Eon – Greg Bear (1985)
Above our planet hangs a hollow Stone, vast as the imagination of Man… Tardislike, the inner dimensions are at odds with the outer; pyramid-like, there are chambers to be breached, some containing deserted cities; one chamber goes on for ever.
But the Stone is not an alien structure. It comes from the past/future of our humanity. Tombstone or milestone, the war that breaks out on the earth beneath its presence seems to bear witness to its prowess as oracle…
Blurb to the 1987 Legend edition.
Although ‘Blood Music’ received more attention from the SF community , this is probably the book in which Bear set the standard for his subsequent work.
It’s Hard SF/Big Science at its hardest, and in one sense can be seen as a ‘Rendezvous with Rama’ for the Nineteen Eighties.
Bear should also be applauded for his portrayal of female characters as in this and subsequent novels he places strong female characters centre-stage, in this case, Patricia Luis Vasquez, a young gifted physics student who is drafted in to solve the mysteries of the Stone and becomes important to the plans of all the factions involved.
The plot involves some complex physics and the concept of parallel universes.
In the year 2000 an asteroid is detected as it heads toward Earth. Not only has it been excavated and modified, but is an exact duplicate of the asteroid Juno. Its interior is a functioning habitat divided over seven chambers through the middle of which runs a bright plasma beam.
The seventh chamber appears to go on into infinity.
It is always interesting to look at authors’ views of the future once that future is past and gone. Written in 1985, Bear’s future world has become a kind of ‘alternate future’ since perhaps no-one could have predicted that the abrupt fall of the USSR and the smashing down of the Berlin wall. Here, the USSR is still a superpower, and the Cold War very much alive.
Bear cleverly sets up the East/West ideological divides while Nuclear War destroys the Earth in the background, before bringing in the people of Earth’s future. They live in Axis City, a vast mobile habitat which roams ‘The Way’ (the corridor which stretches along the infinity of parallel Universes) and which is itself divided along ideological lines between radical Geshels and orthodox Naderites.
The Naderites (who take their name from Ralph Nader, a real-life American campaigner and activist on social issues, who, from what I can gather, espouses Green Policies) embody the ideals of a combination of Green policies and advocate a rejection of over-reliance on technology (despite the extremely hi-tech lifestyle they enjoy) specifically rejecting the tendency of the Geshels to redesign their own bodies into fantastic forms.
The asteroid has arrived from a future parallel universe, but one which also suffered the same nuclear exchange as ours. The arrival of humans from our earth on ‘Thistledown’ as the Axis dwellers call it, precipitates a political crisis within the city in which divisions polarise.