I need something from my reading. Be it good prose, or insight in the human condition, or wild ideas about science, or just a sense of escapist wonder. This book doesn’t deliver. It was my first Greg Bear, and I guess it will be my last.
Main turn off in Eon: characters that behave in a totally unbelievable manner. A global nuclear catastrophe is imminent, but let’s not tell anybody aside from these 11 people with security clearance. Let’s also put all our eggs in one basket, namely a 24-year old math genius. As time is not an issue, let’s not brief her fully ASAP so she can get to work, but let her experience this strange hollow asteroid herself, browse its libraries, appreciate its interior design computer programs.
Don’t get me started on the typical, unimaginative social dichotomies after the bombs go off (science lovers & science haters), or the fact that the Russians are bad, obviously. Bear wrote this in the 80ies. USA!
As for the science… Beats me why this is qualified as hard science fiction. It’s all handwavium. Math genius running around with a device to check the local value of π doesn’t make for hard sci fi. Neither does mentioning the asteroid is made of nickel and iron inside. Heaps of stuff is introduced, but hardly explored. Computers seem able to communicate “subliminally” with humans, but Bear never goes into the nuts and bolts. What’s described is a computer having a sub-vocal conversation with a human in real time. How that’s “subliminal” is beyond me. Magic, not hard science.
As for the escapist sense of wonder, well, Bear overdoes it. He crams in so much that the net result feels like heaps of underdeveloped stuff. You should read the plot & themes part of the Wikipedia page of this book: it’s mindbogglingly convoluted. Bonkers really. A sci fi parody.
Time might not have been kind to this book. Nor all my previous reading. Maybe I would have liked this at the beginning of my ventures into sci fi. Today, after about 100 pages, I had a very strong ‘been there, done that’ feeling. It didn’t feel original, just all kinds of sci fi tropes thrown together. Maybe I can’t take unrealistic, childlike depictions of scientists & politics anymore after reading Carter Scholz’ brilliant Radiance. That book might have ruined Eon for me. I’m just saying: writing like adult reality actually exists is possible.
The prose is stale & workmanlike. It gets the job done, but it doesn’t inspire. It’s also too wordy. At least one fifth of all the words Bear concocted could have been edited out. And the dialogue – well, Scholz again.
And finally: Eon is oh so serious. Hardly a joke – I counted one feeble attempt. Not that books can’t be serious, but then it needs to tick other boxes, believable emotions for one.
I jumped ship at page 242. There were still 214 pages left, but I couldn’t take it anymore. So there you have it, at the end of the year, my first DNF for 2020. Maybe if you liked Banks’ The Algebraist or Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn you’ll like this – similarly bloated balderdash disguised as serious science fiction.
Look! There’s a turd on this cover: