Eon by Greg Bear

When the Stone arrives in a elongated orbit around Earth the first thought is of alien visitors. However, when NATO is the group to arrive and enter the asteroid they discover something even stranger – it was built by Humanity over 1000 years ago. After exploration it is revealed that there are seven chambers within the Stone, some containing cities, some machinery, but the seventh chamber – the Corridor – is the strangest of all as it is much larger than it should be – the end is yet to be found.
eonWith growing hostilities on Earth between the west and Russia, the signs towards a nuclear holocaust are becoming more and more apparent. With this echoed on board the Stone with the Russian scientists kept in the dark about the more unique features found within it, a showdown is inevitable. Not only this, but the recorded history in the libraries of Thistledown City put the first strike at mere weeks.

While all this is going on a descendant of humanity, Olmy, has returned to Thistledown from Axis City, a million kilometers down the corridor, to observe the new arrivals. What he sees is Patricia Vasquez getting surprisingly closer to unraveling the secrets of both the sixth chamber with its machines and the apparently infinite corridor of the seventh chamber. Due to her intellect Ormy intervenes and takes her to Axis City where the rest of humanity now resides in its many forms. With ever impending crises facing both current and future generations, fate will lead each to their destiny, wherever it may be.

While I usually read much more recent releases, this is the second ‘classic’ SF book I’ve picked up this year. I’ve wanted to get a good look at what the pre-90’s have to offer for a while now and I’m picking and choosing what I’ve heard good things about. Foundation was the first and it hit the spot, but unfortunately Eon only skimmed it. Why? Well the main reason is how dated the story feels – when written in the early 80’s the year 2005 must have seemed a long way off, but being read from 2009 it just falls down at many hurdles.

Regardless of that there are many good points to Eon, most of which are exactly why I read and enjoy science fiction. The initial scenes where we start to see what is within the Stone are some of the best in the book. Exploring something that comes from the future of humanity is always good, but the way in which things are guarded and the details come through slowly help to build up the scene and the sense of awe. I loved these sections, the politics between the Americans, Russians and Chinese that go towards building some tense moments and exciting possibilities.

The characters, for me at least, were rather forgettable. Vasquez, the brilliant scientist, and Mirsky, the Russian commander, were the two that I consider the best success. Being able to look through the eyes of a soldier-turned-commander while his way of life is taken from him is a fascinating way to explore both character and situation. My only issue was that we didn’t follow him enough, instead concentrating more on the issues of humanities descendants rather than the aftermath of nuclear war and being cut off from Earth. Speaking of focusing on humanities descendants – Vasquez is the one that helps add a human touch to this part of the story. Leaving loved ones on Earth to go to the Stone gives her motivation to find a way back by using the technology of the future.

All in all Eon is a fairly enjoyable novel. If I had read it at the time of release it would have been more enjoyable, although I know I should just take it at face value and enjoy the story it tells. This is one of the few books I’ve read that has given me this feeling and I just wish it hadn’t – all the ingredients are there to make an excellent sci-fi novel.

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