Top positive review
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Better than Eon. If you read that, you must read this.
on 28 January 2011
Sequel to best selling hard sci-fi novel Eon, set some forty years later. Following the Sundering (the separation of the Way from the asteroid starship Thistledown) 40 years earlier, Earth and the Hexamon (the future society of humanity) are not getting along. The `Old Natives' of Earth resent being treated like children by their descendants from the future, and in the long aftermath of the Death (the nuclear war that decimated Earth) want to be left alone to their own devices to recover as they see fit, which the Hexamon will not allow. Meanwhile, the Hexamon itself is beginning to weary of Earth, with its quagmire of need and excesses of misery and is somewhat homesick for the Way, the incredible world it left behind with the Sundering. But when Pavel Mirsky - the former `Old Native' Russian leader who opted to travel down the Way with half of the Hexamon's Axis City and its citizens just before the Sundering 40 years earlier and who with these citizens was forever separated from our universe - makes an impossible appearance on Earth, having returned from the end of time and space as an avatar and makes a startling request of the Hexamon, the political winds that this stirs up will lead to revolution, a terrible encounter with old enemies and the necessity of some old loyal servants of the Hexamon betraying the very Hexamon to fulfill higher duties. Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, on a parallel Earth (Gaia), Rhita Vaskayza, 21-year-old granddaughter of Patricia Vasquez (the mathematical genius whose theories led to the creation of the Way) seeks to fulfill her grandmother's wishes, searching for her grandmother's home universe and Earth using the extraordinary device known only as a clavicle. But will she find it... or enter into a nightmare?
Comments: I found this sequel a better read than Eon, and rather hard to put down. For starters there were less characters to try to keep track of, which meant better characterization. I found Korzenowski - `The Engineer', who designed the Way - very interesting, perhaps even more so than one of the book's other great protagonists, man-of-the-future, Olmy. You really start to get to know Korzenowski in this book (Korzenowski didn't have much to do in Eon, not featuring in the book until near the very end). And as for Olmy he is as sparkling as he was in Eon; whether we are observing him going through difficulties with his partner Suli Ram Kikura, interacting with his son Tapi, gaining knowledge about the Hexamon's mortal foes the Jarts or even going through his deepest and most complete failure. However although I cared for the character of Garry Lanier (as I did in Eon) I did find him largely too bleak, pessimistic and bitter in this book. He is 40 years older than he was in Eon, and frankly has not aged well. I preferred him in Eon. And I would have liked Judith Hoffman (a fairly major character from Eon) to have had a larger role in this book, but as it is, in this book she is a minor character.
We get to meet alien adversaries the Jarts in this book (they are only talked about in Eon), and they are as formidable foes to the Hexamon as they are strange. Finally Rhita Vaskayza (granddaughter of central character from book one Patricia Vasquez) is an excellent character and a thoroughly modern young woman. And Gaia - her character's world - is very interesting, extremely detailed and compelling (Bear obviously worked hard creating this parallel Earth and its history), and could merit a book in itself. (Hint hint, Bear?)
Satisfyingly, like Eon this book was very epic in scope. It also had somewhat less technical language, although it was often fairly hard to visualize things being described (although not as hard as Eon). Also Bear has a much greater vocabulary than I do and as I read Eternity I found myself reaching for the dictionary every few minutes to look up a word. Nonetheless this book was most enjoyable and had a satisfying climax.
Conclusion: generally a quite satisfying read, although you may find the (probable) need to pick up the dictionary every few minutes annoying. Also at 400 pages this book is 100 pages shorter than its predecessor Eon, which is a shame as it is a better read. If you read Eon, you must read this.