January 09, 2005

Bear Time

Today I'll talk about Greg Bear's "Eon". This is one of his first major science fiction epics, and it isn't his best. The premise assumes the Cold War continued until around the year 2000, with nuclear war imminent, when a strange asteroid settles into Earth orbit. Explorers discover that it is from humanity's future. Inside are digitized libraries with not only lots of knowledge but also uploaded human personalities, almost like digital ghosts.

More important is The Way, an inexplicable beam that acts like a ray. Its endpoint is a city inside the asteroid called Thistledown. Defying normal laws of Physics, it goes on forever in one direction, disregarding the physical boundary of the asteroid. Trying to approach it in a certain way pushes you down axis, so it is like a cosmic conveyer belt that can carry you to different worlds within this tunnel. Some part of humanity has fled down the axis, and it isn't clear whether they or someone else sent the asteroid back, nor is it clear how or why.

So plenty of mystery and discovery, some fresh speculative ideas and some interesting ethical issues, just like any good science fiction novel. The characters and the plot were a bit stale and uninteresting, just vehicles for Bear's amazing imagination. It's one of those books that is very long and hard to follow because no part of the plot just GRABS you and makes you want to find out what's next. There is a sequel, "Eternity", that I have read, but my memory of that is very dim and only that it wasn't really good.

I'd compare "Eon" to "Dune" in terms of a novel setting up a world, and then "Eternity" would be like "Dune Messiah" or "Children of Dune", set in the same world with some of the same characters, but nowhere near as motivating. Lots of philosophical wandering, and as the characters evolve, it is sometimes difficult to maintain interest. Just too plodding. You can tell a lot of thought goes into it, but it's like a laser. Unless you are right on the axis and it is pointing at you, you just don't see much light even though it may be powerful.

I learned when I looked up more information on this book that there is now a prequel called "Legacy". Haven't read it, but what little I see around the web is not promising.

Posted by Observer at January 9, 2005 08:32 AM
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