Image: Greg Bear's "Eon" book cover

Book Review: “Eon” by Greg Bear

Published in 1985, Greg Bear’s science fiction novel Eon is about what happens after a hollowed-out asteroid suddenly appears in Earth’s orbit. Various countries send out teams of scientists to the asteroid they (boringly) nickname “the Stone” and jockey for control of the discoveries.

It turns out that the humans who’d fashioned “the Stone” into a massive starship had escaped a worldwide nuclear holocaust in an alternate future. Their descendants lived in advanced cities within huge, terraformed spaces inside the hollowed-out asteroid. But then they moved out of the cities, which continued to be maintained by automatic systems, and into a “pocket universe” (called “The Way”), where they set up ultramodern cities with populations organized according to the main tenet of their beliefs (e.g., technological vs. conservative).

Despite warnings of the nuclear devastation experienced on the alternate Earth as recounted in libraries on “the Stone,” the current Earth falls victim to people’s inability to accept each other’s diverging beliefs. Fighting also breaks out on the asteroid when Soviet forces attack to wrest control from the American group. Eventually, a truce is arranged, and survivors choose either to join the technologically advanced and genetically enhanced humans in “The Way” or return to Earth and help to repair the environmental damage and rebuild civilization.

Overall, I liked it. The physics and math sounded authentic though, frankly, they were over my head. The suspense kept building up ’till close to the end. Bear didn’t anticipate the end of the Cold War, but it could be argued that the novel’s events occurred in an alternate universe, with a different timeline than the one we know.

What I didn’t like was how many times I had to read about how brilliant the protagonist (Patricia Vasquez) was even though her actions showed her to be a twit. At one point, she persuades another character (male) to have sex with her in order to clarify her thinking and focus on her research [puhleeze, talk about male fantasy]. Close to the end of the book, she’s adamant about going to an alternate universe where her parents are alive, and she’s actually confident of being able to guess correctly which universe is the right one for her [hello, ever heard about the scientific method?].

Major Themes

  • High technology
  • Parallel universes
  • Alternate timelines
  • Political/ideological conflict
  • Genetic engineering
  • Human enhancements (physical and mental)
  • Space-time manipulation
  • War with aliens

Excerpts

First sentence: “It’s going into a wide elliptical Earth orbit,” Judith Hoffman said.

Last sentence: “How wonderful…”

Rating

This book gets a thumbs-up from me – along with a couple of eye rolls.




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