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Fri, Oct. 18

Book Review: When the moon breaks up

Neal Stephenson is not your average novelist. While writing a series he later called the Baroque cycle (a beautifully rendered historical fiction trio), he wrote the first draft with a fountain pen. But don't think that he is an old-fashioned writer. Far from it. He is one of the founders of Project Hieroglyph, a collective that first met at the Arizona State University in 2011 to create science-fiction that is not only optimistic but meant to cultivate real-world answers within the scientific community.

Combining the old with the new, Stephenson has accumulated quite the cult following. His books are a bit longer than the average sci-fi novel (Seveneves comes in at 861 pages). But not a single page is wasted on trivialities. When you think about creating a world that is not very different than the one you are a part of now, but where the moon suddenly and drastically breaks into seven huge hunks, where, over the following two or so years we have to figure out what to do with a select population that we will send into space, it is the kind of novel that could actually use more than 861 pages.

With precise language, Stephenson weaves several characters' points of view into a narrative filled with space travel, the continued genetic integrity of humankind, mathematics, government policy (a new hierarchy will have to be implemented in space), sociology, and physics, to name just a few elements.

The characters, setting, and plot of this story are all stellar in their own way. Relatable characters fighting to do what's right while saying goodbye to their loved ones down on Earth (as the remains of the moon rain down in fiery balls); the zero gravity habitat we will, at first, populate; and the ways in which we will be forced to adapt to our new environment, hierarchy, and crop production techniques. All of these things are big questions that Stephenson weaves into a coherent and magnificent novel of depth and vision.

Through the end of the month Seveneves will be available at 20 percent off the normal price, in The Peregrine Book Company's newly implemented Monthly Staff Pick sale.

- Reviewed by Jon Brenninger, Peregrine Book Company Bookseller

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