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So near and yet so far
on 17 September 2008
Eon could have been a classic among the canon of epic SF. The basis of the story is immediately appealing, offering as it does the promise of mysteries and wonders. And initially the book delivers. The first quarter is full of exploration and discovery, taking the reader to exotic places and revealing fascinating technologies. But here's the `however'. Quite suddenly the book takes a different tack. We become drowned in scientific detail and political intrigue. There's so much of both that all the magic and mystery is battered out of the narrative. Obviously this is hard SF and a certain amount of scientific rigour is to be expected, but here it is taken to the nth degree. This has a negative effect, making it impossible for the reader (this one anyhow! - and I have a reasonably good understanding of physics) to visualise much of what is supposed to be happening. As for the political machinations, much of this could have been omitted without weakening the story - quite the opposite in fact.
In a nutshell, Bear seems to work on the principal that everything has to be fully explained and made to appear at least theoretically viable. This is simply not the case. Often a little mystery only partly resolved leaves the reader with a sense of anticipation, and forces them to exercise their own imagination. This approach actually makes the story more satisfying.
As for the ending: I know that Bear had a sequel in mind, but that does not excuse the rather hurried and dissatisfying conclusion.
In fairness Eon may well please many a true hard SF fan, but for me it's served mainly to reinforce my growing suspicion that this type of fiction is not for me.