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by Greg Bear


There are moments when reading Eon where you will just put down the book, stare off into space for a few seconds, then breathe an awed "Wow." Then there are other moments—more, I think—where you will put down the book and scratch your head in utter bewilderment, wondering what was it you just read.

The bottom line: Eon is an amazing novel, but it's not for everyone. This is one of those science fiction books where the science actually plays an important role in the story. Greg Bear knows his science well enough to talk about it convincingly, and we get a book dealing with tunnels fabricated from space/time, singularities which advance and recede simultaneously, and floating objects that bear every resemblance to matter except that they were made from distorted spacial coordinates.

It's a novel of enormous size and complexity, backed by a strong plot. Earth has entered the twenty-first century, the Russians and the Americans (the Soviet Union's still awfully powerful in this book) are again at odds with one another, and there are signs of another nuclear war in sight. At this time a mysterious asteroid enters the solar system. The asteroid is three hundred kilometres long; its interior has been hollowed out into seven chambers, each containing remnants of an apparently lost civilization. The civilization is hauntingly similar to our own; it even has historic records, but documenting humanity's future. Upon further investigation, it is discovered that the inside of the asteroid is longer than the outside—in fact, it seems to stretch on for infinity, a corridor cutting through the fabric of space/time. It's not long before the humans discover the lost civilization within the corridor, but not before conflicts arise and war breaks loose.

Eon is relatively long, about five hundred pages, but the length pays off. Obviously written with size in mind, Bear's work feels grand, epic, and important. Finishing this book left me with the impression that I had just experienced a monumental chapter in human history.

One of the aspects that makes this story work is its structure. Not only is the book imaginative, it's also paced stylishly. Had Greg Bear chosen a different career, he would probably have been a director, or a scriptwriter; every scene is ‘choreographed' with exactly the right amount of detail, the transitions are flawless, the conversations amazingly natural. I particularly loved the way he shapes the novel so that it begins with a sense of normality (the main character carries the groceries to her house, steps inside, greets her father, etc.) and progresses toward fantastic, terrifying dimensions. Bear also gives us two different climaxes, one near the middle of the book, and one at the end. The first is a furious space battle that erupts between the Soviets and the American forces. This spectacular combat scene, which involves an astonishing para-trooping sequence, had be on the edge of the seat in complete, thrilled absorption. The second climax is of near-biblical proportions, including such elements as moving cities and giant plasma fronts.

If there's any flaw at all, it's that Bear's descriptions tend to be somewhat abstract. I had trouble, for instance, visualizing the awesome cities that some of the characters encounter. And then there's the matter of the novel's ‘scientific' component, which Bear occasionally gets carried away with. There is at least a total of five pages in Eon that are absolutely incomprehensible, and a lot more that can be just understood with a general overview. Don't let that scare you, though; Eon is as exciting and creative as any sci-fi novel will ever be.

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