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on 5 August 2010
Quite an achievement. Perhaps a better knowledge of the Hindu pantheon would have made it more interesting, but I doubt it. Who believes that contemporary religious concepts will be illuminating super-human understanding of the universe trillions (yes, really) of years in the future? I don't. I forced myself to read to the end out of respect for the author but I won't next time. If you liked The Return of the Native (yawn) you'll love this.
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on 18 June 2009
I am, as are most people who have ever read any Greg Bear, a massive fan. His science & inventiveness in *all* his previous books is rarely paralleled by other authors. That said, this book is garbage. I started skimming (unbelievably for a Greg Bear book) about 2/3 of the way through, and actually put it in the bin (honestly, only ever done that to maybe two or three books ever) about 4/5 of the way through. Clueless and virtually random text in places. No way would a publisher have ever gone near this book if it wasn't by this author. Awful. Waste of hours. Waste of talent. Nil Points.
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on 29 August 2008
The blurb on the back cover plays up the traditional SF vision of a city at the end of time. But on reading the book it was more like a slum. No super science or hyperevolved beings. No visions of wonder. This book just did not enthrall me. I persevered, but after a hundred pages I just binned it. The characters were uninteresting and dull. Also unknowable, since the author did not explain many of their traits or the situations they found themselves in.
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on 18 September 2016
One of my favourite books of all time. It's been a while since I re-read it but parts of it often come into my head.
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on 13 December 2014
One of the most entertaining and mind bending stories I've ever read. An utterly incredible book.
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on 27 June 2012
Where before have I read about magic stones (rings) and unlikely people wandering off into the wild unknown to face fearful monsters, under a crescent shaped fiery sun (eye) before saving the world? Oh I know - The Lord of the Rings. This book plagiaries the idea and places it at the end of time but it is till the same story but nowhere near as entertaining or believable as the original Tolkein idea. To be honest it is for the most part mind numbingly boring and I kept wishing it would come to an end. DON'T bother reading it.
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on 9 September 2008
I had high hopes for Bear's latest; with 'Anvil of Stars' I felt he managed the very tough trick of marrying macro-space opera dynamics with micro-scale human drama, and was expecting the same here. Sadly Bear chooses mind-boggling boudary-pushing over narrative drive and sympathetic characters, leaving the reader adrift on a speculative stew of hard science, religion and philosophy which would tax the brain - and patience - of even the most slavish acolyte.

Bear's 'sum runners' are a glum lot, by their very nature anonymous, and one is never led to care much for their plight. Their far-future counterparts, while given more emotional terrain to inhabit, are also thinly sketched, and serve merely as helpless pawns in their masters' grand scheme. Frustratingly, the most interesting passages of the book, detailing the mass wars and Sangmer's journey, are merely brief chapters which serve to establish Bear's future mythology, and if expanded would have made fine novels themselves. Instead, Bear's priority is depicting the end (and subsequent beginning) of reality and all of its attendant quasi-religious hubbub, which grates coming from an author with such a fine pedigree of hard sci fi writing.

In the end, like time itself, the reader's brain is in danger of becoming so much grey mush...
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on 1 August 2008
Couldn't get into it. Too many shifts of point of view, speeculations interesting but dull, characters uncomprehensible and dreary. This book really left me cold and disappointed.A real product of Chaos, this novel. Better read Michael Moorcock's Multiverse novels.
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on 10 August 2008
Unreadable. Very short chapters so jerky, difficult to follow. Characters uninteresting. Couldn't finish it and didn't want to.
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VINE VOICEon 1 September 2008
I very much wanted to like this book. It's not easy to summon up a believable city one hundred trillion years from now. Greg Bear's multiverse is collapsing into terminal degeneracy as the Chaos intrudes upon the last city - the Kalpa - on a twisted surreal earth.

In present-day Seattle, characters Jack, Ginny and Daniel possess "sum runners", mysterious Feynmanesque stones which will eventually be found to code the innermost ordering principles of reality. But our heroes have lost all memory of their origins, and spend their lives flitting between alternative realities of the multiverse, in endless flight from ill-defined threats.

Ten to the fourteen years out, the male warrior Jebrassy and female explorer Tiadba are groomed to leave the Kalpa for a one-way journey through the Chaos to the mythical city of Nataraja - somehow this is the Kalpa's last and best hope. Jebrassy and Jack, and Tiadba and Ginny, are psychologically linked through the Terayears and will physically meet at the novel's climax, when the universe may, or may not, be cyclically renewed.

Bear has ransacked Greek, Hindu and Buddhist mythologies for this story, along with a light dusting of quantum mechanics. Typhon, the personification of Chaos, is the Greek Satan-like figure; Nataraja is the dancing posture of the Hindu God Shiva, lord of destruction/transformation; in Buddhism, a great kalpa is 1.28 trillion years long.

OK, so does it all work? I personally found it hard work. The book is dense with repetitious description of chaotic landscapes, which sap the reader's patience. For much of the time the main characters are engaging in relatively mundane activities or trying to get from one place to another in situations devoid of much tension.

All this could be forgiven - there are plenty of hard-to-read books out there - if there was some subtle and profound point Bear was trying to communicate. I really struggle though. At the end, when identities are resolved and the threads of events have been drawn together, what have we learned that is deeper then simply another drawn-out fantasy-SF-action thriller? I fear the answer is nothing.
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