I love Stephenson’s books, but think he is an acquired taste, like oysters or sushi. His books tend to be very long, and detailed, but he does his research, and he bases his speculative fiction on proven facts, the he just riffs on it.
I first encountered his work in “The Baroque Cycle”, which was really nine books, gathered into three exasperate volumes of over a thousand pages each. That addicted me to his writing.
The first part of this book, is almost a roman a clef,and if you read it it is quite obvious as to who the characters are that are depicted. (E. G. a certain popular black scientist who is on TV ?)
What happens is — the moon disappears. Yeah, right in front of everybody’s eyes. One second it is there, shining brightly, inspiring songs containing the words moon, spoon, June, and the next – <poof> gone. Hit by something, maybe some big asteroid, who knows, but the earth folks have taken to calling it The Agent.
It is quickly determined that the explosion, which has shattered Luna into a kabillion pieces of varying sizes, will, in two years, start bombarding the earth with those pieces, and then will begin the period of the Hard Rain, (a rain of rocks) which will demolish all life on earth as it triggers volcano eruptions, earthquakes, and fires completely covering the planet. This will last about 4,000 years, give or take a millenium or two. Well, that…
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