• by Neal Stephenson
  • Narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal, Will Damron
  • 31 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Anatham, Reamde, and Cryptonomicon comes an exciting and thought-provoking science fiction epic - a grand story of annihilation and survival spanning five thousand years.
What would happen if the world were ending?
A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.
But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain....
Five thousand years later, their progeny - seven distinct races now three billion strong - embark on yet another audacious journey into the an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.
A writer of dazzling genius and imaginative vision, Neal Stephenson combines science, philosophy, technology, psychology, and literature in a magnificent work of speculative fiction that offers a portrait of a future that is both extraordinary and eerily recognizable. As he did in Anathem, Cryptonomicon, the Baroque Cycle, and Reamde, Stephenson explores some of our biggest ideas and perplexing challenges in a breathtaking saga that is daring, engrossing, and altogether brilliant.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Odd narrator choice

Is there anything you would change about this book?

This is a tough one to rate. There are long stretches of the book that are fascinating and fast moving. And there are stretches that feel even longer that are dishwater dull. Stephenson is usually able to keep technical discussions interesting -- Cryptonomicon, for example, deals with heavily complex subjects but doesn't get boring. Seveneves does.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Mary Robinette Kowal and Will Damron ?

Not sure about who I'd have read it instead, but Ms. Kowal made some very strange choices for main characters' voices. The producer/recording engineer/whoever was sitting in the booth also wasn't paying close attention--there are more than the usual number of garbled and mispronounced words. I get it; it's a long book. But this is not anywhere close to the best of all possible recordings.

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- Josh Mitchell

Fascinating speculation, a little flawed as story

Neal Stephenson’s novels are ambitious, and Seveneves is no exception. Though this one has a few issues, which I’ll get to, it still has much to recommend it.

The setup is that a mysterious event in the very near future causes the moon to break apart into large chunks. The question of “why” is soon buried under the realization that many moon fragments are going to rain down on the Earth in about two years, scouring its entire surface clean of life.

It’s a scenario so awful that’s it hard to even begin to get one’s mind around it, and Stephenson, other than a few scenes here and there, seems to have decided that the emotional and psychological response of humanity to such an event wasn’t a worthwhile thing to focus on. Instead, his attention goes to the gears and wheels of how the world’s major countries might plausibly establish a small population in orbit, there to live out the next few thousand years. The first two thirds of the book explore this Ultimate Prepper Challenge, and center around two protagonists: Dinah, a classically blunt-spoken uber-geek who’s a master of robots, and “Doob” Dubois, a brilliant science popularizer clearly modeled after Neil Degrasse Tyson.

It’s all well-thought-out and interesting, and I learned a lot about the issues of living and operating in space. Yet, I wasn’t totally convinced by the plot, which relies on people being able to pull off heroic feats of engineering in a compressed timeframe, under profoundly demoralizing circumstances, without anything catastrophic going wrong. While accidents happen and individual characters go on suicide missions, the main danger to the space exodus is an implausible political situation that develops around the one-third mark. NS is great at explaining technical things interestingly over many pages, but he has a tendency to cram explorations of human psychology and motives into short, reductive character sketches. The political figure was a blatant straw man for the author to whack at, and several other characters were also more “types” than people.

At around the two-thirds mark, the space colonization story runs out of steam, and enters a sequence in which the few remaining humans make a crucial decision about the genetic future of their descendents. Then, suddenly, it’s five thousand years later, and we see that humanity, now established in giant space habitats, has split into seven distinct branches, each built around a different genetic line (hence the “seven Eves”).

I enjoyed this part of the book the most. The plot involves a special team of seven, representing all the races, coming together to travel to newly terraformed Earth to investigate a mystery hinted at in part one. The speculations on how an orbiting society might function, technologically, culturally, and politically, are the kind of thing NS does well. The division of humanity into “races” with distinct personality traits and mythos might be troubling in other hands, but is an interesting thought experiment here. The story and its colorful touches are fun, and closer to classic NS than the preceding portion, though the ending wrapped everything up a little too hastily for me. I wish NS’s editor had gotten him to geek out a little less in part one, and to focus a little more on being a fiction writer.

In sum, this wasn’t my favorite in his oeuvre (that would be Cryptonomicon or Anathem), but I did enjoy it. Like Reamde, it has some notable flaws. Audiobook reader, Mary Kowal, who handles part one, is pretty bad at foreign accents and overly dramatic with some characters. Will Damron, who takes part two, is much easier on the ears.
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- Ryan

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-19-2015
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio