A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
It’s a bit of a cliché to ramble on about how quickly science fiction can become dated. When it tries to predict the near future it inevitably fails, and we have to overlook all the details we know are wrong to get to the thematic truth. Cliché or not, I have to bring it up—it’s one of the fundamental facts of reading Greg Bear’s great novel Eon.
Originally published in 1985, Eon imagines a 2005 in which the cold war has intensified, in which there have been seemingly few advances in computing or communications but in which space travel and exploration have advanced well beyond our current abilities. It’s all wrong. But if you let that discomfit you, you’ll end up missing an incredibly imaginative and compelling space opera that tries to look well beyond 2005 to our very far future.
Eon is about the exploration of an asteroid that suddenly appears in the sky and begins orbiting the earth. Inside “the Stone,” as it’s called, are abandoned cities, seemingly human cities. They are filled with mysteries: basic technologies mingle with unfathomable ones, earth languages mix with unknown scripts, there are rooms that go on forever, and libraries that hold a strange and dangerous secret. While international teams of scientists work on the Stone, tension builds back home over the free flow of information and technology from the object. Tension that might lead to nuclear war.
That’s really just the starting point for the plot, which is truly epic. It’s got lots of action, plenty of suspense, unseen twists, and a large cast of believable, likable characters. So sure, it’s a shock to read about the last decade like it was some kind of continuation of the cold war 80’s, but don’t let that discourage you. Greg Bear’s imagination reaches well beyond that into an area of speculation that can only be touched by some of the greatest SF authors—Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, etc. You know, all those other writers who got the details wrong.
Review by Matthew