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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars City at the End of Time
Okay, only four and a half stars, but i opted for five not four because this is a truly magnificent, tho' difficult, book. Greg Bear has written some great SF; but i, at least, have found his recent work less exciting. This is Bear returning with a huge metaphysical vision, greater in its depth than even his 'The Way' series ('Eon', 'Eternity', and 'Legacy'). The story...
Published on 15 Sept. 2008 by Jonathan H. Morison

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing fantasy/sf blend
This is a work of 'quantum' fantasy, as cutting edge science on the nature of matter and the linkage between observer and observed blurs into a traditional fantasy quest. A party of beings from the city of Kalpa, at the end of time (in sections dated 14 zeroes) journey out into its surrounding nullity, and, in parallel, a group of quirky individuals (in sections dated 10...
Published on 18 Dec. 2009 by A. J. Poulter


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing fantasy/sf blend, 18 Dec. 2009
By 
A. J. Poulter "AP" (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: City at the End of Time (Paperback)
This is a work of 'quantum' fantasy, as cutting edge science on the nature of matter and the linkage between observer and observed blurs into a traditional fantasy quest. A party of beings from the city of Kalpa, at the end of time (in sections dated 14 zeroes) journey out into its surrounding nullity, and, in parallel, a group of quirky individuals (in sections dated 10 zeroes) from our time and before, all bearing potent talismen, end up in a Seattle in a universe shrunk into the environs of a bookshop. Of course, all these creatures/people are the same beings, at different points in time.

One of the quaint things about this book is how much books are valued in it. Alongside all the physics meets fantasy extravaganza, books get worshipped for their role in preserving experience. Borges and his idea of the infinite Library of Babel, in which all possible texts are present, get subborned into an important role in the stew of ideas floating around.

Yet somehow it all fails to catch fire. The writing is excellent and the ideas are certainly there, but the story just takes too long. There are too many switchbacks in the plot and the science/fantasy setting starts to wear thin as the same old mysteries and truths keep coming around again and again
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I just cant get into the book, 13 Sept. 2010
By 
Paul Quinn "Q1nny" (West Kilbride) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: City at the End of Time (Paperback)
I have started and stopped reading this book several times! I just can't get into it!! I love Greg Bear, but this book just drags on with nothing happening for chapter after chapter. I can see how clever the story is and the amazing science and metaphysics the author is conveying, but I found myself completely uninterested in the characters and story. By the time of "terminus" in the book, I was wishing the universe would end in reality; just so I would not have to read any more of this book! I have never given up on a book before, and for it to be a Greg Bear books seems such a shame!!! Maybe I am a "fate shifter" and this book is "gobbledy gook" to me because I am in the wrong universe?
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars City at the End of Time, 15 Sept. 2008
Okay, only four and a half stars, but i opted for five not four because this is a truly magnificent, tho' difficult, book. Greg Bear has written some great SF; but i, at least, have found his recent work less exciting. This is Bear returning with a huge metaphysical vision, greater in its depth than even his 'The Way' series ('Eon', 'Eternity', and 'Legacy'). The story takes place in two time zones, now, and one hundred trillion years in the future in the eponymous city at the end of time; there is also a third arena, somewhere where there is no time, or, perhaps, all times - the chaos.
Bear has tried to imagine a universe where the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is given its most literal reading: "All the possible pathways a particle can take - or a human - an infinite number, spread out through all space and time, weak where improbable, strong where probable - all, in the end, collapsing into a single, energy-efficient path, the most resourceful and simplest world-line." I'm not sure what he means by "in the end collapsing into a single [...] path" because three of the important characters from our time have the ability to jump to alternate realities in an attempt to improve their lot. But one can't blame Bear for a bit of fuzziness here, no-one can make sense of quantum mechanics when it comes to what it means (that's according to Richard Feynman in his 'QED' - and who are we to argue with him?).
At the end of time reality as we know it has almost been destroyed by the chaos - an empty horrific meaningless force which subverts all that we know as sanity and order. Indeed, it has devoured all bar the final city - the city at the end of time. Time, within such quantum multiverse, is not fixed - start in the middle of a story, go back to the beginning, return to where you started but you'll find it's no longer the same. The essence of this story is how one of the mighty beings at the end of time - the sort of being Bear imagines a person who had had tens of trillions of years in control of their own nature might turn into - is struggling against the chaos. It's giving nothing important away to say that the alternative world jumping characters in our time are, unbeknownst to them, part of his struggle.
Any hack can tell a story with `amazing' beings in it: "His mind was godlike - as beyond ours as ours is to a beetle's." Bear is a truly great SF writer because he goes so much further, giving us the feeling that we really have glimpsed something of the incomprehensible. I was worried, as the story progressed, that there were going to be too many loose ends - beings and objects named but not described. It's true that not everything is tied up by the end, but nearly everything is. What i would have liked, tho', is a lengthy appendix with a more detailed break down of the metaphysics and ontology of this great created world.
Apart from that little quibble, this is a wonderful wonderful work of hard SF from one of our greatest living visionaries.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Greg goofed on this one!, 8 Aug. 2009
By 
Richard Pacheco (Madrid, Spain) - See all my reviews
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I read the first 90 pages and stopped. What did I just read? I went back and read them again. It was no help. Some interesting philosophical thoughts are buried in this book but it is very difficult going. I forced myself to read it hoping it would turn out like a good Bear book but it was not to be. Hopefully, his next works will be books that I will want to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An astonishingly dull book, 20 Dec. 2013
By 
Jeremy Minton (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: City at the End of Time (Paperback)
Having read and been blown away with previous Greg Bear novels such as Eon and Eternity, and having been enticed by the reviews with which this page is decorated, I had high hopes for this book. Sadly, the reader scores tell a different story and to my mind a much more accurate one. This is a ludicrously tedious, pointless and disappointing book. If I could award a minus score I would do: I feel as if some small part of my soul has actually been killed by reading it.

There is a moment in it where one of the characters observes that, "the universe was running down; all the hope and joy draining out of it." The problem is that this comment does not just apply to the multiple universes within the book. It applies to the book itself. There is no zest here, no life.

Bear's vision may indeed be vast (as the reviewer from "The Guardian" asserts) spanning billions of years and multiple universes. Sadly, the imaginative energy with which this vision is delivered feels as if it would struggle to illuminate a dull Sunday afternoon in a 1970s bed-sit. Nothing happens. And nothing keeps on happening for page after page.

We are told repeatedly that monstrous forces are at work, that lives uncounted hang in the balance, and yet it never feels like it. The story trundles along, providing no actual evidence, no actual events, to justify the claims of the text. There is no terror, no tension, just an overwhelming feeling of drabness. Having created a context in which he has an infinite range of times, places, cultures and environments to pick from Bear has unaccountably decided to set the action is a series of locations which posses all the depth, colour, vibrancy and life of a provincial airport at four o'clock in the morning. And peopled it with characters to match.

This book is draining to read. I stuck it out for three hundred pages hoping that something would happen to justify my investment of time and attention, and then I realised that even if it got ten times better it still wouldn't be good enough of a pay back for what I'd already read. It would not be enough to make me care. I gave up, and it felt so good to not have to read it any more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard Going, 17 Feb. 2013
By 
Simon Woods (LONDON United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: City at the End of Time (Paperback)
It was about 3 years ago that I read this book. I found it really tough to read, but the ideas in the story are worth the effort. I still have a strong sense of certain elements in the story. Parts of it are utterly bleak. The scales involved, of time and of the potential for growth of the human race are mind-bendingly hard to grasp. I found that I had to re-read some bits a few times, sometimes I just had to move on, hoping that things would become clear later on.
Often they didn't.
I know this doesn't read like a five star review, but I did love this book. I felt that it was a marvelous effort at describing the universe and how our struggle to live and grow in it might evolve. Some of the bits I struggled with I think are due to my own limitations, other bits maybe because they were just too ambitious.
If you appreciate a good cranial workout, give it a go.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear., 19 Jan. 2009
By 
E. J. Ewing - See all my reviews
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If you like Greg Bear's other books, cut him some slack, give this one a miss, and hope the next one will be up to his usual standard. It's obscure to the point of raising suspicions that the author didn't really know what was happening either, he was just putting a bunch of words in a row in order to reach a point where he could decently end it. There's material for a novella, maybe, and put together in clearer, more concise form it could be good, but dragged out to 480 pages it clunks along from scene to scene like a dinosaur labouring to get out of the tar. I read it right to the end because I've liked other stuff he's done and felt that he might redeem it on the last page, but no such luck.

Nuff said.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Maybe he was having a bad day when he wrote this!!!, 18 April 2009
By 
A. Underdown (UK) - See all my reviews
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I found the book hard work and it was like one of those awful films that you just have to finish in order to see what happens with the hope it will get better!! I thought the characters were shallow and rather dull and frankly I didn't really care if they died or not!! It kept jumping about all over the place and I lost interest after the first 100 pages - unfortunately I was on a 12hr flight with nothing else to read!!! The ending was pretty uninteresting too - I have given it to a charity shop!!!! I love some of his other books so hopefully it's just a blip!!!!
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2.0 out of 5 stars Bear's worst sci-fi: bleak, repetitive, boring, 11 Oct. 2011
By 
2theD "2theD" (The Big Mango, Thailand) - See all my reviews
This review is from: City at the End of Time (Paperback)
Having read fifteen of Bear's science fiction novels and two of his own short story collections, I considered myself very well versed in the books which Bear produced. Everything I read up to Darwin's Children was inventive and usually quite good (though Psychlone and Beyond Heaven's River didn't rank very highly). When Bear wrote Darwin's Children, the sequel to Darwin's Radio, it felt like Bear was taking a shot at the mainstream market, like Crichton does with his brand of science fiction. Sure enough, the next three novels were Deadlines, Vitals and Quantico... all of which I passed up because they weren't written with the same awe and wonder as Eon, Eternity or even Hegira. When I heard that Bear was penning a new science fiction novel, it immediately went on my to-buy list.

Having said all that, The City at the End of Time is NOT written in Bear's grand science fiction tradition as The Forge of God, Blood Music or Moving Mars. Sadly, Bear has taken it to himself to continue to pursue a more mainstream market, only this time his intended target is young adults. This book isn't exactly for the serious science fiction reader unless you like magic stones, enchanted books and mysterious cats, which sounds more like a Fritz Leiber's fun novel `Gather, Darkness' than it does a Gear Bear sci-fi novel.

I just can't wrap my head around what Bear was aiming for, usually never a problem for a 100-books-per-year reader like me. Bear pours too many proper nouns for deities or beings or people or places which are given very little description or purpose (e.g. Chalk Princess, the Librarian, the Mistress, the Great Door, City Prince, the Bleak Warden). Nearly every page the reader is confronted by any number of these proper nouns for which the reader has very little to relate to what their actually reading and trying to understand... does that sound right? Putting a name with a developed character (which Bear did a decent job of) is one way to associate with that character, but why did Bear name the three young `fate-shifters' after alcohol? There's Jack, Daniel and Ginny; mere oversight, maybe.

Along with the endless stream of random proper nouns, there seems to be a theme of repetition which only goes to annoy me rather than plant any firm idea into my skull. Throughout the novel the characters `shiver' about ten times (something which I've noted in other novels as well- too much shivering) and the bleak descriptions of the Chaos are the same for hundreds of pages- black or grey, crusty or brittle, hilly or flat. I'm not sure location in the novel is more bleak- that of Seattle or that of the Chaos. Either way, this novel isn't one to lift your spirits nor would it make a good beach read.

A glossary or appendix would have assisted in understanding the finer points of the novel, but polish it all you like it won't become a better novel. I may just reread some of the older Bear novels to renew my faith in him as one of the great science fiction writers of the 80s and 90s... but no later.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Overwheming grandeur, 5 Jan. 2011
This review is from: City at the End of Time (Paperback)
This is a long and very ambitious book dealing with some difficult and fairly arcane ideas concerning the deep structure of existence.

So little wonder, then, that the book is not liked by many readers.

But it's a book that I intend to return to in two or three years' time, because I suspect you get a lot more out of it the second time around.

It's set both in a quasi-present day, and in a time a hundred trillion years hence when the artificially prolonged span of the Cosmos is finally coming to its end, with reality itself poisoned and eviscerated by a destructive principle called the Typhon.

Bear constructs an elaborate cosmology that incorporates not only elements of physics, but also metaphysics, philosophy and theology. His Cosmos is an infinitely vast fabric of phenomena such as "fate lines", "stories" and demiurges of various sorts. Existence is deeply dependent on a powerful subjective principle. Observers and texts are crucial to the structure of everything there is.

It's all extremely strange and unusual, but so elaborately imagined that it is totally convincing, although pretty much impossible to fully understand on a first reading.

Bear is extremely good at this sort of thing. He's done it before in books like Eon, Anvil of Stars and Legacy. Vast, bizarre worlds so thoroughly imagined and so brilliantly brought to life that you see them vividly as you read.

Bear has a solid command of prose and character. In places his writing here is reasonably ambitious, more literary than mainstream. For the most part he pulls it off, though I feel he doesn't always quite locate the mot juste. I also have doubts about his attempts to use Victorian idiom. It didn't feel totally convincing to me.

A couple of other quibbles - the witches were pretty superfluous, thinly drawn and somewhat annoying. Also, I felt the incorporation of cats into the story was a mistake. I like cats, but attempts to fictionalise them always seem to end up being very twee.

In summary, this is a book most people will hate, but it's ambitious, sprawling, fascinating and ultimately well worth the read if you're interested in the sort of thing it deals with.

Edit:

One thing I need to add in hindsight is that the book's ending is not totally satisfactory. I'm not sure what it's lacking exactly, but I felt vaguely short-changed when I'd finished reading and thought about the book for a few days.
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City at the End of Time
City at the End of Time by Greg Bear (Paperback - 8 Oct. 2009)
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