Ron Howard books a seat on the Cloud Ark with Neal Stephenson's 'Seveneves'
That is very good news in general. Stephenson is one of my favorite working authors, and each time he releases a book, I find myself living in his world for a few months. I just recently went back and read Snow Crash for the first time in a long time, and it’s amazing how clearly he found his gift even just three books into his remarkable career. I remember reading Snow Crash and immediately thinking, “There are going to be filmmakers fighting to make this thing.” I also remember thinking that Stephenson’s imagination was so far out that it would take civilization decades to catch up with him. I had no idea he was more of a “right-around-the-corner” tech prophet, and when you read his books from 1992 and 1995 (Snow Crash and The Diamond Age), it’s like he was laying down a fictional foundation to help us navigate the 20 years that have unfolded since then. He is one of the few artists in any media right now that I would describe as a visionary, someone who has a very real ability to see where we’re going in terms of both technology and culture, as well as the relationship between the two.
Seveneves is his latest novel, and the sheer scale of it is daunting. I can see exactly why Ron Howard would be compelled by the imagery and the ideas, but I’m not sure if I can guess what part of the story they choose to tell. The book deals with the discovery of an impending cataclysm and the plan to respond to it. That plan deals with a Cloud Ark, a 5000 year recovery period, and the eventual return of our species to a planet that will have changed profoundly. It’s remarkable, and at one point, the narrative jumps forward a full 5000 years to where Stephenson has imagined an entirely new humanity, broken into seven races but still basically divided in half by an ugly cold war.
This is a massive property, and even with a full 700,000 (or so) pages to explore his ideas, the book ends feeling like it has established a larger world and an ongoing story. I have no doubt Stephenson will return to this world at some point, and when he does, it should be interesting to see just how big he’s willing to go in describing the evolution of human culture. Right now, it’s being reported that Seveneves is being developed as a film. There’s room here for something much bigger, and that ambition is part of a lot of what Imagine is doing right now. They’re deep into production on The Dark Tower, something I never thought would actually happen, and I’m excited because it sounds to me like they’re making some big bold choices in how to even think about adaptation. They’re not just making the first Dark Tower book as a word for word adaptation. They’re doing something else, playing a game of sorts with the readers while inviting viewers to jump aboard here. If they’re just as daring while working with Bill Broyles Jr. to figure out the script for Seveneves, they may be able to finally bring one of Stephenson’s fantastic worlds to life. Working with Skydance means they'll have the resources they need to at least attempt something this size, especially if Michael Fleming's right and David Ellison is a fan of Stephenson's work.
In the meantime, there’s a Dan Brown film this year, and nothing you can say will change that.
Inferno opens in the US on October 28, 2016.