Friday, 3 June 2016

Neal Stephenson's Seven Eves - A Review

Spoilers ahead - read at your own risk

I just read the last book of Neal Stephenson, "Seven Eves".

It is a great book, until a certain point - that is, until the seven "Eve" are clearly identified.

It is fairly long into the book, some six six hundred of its height hundred pages, but it is remarkable how a great book suddenly and steadily turns into crap, from then onward.

Stephenson could have closed the book there, added just some ten pages of a "far long in the future" coda, with most of the elements only sketched out, leaving the reader with the toil of imagining  the future created by the work of the last survivors of our civilization.

It would have been good enough, even as a "hook" for his next book.

Instead, we are treated to a final two hundred pages of mid 1950s Maccartist science fiction, with a cold war between Reds and Blues (it could also be a reference to the American Civil War) fought by proxy in God-forsaken places, cap&sword spies  and a society permeated by a seven-fold racism between the seven races descending by the original Eves.

The idea of mating the genetic material of each Eve with that of another - technology-wise, it should be possible within the next five years, or now if one ignore ethics - and then shuffling the surrogate mothers, so that the first new humans were all sisters and nobody really knew which was the daughter of whom, to cut this crap at the root,  apparently never crossed anybody's mind... not the character's, nor Stephenson. Or simply American White Neal Stephenson has nostalgy of when racism was justifiable?

To avoid technology spoiling this 50s reenactment, Stephenson also decide to use "Amish"-like rejection of certain technologies, for cultural taboos, in the societies of this future.

So, after five thousand years of robotic development, a society that has uses robots ubiquitously - to create a orbital ring, a orbital elevator, a sky-hook, wearable planes and even as bullets - has no wireless internet (any Internet, really) to speak off, and its tablets can hardly store a couple of books.

This is done mostly to justify that the most sympathetic protagonist of this second part of the book is a rootless nomad - a woman that can't afford to settle down, because every day she can wake up with a complete new personality - that has to rent storage spaces for the paper books that she collect!

None of this feel particularly believable, of course, which makes the end of the book, in a single word, irritating.

To paraphrase Napoleon, a good writer is also one that knows when to stop to write.

Nea Stephenson evidently fumbled it, this time.

Ok, we got it... internet is the worst of all evils and the only true book is printed by a publisher.

Conflict of interest much, Neal?

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