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Interesting Ideas; Implausible Premise,
This review is from: Strength of Stones (Paperback)
Bear's early work shows much of the promise he was later to show in more accomplished work, and certainly in some of the themes.
Religion is a thread which runs through much of Bear's work either as a minor theme or right upfront as in `Strength of Stones'
The planet God-Does-Battle was set up as a world where fundamentalist members of various faiths could exist apart from the sinners of the rest of the galaxy. Pearson, the founder, commissioned architect Robert Khan to design `living' cities in which the colonists could pursue their individual religious callings. Khan, it appears, designed too well and the cities, sentient and programmed with the religious rules of their inhabitants, came to the conclusion that all their inhabitants were sinners and exiled them to the cruel surface of the world.
The novel comprises of three sections, set in three different time periods. From a modern perspective it seems a little naive that fundamentalist Muslims and Jews would willingly choose to share the same planet with each other, let alone the Baptists, Gnostics and whatever else. However, it is a measure of Bear's strength as a writer that he makes this rather far-fetched notion seem perfectly plausible.
It would appear that two sections of the novel were published separately as short stories and certainly the 1988 version has been revised.
It does, sadly, still have the disjointed feel of a fix-up.