This book is another of Neal Stephenson’s large books. I read Anathem seven years ago, then Reamde, Snowcrash, and going to try and work on Cryptonomicon. When you finish one of these books, you feel a bit smarter and you feel a large sense of achievement. I mean most people barely finish a 300 page book, well this one sits in at 865, so nearly 3 books in one. In a sense this was three books and I will review it as such.
Part 1 starts with the idea that the moon basically blew up into several large pieces. It flashes between Earth and the International Space Station as they figure out that the moon will eventually keep hitting each other and ejecting giant meteors to Earth caushing an extinction level event that would last 4 to 5 thousand years. Earth joins together and tries to save people by sending them to space. This was actually a really cool premise and went into ideas about how to make selections, ratios of genders, how to build onto the ISS, how to send up a bunch of folks, equipment packages and strategies for living for many thousand years. Most of the characters were pretty interesting. Very strong female presence, from a very smart engineer, the Commander of the ISS to the President of the United States. I also enjoyed Doc Dubois, who seemed to be a mix of Neil Degrasse Tyson and Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Part 2 happens when the world begins to be destroyed. This goes into the politics of the ISS versus the swarm, how each could survive. It went into terribly amount of detail about orbital dynamics, but did so in a way that I want to learn how it all works better. Radiation, cannabilism, space piracy and more. Eventually ending in the essential title of this book.
Part 3 was set 5000 years after part 2. It starts with Kath 2 on Earth and her journey back into space. It used some really cool glider technology, some tethers and whips and a sort of space habitat ring. All of the explanations, while some were hard to understand completely without rereading a few times, made it all seem pretty plausible and really cool. I liked how they approached the idea that this culture tackled giant problems instead of making nice to do things slightly better. For example, they build basically a giant manhattan in the sky, while we rerelease a new iphone with only slightly better memory or storage. It then also talks about how each different breed of humans came about and only slightly went into their mindsets or skills. Then it goes into the journey about finding the possible subterranean humans that survived.
Part 1 was awesome. Part 2 was great. Part 3 was pretty good. So overall, I give the book 4 stars. I probably won’t read again, but enjoyed it and might recommend portions to people who might want to know more about a specific topic. At the very least I have some interesting thought experiments to let others think about. The book is largely based around several really cool technologies and then a story that is well put together wrapped around it.