Review: Eon by Greg Bear

Spring break included finally finishing one of my books-in-progress, Eon by Greg Bear. In retrospect, this was probably not worthwhile. Eon is a mid-eighties sci fi novel set in 2005, when a mysterious asteroid/interstellar spacecraft arrives at Earth at the same time as geopolitical pressures push Earth towards global nuclear war. My concern was not with the timeliness of the plot, though. The book centers around a presumption of technologies to manipulate space-time and reach alternate universes. This would be fine, but a book of this sort needs to decide either to assert that such technologies exist and leave it at that, or to actually create an understandable explanation of how the technology came about. Unfortunately, Eon sits in the uncomfortable middle. The “Stone” orbiting earth is described frequently with what seems like technological detail, but I was consistently unable to piece together what was being described. Putting aside how the physics was supposed to work, even visualizing the environment was challenging and I ended up reading the majority of the book without bothering to figure out what was actually supposed to be happening or how.
If the characters had been more compelling, perhaps I could have forgiven this, but the characters were flat as well. The book opens with a large cast of non-intersecting characters. I hoped that there would be an interesting story behind how these individuals would come together, but ultimately the relationships between the characters were not very interesting. Roughly, they divided into two or three “key” characters that never met or interacted but had the role of responding to the phenomena on the Stone, and a wider cast of characters that were there to reflect on the key characters. It wasn’t enough to counteract the incomprehensible setting. Finally, the last hundred pages of the edition I read, at least, were filled with typos, sometimes more than one on a page.
I’d recommend going back and re-reading Rendezvous with Rama before spending time on Eon.

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