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There's something about rebelling, about doing something other than one's lot in life, that appeals to people. Lia is a bomb. It is her responsibility to arrive at a specific place and explode once her timer reaches zero. Only it never does. Instead, her timer stops two minutes short and she doesn't quite know what to do with herself. Lia cannot remember her life before becoming a bomb. Adding to the tension of being a literal bomb that could go off at any moment, Lia is struggling with her identity. Named after a prisoner of war, Lia’s life becomes inexplicably linked to her namesake’s. The science fiction setting, complete with shady intergalactic politics and richly detailed technology, is believable and becomes its own character, especially given how Lia is designed to operate in this world. The author, Margaret Fortune, makes it impossible to forget that Lia poses a very real and dangerous threat to the people around her, which sets a fast-paced and thrilling narrative. As Lia struggles with the existential crisis of her possible death – now on hold for an indeterminate amount of time – each interaction she has is raw and emotional, creating a very real and relatable sense of anxiety outside of the sci fi genre and atmosphere. It’s easy to get attached to Nova’s secondary characters. They all have distinctive personalities, and they even take turns being the protagonists in the series’ future books. But aside from the thoughtfully crafted setting and the fascinating people Lia meets, the pacing is practically perfect. Fortune takes her time with immersing the reader but sets a breakneck speed when it really counts. As Lia starts to lose time on her detonation clock, she desperately tries to solve the puzzle of her existence before it’s too late. Readers should definitely be wary of paper cuts when excitedly flipping pages.
You've probably read a million post-apocalyptic stories where humanity exists in some dystopian society and nothing is ever as it seems. Many writers like to begin with the aftermath: the effects of some major disaster and how our progeny will fare due to untold and unseen sacrifices. They all start with a sudden immersion into this society and we don't get to see how it began, or why it is the way it is. At the end, you always have that faint thought that the message is "This could really happen if...." and wonder at the myriad possibilities, but never quite fully understand the schematics and how the world could possibly meet such a disaster. Few books explore the mess in between, the how we ended up in this other world. Wonder no more, because Neal Stephenson has the answer. Not only does he tackle the question of "What would happen if the world were going to end?" in very specific, scientific detail, but he also sets the answer in such a chillingly realistic world, that it feels like you're Bastien in The Neverending Story, reading the events as they happen outside. I found myself warily glancing at the moon several times during the first third of Seveneves, just in case there was a little prophecy within the fiction. And, I had to remind myself that this IS fiction, although with characters who closely resemble people like astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Hilary Clinton, and billionaire Sir Richard Branson, it feels like the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Split into three parts, Seveneves begins in our modern world, a world of Twitter rants and Instagram celebrities amidst underlying class tensions that become exposed once an unknown Agent starts a cataclysmic series of events that will lead to the end of life as we know it. Everyone, from the pizza eating college kids, to ambitious tech bloggers, to POTUS and Dalai Lama, are at the mercy of the events, and only a chosen few may survive if world leaders can cooperate enough to build an Ark that will save humanity. Though a newbie myself - both to Stephenson's work and this particular genre - I was undaunted by the terminology used throughout Seveneves because of the brilliantly written analogies and explanations employed to illustrate how the mechanics and science worked. Engrossed in the drama that follows the initial disaster, Stephenson's brand of speculative fiction left me feeling spooked and questioning the delicate world we live in.