Are the United Nations ever mentioned or do they have any role in Neal Stephenson's Seveneves? The United Nations secretary is absent at the Crater Lake announcement.

1 Answer 1


I don't believe so.

I don't recall any specific mention, and I've read it cover to cover several times. Using the search function of my Kindle edition fails to find any match for "United Nations", and none of the matches for "nations", "secretary", or "general" have anything to do with the UN.

Searching for "UN" (and "U.N." and " UN ") unfortunately and unerringly finds every word the letters "u" and "n" - Kindle search apparently does not use whitespace or punctuation when used in search strings.

Given the breadth of nations mentioned when describing the Crater Lake announcement, it's hard to imagine it wouldn't have gotten a nod there if anywhere:

[Doob's] job was to look serious - which wasn't that difficult - as part of a Mount Rushmore of eminent scientists lined up behind a semicircle of world leaders. He stared at the back of [the President's] head as she explained it into a teleprompter. Bracketing her were the Chinese and Indian presidents, saying the same things at the same time in Mandarin and Hindi. Fanning out into the wings were the prime ministers of Japan, the United Kingdom, France, and... Spain; the chancellor of Germany; the presidents of Nigeria, Russia, and Egypt; the pope; prominent imams from the main branches of the Islamic faith; a rabbi; and a lama.

[Update to address comment]

There are many criticisms that can be leveled at Neal Stephenson as a writer, but "typical ignorance" is not one of them.

There are several good reasons why the UN would play no part in the discussion leading up to, and actions following from, the Crater Lake Accord:

  1. The Crater Lake Accord, and the actions ensuing from it, were under a harsh and short deadline. Time was of the essence. The UN is geared towards deliberation, not rapid action, and has a bureaucracy which would ill serve the world given that deadline.
  2. Only 8 nations mattered for the Crater Lake Accord - Russia, the United States, France, Japan, China, India, Israel, and Iran (I'm excluding North Korea, as the end of the world wouldn't be enough to get them to play ball). The other 184 nations of the UN were of secondary importance at best - if you can't launch payloads into space, you don't get a seat at the big table. And between those 8 nations, there's a lot of adversarial history in the halls of the UN. Better to do it quickly, directly, and outside the UN.
  3. U.N. Spacy does not yet exist.

Now, the rest of the world was taken into account - there were other heads of state mentioned - because while those 8 might be able to do it alone, if the rest of the world had been excluded it would have gone all Argentina on the 8, which is a nuisance and slows things down. But the important decisions were made by the 8, the other countries listed at Crater Lake were there to broadcast that the world wouldn't be excluded from what the 8 chose to do. The ellipsis in the quote above, which I added because it made the sentence more complicated than necessary, actually sheds light on this:

...France, and (acting as a sort of proxy for most of Latin America, as well as his own country) Spain; ...

Spain wasn't there because they could launch rockets. They probably weren't even there because their advanced industries could manufacture arklets. They were there so that the Spanish-speaking population of the world could be reassured that they would have their chance to send up representatives. Which is nice to have... but only once the big 8 have decided how they're going to send up rockets.

  • Yeah. It's probably the typical ignorance of the UN by citizens of the USA. Commented Apr 3, 2016 at 12:02

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