Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In Greg Bear's Hugo Award winning novel Moving Mars, Bear briefly mentions an disastrous incident on the Moon at a place called the Pit. Although Bear didn't go into any detail in the novel, it was clear that he knew the details behind the incident and the teaser was interesting enough to make me wonder about it. Of course, Bear had already written the story about what happened at the Pit in his short novel, Heads.
The incident as referred to in Moving Mars and the manner in which the book opens would seem to indicate that the focus of the novel is on William Sandoval-Pierce's attempts to achieve Absolute Zero in a contained laboratory on the Moon. However, the title of the book gives away the other plot. Sandoval-Pierce's wife, Rho Sandoval has recently acquired 410 corpsicles: the cryogenically frozen heads of people who hope to one day be brought back to life. Sandoval's objective in the acquisition is to find a way to read the memories of two of the founding members of the Sandoval Binding Multiple (BM) who happen to be included in the inventory. When the newly-elected Persident of the lunar council, Fiona Task-Felder takes an interest, Sandoval's study may find its way heading towards a dead-end.
Task-Felder belongs to an up and coming BM which is based on the century-old religion Logology. Relatively unknown to his protagonist, Mickey Sandoval, Bear uses his explorations into the President's religion to explain its background to the reader. Logology and its founder, K.D. Thierry, seem to be loosely based on Scientology and former science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard.
The majority of the action in Heads revolves around Mickey's research into the Logologists and his political troubles with the Lunar Council. Sandoval-Pierce's researches take a back seat, although Bear never completely drops them from the picture. The quest for Absolute Zero continues to hang over all the action regarding the final resolution of the heads. When that resolution does come, Bear manages to tie the two, however tenuously, together.
Bear's characters are not particularly deep in Heads. Mickey is relatively new to his position, as well as young, but it is not a coming-of-age story. He knows his jobs and its demands and merely has to learn to perform those tasks better. Because the story is told by Mickey remembering his early days, the reader is aware, in general terms, of Mickey's, Rho's and William's fate from the earliest parts of the novel. Tension is built by Bear's tightness with the specifics of Rho's researches into reading the head's memories, William's quest for Absolute Zero and Mickey's arguments with the Lunar Council.
In light of the current debate in Congress over President Clinton's possible impeachment, the politics of Bear's twenty-second century seem almost simplistic. His explanation that Lunar BMs do not like politics or want politics only goes so far to assuage the political situation in the book. Politics exist and his characters, even his councillors, simply do not seem to understand the rules by which the Lunar political system is being run.
While Heads doesn't live up to the hints about it which appear in Moving Mars, it is still an interesting vignette which points to other stories which Bear can explore his his future history. Many of the issues which Bear raises, particularly ethical issues, are dodged by his somewhat abrupt conclusion to the book and Bear could certainly revisit those issues, perhaps providing a more concrete resolution than he did in Heads.
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