I'M STILL READING Neal Stephenson's Seveneves. I finished it a month ago but I'm still reading it. I've been going back over different sections—like the engineering wank parts I skipped the first time through. There are people who will read Seveneves primarily for these wank parts (I see you, technocrats) but the real achievement of this book is that, unlike Stephenson's more recent works (Anathem, Cryptonomicon), you can just skip that jargon and the story still works. If you get caught in a quagmire description about micro-robots working cooperatively on an asteroid, you can just flip ahead until you see a human again. Welcome back. Here are things that are happening to humans. P.S. It's the end of the world.
So the moon gets hit. It splinters into seven clean pieces. Everyone on Earth is like, "WHOA," and they spend a week trying to figure out what happened before they realize they need to get their priorities straight. Asteroids falling into the atmosphere after the collision are about to render the planet uninhabitable. At this point I would give up and sit in the dirt, but that's not what these people do. These science people get busy, moving as much of humanity into outer space as viably possible.
The Seveneves book jacket makes it seem like you'll watch humanity respond to its moon probs over a 5,000-year chronology. Instead, the first 500 pages focus on Dinah MacQuarie, a kind of space Katniss Everdeen. A grab bag of mining experience and programming aptitude lands Dinah on the International Space Station during pre-apocalypse budget cuts. I'm into it. I'm into her cool BFF Ivy Xiao, a career scientist/academic darling with whom she shares a realistic friendship—even though everyone around them thinks they should totally Mean Girl each another.
Stephenson's 880-page space epic pulls you through its lengthy arc with engrossing rhythm. The first half focuses on humanity's struggle against extinction and the last part pops us thousands of years into the future so we can backtrack. This is Stephenson's most accessible work to date—frightening at times in its descriptions of close quarters and radiation sickness, suspenseful and heartbreaking in its characters you must learn to love and then discard. None of these people are going to last 5,000 years, but the human race endures—and you know that because there are so many pages left to go.