Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Book Review: Eon

© 1985 by Greg Bear

[minor spoilers]

Caution: This book needs to be read more than once!

I found myself in the rare quandary where the effort I put forth to read the book was not equal to the amount needed to withdraw the maximum benefit from it. Kinda weird, no? Feeling moral obligations when you’re reading for pleasure, for escape, for, well, avoidance of real life? So much mental strain put forth to tease out who these characters are, what exactly was going on, and being unable to decide whether it was my fault or the author’s and realizing that the book could only be fairly assessed with a second reading.

Whew. Got that off my chest.

Unfortunately, Hopper has a fifty-book backlog, some with shelf lives already entering a second decade, so I do not have the time for a re-read at this moment.

That being said, what did I think of Greg Bear’s Eon?

First, a brief synopsis.

It appears, circa 2005 or so, that a hollowed-out asteroid, nicknamed the “Stone,” has entered our solar system. It’s already been mostly explored and mapped out at novel’s start, and most of the alien technology is still being studied by the eggheads sent up to live in the asteroid. The most startling conclusion, teased to the reader via “Top Secret!” warnings and ominous “Are You Ready for This?” cautions to the newest newbie on the Stone by her superiors, is that the asteroid is from our future.

This, naturally, presents a whole myriad of problems. Messin’ with timelines and such. And, interestingly enough, a library on the Stone has a “history” book which predicts nuclear holocaust on earth … in two weeks’ time.

But the key to salvation may lie in figuring out “the Way,” a sort of time-space continuum thingie which physically traverses the Stone and somehow enters another dimension (?), extending for millions of kilometers and hundreds of years. Attached to the Way are gates which lead to others worlds in other spacetimes. Yikers.

Early on, maybe twenty or forty pages in to this 500-page paperback, I settled on the perfect analogy: Eon is a neat blend between Arthur C. Clarke (specifically Rendezvous with Rama) and Tom Clancy. There’s Russians. There’s geopolitics. In fact, to embellish the analogy, I visualized the lengthy scenes where the Russians invade the Stone as a perfect cross between The Longest Day and the space battle at the climax of Moonraker.

This definitely was a visual book for me. If Eon was ever to be made into a movie, James Cameron would be the perfect choice to helm it. Like most Cameron movies, the characters are a bit flat, a bit one-note johnnies, but the potential to see alien technology in action – and fireworks – is there, almost chapter by chapter.

And speaking of aliens …

There are several races in the novel, which led to some confusion in opening chapters. Who are they? What are they? Why are they doing what they are doing? It takes time to piece motivation as we’re entirely unfamiliar with their customs, habits, and history. And Bear does get bogged down, more than necessary, in the minutiae of political faction infighting six hundred years in the future. But the non-human aliens were indeed very cool, though I’d like to know more about the Jarts, the off-stage baddies of the novel.

The book should have come with a glossary. There are lots of terms that don’t become quite clear until midway or towards the end of the novel. I’m still not sure what happened at the end. Somehow the Way was destroyed or changed as a result of one future faction seceding from another or something. Bear wrote follow-up novels to Eon, so I assume it still exists in some capacity or another to allow for further investigation and conflict.

Overall, I liked Bear’s imaginative grasp of the future. “Picting” – a visual language where (I think) holograms circle around the individual, saying what needs to be said in hovering diagrams … “Talsit” – meditation in the future which repairs the body physically, mentally, spiritually … “Incarnates and ghosts/partials” – duplicates of your You, your essence, which sits stored in the “City Memory”, and various other little nice touches. Made life six hundred years from now interesting and naturally completely mystifying.

Grade: B. Probably move up to an A if I re-read it and understood more than the sixty percent or so I did the first go-round.

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