NS’s “Seveneves” Is Too Short

Plus some other fiction recommendations.

June 1, 2015
Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson

Published in May of 2015.

Seveneves is the antidote to the compression of our attention spans. What NS does in 880 pages (32 hours on audio) is create a whole new world. He needs each of those pages to construct the places that are born after the moon explodes. 

The first sentence of Seveneves has to go down as one of my all time favorite book beginnings.
The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason”.
Talk about not burying the lede.
From this first sentence, NS builds a world and a culture on a space station, a doomed earth, and a re-born earth some 5,000 years in to the future.
If you read some reviews that questioned some of the narrative choices of Seveneves, and these reviews caused you to hesitate investing the time to read the book, then you have been the victim of a criminal disservice. (I speak from bitter and guilty experience). The books final third, where NS jumps ahead 5,000 years, is the best part of the book.   
I’m more and more convinced that a healthy diet of hard science fiction is a necessary ingredient for thinking intelligently about the future of higher education.  When we think about what higher ed will look like in 2030 or 2050 (and we need to think about that as the time to start preparing is now), we would be wise to add books like Seveneves into our mental landscape.
While reading Seveneves I was attending a 3 day conference at McGill University called Event Horizon:  Exploring Higher Education in 2050. NS’s book got me in the right frame of mind to think about non-linear shifts in our industry.  
My hope is that Seveneves is the first book in a trilogy. These are world’s and people that I don’t want to leave behind.
While we are talking about fiction (something we don’t do nearly enough), perhaps I could sneak in a few other recommendations.
If your tastes run to crime, cops, and the grittier side of urban life you may also love these two books (I did).  Richard Price’s The Whites: A Novel (originally published under pseudonym Harry Brandt), is as good crime novel as you will find.
All Involved by Ryan Gattis, takes us inside the 1992 L.A. Riots through the eyes of criminals, cops, and civilians. The result is a propulsive street sociology wrapped in a narrative of urban violence that surprises and much as it enlightens.
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy is an altogether different proposition from the hard sci fi and hard cops and crime tales of the previous 3 books. This story of a corporate anthropologist writing his Great Report is by turns challenging, baffling, and brilliant.  
The book that I am eagerly awaiting (and which releases today 6/2), is Jason Matthews’ Palace of Treason.  His first book, Red Sparrow, was the best spy thriller that I’ve read in ages. 
What (fiction) are you reading (or planning to read)?


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Joshua Kim

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