(This post is spoiler-free.)
Stephenson is one of my favorite authors, and Cryptnomicon (paid link) is both my favorite Stephenson book and one of my favorite books period. Quite apart from “just” being fucking amazing in every way, it sparked my interest in cryptography, convinced me I could learn enough HTML and CSS to be dangerous, and deepened my interest in WWII history.
When Crypto came out, I was already fully aboard the Stephenson train — at that point, I’d buy whatever he wrote, sight and reviews unseen. But Quicksilver (paid link) brought me to a screeching halt. I made it a little ways in and gave up, which was rare for me a decade ago.
The rest of the Baroque Cycle looked like more of the same, so I figured Stephenson had stopped writing books I liked, and hey, no worries. More power to him for following his heart.
But then Reamde (paid link) came along, and it looked different. I sampled it, and it was different. I read it, and dug it, and although I didn’t love it as much as Crypto — a high standard! — but it was a fun ride.
Seveneves, though? It looked overlong and overly complex — like another Quicksilver — and I passed on it. Until a few days ago, when a friend recommended it to me.
I mentioned hating Quicksilver, and my friend said he’d hated it too — but that Seveneves wasn’t anything like the Baroque Cycle. He knows I hate spoilers, but he dropped an intriguing hint that put some of the bad press I’d heard about the book in perspective. I put a lot of stock in his recommendations, so I picked it up.
And now for something completely different
Seveneves is amazing.
If, like me, you took an extended “Stephenson break,” come back for this one.
It does more in the first 50 pages than lesser books do in their entirety. It’s teaching me all sorts of stuff about space and orbital mechanics, and at every turn it’s surprising me. I love being surprised, particularly by books.
Seveneves reminds me a lot of Cryptonomicon. Different, obviously, but there’s a common spark. It’s written from one geek to another, but accessibly enough that my fuzzy memories of physics and childhood dream of being an astronaut are getting a workout and a fresh coat of paint. It’s full of big ideas, expressed adroitly, and even when I can see something coming it doesn’t arrive in the way I expected.
It’s got me in its grip, and it’s not letting go. I’m not done reading it yet, but I’m so excited about it that I wanted to share that excitement here. Give Seveneves (paid link) a look, especially if you haven’t read any Stephenson in a while.
Update: all finished now
I finished Seveneves today (May 29), and holy shit. I heard mixed things about the second “portion,” including advice to stop before that point. I couldn’t disagree more.
Staying well clear of spoilers, Seveneves stayed 100% gob-smackingly awesome the whole way through for me. If I read no other Hugo nominees, I’d vote for it in a heartbeat.
 It’s less rare now, but Kindle samples make it easier for me to avoid stuff that I might likely stop reading, so it probably balances out. Life’s too short to read books I don’t enjoy.