Scurra's Reviews > Eon

Eon by Greg Bear
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Jun 17, 2009

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bookshelves: science-fiction
Read in July, 1986

This is a historical curiosity as well as a piece of mind-blowing hard SF. I first read it soon after it was originally published, and although I could still clearly remember the jaw-dropping parts, I had clearly forgotten most of the actual plot.

The premise is exactly the same as that of Arthur C.Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama - an alien spacecraft enters the solar system and we follow the stories of those sent up to explore it. But, of course, that's about where the similarities end. In this case, the "Stone" has a very different background and reason for existing, and it's a doozy, and the theoretical physics employed in the explanations are almost graspable (to this layperson, at least.)

But the human tension is the story is driven by something that now feels rather quaint. Originally published at the height of the "second" Cold War - the mid 80s when Star Wars (the space laser defence system, not the movie!) was a theoretical possibility and tensions between East and West were very real, Eon offers us a vision of a world in which the Berlin Wall never fell, but where the arrival of the "Stone" generates a whole new level of paranoia and overreaction, leading to disaster.

To his credit, Bear does create a very good "alternate history" of the twenty years or so after the original publication, but we can read it now and perhaps laugh rather than be scared by the vision he offers.

Once the action has shifted to the Stone proper, I think the book falls down by using the old stand-by of simply taking two parallel storylines and switching between them, which I found somewhat annoying rather than tension building. And the political plot which drives the second half is extremely difficult to follow, although some of the neat paradoxes inherent in the main idea are cleverly introduced and explained (indeed, he's obviously so keen on one of them he explains it twice!)

Overall, I enjoyed my revisit, but that's about all I can say really.
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06/17/2009 page 120
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