EON – Greg Bear (1985)

Greg Bear EonI 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:

Greg Bear


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46 responses to “EON – Greg Bear (1985)

  1. I’m picking up a subliminal message that you didn’t like this book 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ouch. Oh well, wasn’t interested in reading this anyway. The only Bear novel I read was Blood Music, and it was so so. I’ve never heard of Carter Scholz.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Scholz hasn’t published a lot. One novel and one novella, basically. Click the title to get to the reviews, I think Radiance will be the best book I read this year.

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      • I looked up Radiance on Amazon and the reviews there are not exactly uhm, unanimous.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s really brutal stuff formally. Not for everybody. Basically the prose might be too difficult for some, and it’s not a straight forward SF romp nor political thriller. The realism of dialogue is unparralled, I guess some readers can’t handle that.

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        • I just reread my own review, and I really think it does the book justice, while also pointing at some potential problems for some readers. Either way, start with Gypsy I’d say. I’m pretty sure you’ll like that, it’s also short so not much of an investment.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. To any reader reading this in the WP app: do the paragraph breaks show? There should be blank lines in between paragraphs, but it seems the app doesn’t show them?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is the one that’s essentially Rendezvous with Rama, right? Big object, weird stuff inside, what’s going on? If so, I remember starting it and being taken through a room-by-room tour that was lots and lots of Tell and very Little Show…and it just seemed to go on and on and on to no discernable purpose. They had iPads though, so that was a thing.

    I never went back to Bear after trying this, though in fairness I encountered it as my SF interest was beginning to seriously lag. If I’d read it two years earlier, I might have been tempted to give him another shot; as it was, I had my sights on other things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes exactly. It also throws in time travel and infinity inside the big dumb object.

      I guess our Eon experiences are similar: bad timing. I wouldn’t say my interest in SF is lagging, but in this kind of SF, it surely is.

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  5. I loved his Blood Music – but then again, that’s concept driven and weak with characterization, which might not fit your preferences. Anyway, here’s the review: https://reiszwolf.wordpress.com/2020/03/08/blood-music-•-1983-•-near-future-sf-novelette-by-greg-bear/

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I DNFed this book a long time ago, and tried to read Blood Music which started life as a short story and, should have stayed a short story. The short was really creepy, the book? As stupid as they come. I avoid this author like the plague.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. But it says it is “the greatest science fiction novel of our time” on that turd cover. Not even in quotes. The publishers wouldn’t lie about that, would they?… lol. On the first cover you included, note the clever and careful use of the word “may” in that Washington Post quote.
    Saying that, I have to admit I haven’t read Bear before. And thanks to your review, I probably never will.

    Btw, when I view this on the WordPress Reader, it doesn’t show paragraph breaks. On your site, it does. I’ve been having problems with WP’s gremlins, too. When I published my latest post, WP decided to date it 6 days ago and it disappeared from the Reader. I had to go back into it and schedule the publishing date to a few minutes into the future. After that, if I tried to click on the post via e-mail, it couldn’t find the page. Weird.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Incredible publisher have the guts to show such hybride.

      If you dated it earlier, it won’t show up in the reader, that’s normal. I use that trick to post stuff I don’t want to appear in the reader, like the two index posts I did some time ago.

      But it should show up if you click the mail, that’s weird indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. NO JOKES?
    I will on this one this, at least if it has some humor in it, it could have pass as a parody of sort…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh my! This sounds like a distillate of the worst YA tropes wrapped up in a “serious” cloak… I know what you mean when you say that having read many books in the genre it takes something exceptional to keep your interest focused, and this one clearly is not.
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ow ow ow – I’m steering clear of this! Great review, seems this book elicited lots of passion from you, Bart! 😀 Just to add – that turd looks old. Very old. Doesn’t make it any better 😉

    No paragraphs in reader.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Bear’s prose has always been too workmanlike and conventional for me. Read’s like 1950s SF characterizations (square jawed scientists who talk like they’re out of a black-and-white movie) with a dash of contemporary science.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s funny that you mention it, I’m already working a bit on my 2020 favorite post, and earlier today I wrote a bit about Bear as my biggest disappointment this year, among other things because he writes like some Hollywood movies portray reality: like a fantasyland of human behavior, but still pretending to be a realistic image.

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