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Greg Bear
Gollancz, 503 pages

Greg Bear
Greg Bear was born in San Diego, California, in 1951. With a father in the navy, Greg Bear had travelled to Japan, the Philippines, Alaska and all over the US by the age of 12. At 15, he sold his first story to Famous Science Fiction and in 1979 he sold his first novel, Hegira, to Dell. His awards include Nebulas for his stories "Hardfought," "Blood Music" and "Tangents" and one for his novel, Moving Mars (1993), plus Hugos for his stories "Blood Music" and "Tangents." As an illustrator, Bear's artwork has appeared in magazines such as Galaxy and Fantasy & Science Fiction along with a number of hardcover and paperback books. He was a founding member of ASFA, the Association of Science Fiction Artists. He did the cover for his own novel, Psychlone, from Tor. Heavily involved with SFWA, Greg Bear co-edited the SFWA FORUM, chaired the SFWA Grievance Committee, served as VP for a year, and President for 2 years.

Greg Bear Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Vitals
SF Site Review: Blood Music
SF Site Review: Darwin's Radio
SF Site Review: Slant
SF Site Review: Dinosaur Summer
SF Site Review: Foundation and Chaos

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alma A. Hromic

Even in 1985, when the Cold War was still very much within living memory and the way of life it had dictated something familiar to every thinking reader out there, this book must have had a terribly anachronistic feel to it. The technology is there, the potential is there, but none of the characters seem to have evolved past the primal Cold Warrior types. The Americans come across as paranoid and greedy to keep all the treasures for themselves ("The Libraries were a purely American preserve... by order of the President," as though the American president could have the power of actually enforcing such an edict short of threatening to blow up the libraries if an impure and non-American foot ever crossed their threshold...), the Russians seem to be straight out of the worst parodies of early James Bond, the Chinese are kind of tapping in place trying to figure out what their role in all this is, and the rest of the nationalities up there seem to have been tossed in to season the polyglot nationalist salad. Eon, twenty years after its initial publication, suffers from this hindsight, to the extent that it sometimes gets so annoying and in-the-way that it's hard to concentrate on the storyline.

And you have to concentrate on the storyline, because the background is so horrendously complex, so filled with technobabble, that while the book does stretch your mind in order to understand all this, it also has the narcotic effect of overkill. I found myself jerked back into the story every now and then when something actually happened in between long discussions of what various tunnels, lighting fixtures, assorted machinery and various airlocks look like, and the sociological schism between the Cold War pawns on the this particular chessboard and the politics practiced by the other denizens of Thistledown which are so far off the scale that it seems as they are trying to counter the chess moves while playing by the rules of quite a different -- and frequently verging on the incomprehensible -- game. There are glorious moments in this book -- when Vasquez discovers the secret of the seventh chamber, for instance -- but you need to slog to get to them. The book feels alternately too short -- like there is vital information that is missing, and which would justify the tough passages you've just had to struggle through in the previous 450 pages -- and too long, in that judicious editing could probably have reduced the size of the monster by at least a third and without losing anything in the process.

And editing it needs, at some of the most fundamental levels. A (male) character by the name of Rimskaya is described as "half-Russian" -- and then his strange (feminine) name is given as due to the fact that his GRANDmother (which would make him a quarter Russian, at the very least) was an immigrant and her name was applied for on the US entry papers for her son (would this be our character? Or his father?). Rimskaya is an overwhelmingly feminine name (the male equivalent would probably be Rimsky), and it is unlikely that it would have been allowed to linger long in an Americanized situation, where it would have either been anglicized in spelling or else corrected to its proper Russian root. But worse than this -- which, admittedly, is a quibble from a reader familiar with Russian naming conventions and for whom this thoroughly unnecessary bit of (wrong) character detail is jarring in the extreme -- is the uncorrected fact that this immigrant grandmother was a "widower". If an egregious error at this kind of basic language level had been allowed to slip through in the first pass, twenty years ago, surely re-issuing the book in the Classics series would have been a good time to fix such slips?

There are people out there who are devoted to Eon, and hold it up as one of the best of its kind. For me -- it has all the technical overkill of some of the worst-afflicted Larry Niven books, with very little character development as a redeeming leaven. It might be a classic, but not all classics stand the test of time too well. This book, despite its scattered points of brilliance, just reads tired, and dated.

Copyright © 2002 Alma A. Hromic

Alma A. Hromic, addicted (in random order) to coffee, chocolate and books, has a constant and chronic problem of "too many books, not enough bookshelves". When not collecting more books and avidly reading them (with a cup of coffee at hand), she keeps busy writing her own. Her latest fantasy work, a two-volume series entitled Changer of Days, was published by HarperCollins.

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