about interstellar colonization. I gather that the author has also published an essay laying out his argument on the topic, and I feel like just reading the essay might be more effective.
My big complaints, however, aren't about literature-as-argument, but about the writing. It is, in a word, awful. Astoundingly so. However, KSR has elected to lampshade the fact. Instead of reigning in the desires that lead to indulgently poor novels, he's come up with an excuse to write one. That excuse is that the novel is narrated by an AI -- an AI that admits and even complains from the outset that it doesn't understand narrative and doesn't have a good grasp of what to leave in or take out when attempting to compress a thorough account or log into a narrative. This gives him the excuse to infodump ad nauseum, such that a good chunk of the book reads like a series of especially thorough Wikipedia articles on topics often only tangentally related to the story.
I know that authors do a lot of research and world-building to write a novel of this sort, and when the novel is meant to also be an argument, the pressure to show all of your research and world-building, as it presumably forms the premises from which your conclusions are inevitably drawn, must be even stronger. However, the best storytelling is the kind which knows when and how to hide all of that -- to do it to ensure that the story works and sticks together, but keep it behind the scenes so the reader is caught up in the drama happening in front of the curtain rather than the pulleys and ropes behind. This is a novel that fails at that miserably, and does so because it's given itself a thinly veiled excuse to do so.
Among other sins, the characters are very seldom likeable, even when they're supposed to be, and a great deal of the storytelling is also very flat (which I think is again by design to give the impression of an AI's mode of telling). In addition, many subplots which are at least as interesting as the primary plot are dropped as soon as they pass out of view of the characters of narrative focus, and are either never talked about again or alluded to but never really explored in a satisfactory manner.
In the end, I did finish the book, so I'll give it two stars instead of one, but I mostly trudged through to the end because I wanted to see how elements of the story would turn out that were in fact never returned to, so that persistence went unrewarded.
A couple of parting nitpicks: I'm surprised so few people seem irked by the, "traditionally oppressed people need to get over their butthurt once the generation that originally wrong them dies off," side-rant, and I really do not recommend drinking sea water. It will not make you at one with the planet, not is it healthful and nourishing. In fact, it will make you very, very sick....more
I love Neal Stephenson, including his more recent works. Anathem was one of my favourites, and I had high hopes for Seveneves. It's hard to talk aboutI love Neal Stephenson, including his more recent works. Anathem was one of my favourites, and I had high hopes for Seveneves. It's hard to talk about extensively without spoilers, but I'll do my best.
This book is divided into two sections. I enjoyed the first section quite a lot. There are some pacing issues. As others have said in their review, most of the excitement is front-loaded, and then there's a *lot* of "Okay, that's the situation, now let's deal with it," which is a bit dry. Also, some of the characters feel a bit two-dimensional, which turned out to have a reason later in the book. Most of the rest of the excitement in the first section of the book comes right near the very end, and it ends somewhat abruptly, with no denoument and a lot of unanswered questions. The final scenes are particularly unsatisfying, I found.
However, the second section of the book is... horrible. It almost feels like Stephenson never finished the book, or the publisher didn't like his ending, and so they farmed it out to a third-rate hack author to add on the second portion. The only part that convinces me that that might not be the case is that some of the world building in the second part is predicated on the two-dimensionality of the characters in the first part, which gives an explanation for why that is. I'm only a little ways in to the second part (and "a little ways" is about 100 pages on my ebook reader, so that gives you a sense of the tedious length even small amounts of story take in this book) and I just can't force myself to trudge through it any longer. It's almost purely exposition, the grounding in the setting is very loose, a lot of the social science aspects seem implausible at best, and the whole story has no hooks to keep you interested after the break from the first section. There are choices made that seem amateurish by any standard, much less for such a seasoned author. Many world building elements are belaboured by pages upon pages of detail that feels irrelevant (and comparable to sections of the later Song of Ice and Fire books where you get a detailed description of every dish of a meal, every single person's outfit, and the names, families, heraldry, and socio-political connections of every single person in a large crowd whether they're ever going to appear in the story again or not).
I hate to point out the Stephenson really needs an editor with a strong hand, especially because given the length of his books I'm sure I'm not the only one, but he does. The second section of this book feels self-indulgent at best, downright masturbatory at worst. It takes a lot for me to land a book on my "gave up" shelf, and to do so so late in the book and after many hundreds of pages of reading is extraordinary, but Seveneves pulled it off for me....more
I received this some time ago in paper, and didn't make it very far. The time it took for things to come together and for the relationship between theI received this some time ago in paper, and didn't make it very far. The time it took for things to come together and for the relationship between the disparate stories to come clear was just too long, and things never gelled. I recently got the audiobook version of it, which worked better for me. The reading wasn't the best, but because I read slowly, the audiobook went faster and I managed to get past that initial sort of fuzzy section. After that, it became more interesting, but still never completely connected. Gibson's writing has been improving, and Flynn is a genuine and likeable cahracter in a lot of ways, but he relies on his Deus Ex Machina tropes a little too heavily in this one. The main characters don't employ a lot of agency and the story is entirely driven by all-powerful behind-the-scenes players. As such, you never really feel any tension, because the people actually driving the plot can do anything, at any time, and tend to do so off-camera such that Our Heroes only learn about it after the fact or as it comes about. It's just not an engaging story design. The ideas behind the story are interesting enough, and I wish I could have read a more compellingly-told story in this world. It's not awful, just... a bit 'meh'. Also, I agree with others that the tone of the ending/prologue didn't really match the rest of the story and was a bit too fairy-tale goofball....more