BooksOfTheMoon

Strength Of Stones

By Greg Bear

Rating: 2 stars

I found it difficult to engage with this book at all, I’m afraid. I loved the idea of mobile cities (long before Mortal Engines), who had kicked out their inhabitants, and yet yearned for citizens to fill their streets and be lived in. I found the characters not hugely engaging, but most of all I found the end unsatisfying.

With the final of the three linked novellas pulling together threads and characters from the previous stories, and the appearance of (a simulacrum of) the architect Robert Khan, who had created the cities, I felt like there would be change. Instead, we’re left with stasis. Nothing changes at the end; entropy wins. The living cities all die, religious zealotry prevents the improvement of the lot of the people of God-Does-Battle, and the city part Jeshua is left completely alone on Earth.

I didn’t entirely understand the whole thing with the multiple versions of Khan, but it seemed like his plan was to create matter transportation bridges to move the entire population (along with possibly the rest of the human race?) to a giant sphere, where they’ll exist in energy form. Or something? But the fanatic Matthew decided that God had decreed that everyone had to stay where they were, so he destroyed two of the cities that were to take part. And what was up with Thule? I still don’t understand that at all. Is the moral that gnosticism is bad…?

So some good ideas, but a muddy and disappointing (not to mention pretty bleak) ending.

Book details

ISBN: 9780441790692
Publisher: Ace
Year of publication: 1981

The Venging

By Greg Bear

Rating: 3 stars

I mostly enjoyed this collection of early-ish fiction by Greg Bear, although I have taken a star off because many of the stories had endings that jarred with me, or seemed abrupt or unfinished. The best example of this is probably Mandala. This is story with a great hook: the living cities of the planet God Does Battle threw out their inhabitants a thousand years ago because they were unworthy. One man is trying to get into a city to be made whole and discovers more than he bargained for. This is a great setup, it’s going at a great pace, there’s several huge revelations, one after the other, and suddenly the story just stops. No conclusion or resolution. I appreciate that sometimes this is the effect being aimed for, but it’s not one that I like. Petra doesn’t have quite this problem, but that story of life trying to continue after chaos has overtaken the world tries to pack too much plot into the last few paragraphs, and that doesn’t entirely work either. My favourite story in the collection is probably Hardfought, which tells of alien communication, an eternal war and over-specialisation. This is a great story, but it also has an ambiguous ending, leaving more questions than answers.

There are also two early stories that Bear has reworked and added to this edition. Those are decent, although I was left scratching my head at one of them. The last one is rather heartbreaking though.

Book details

ISBN: 9780712650519
Publisher: Legend
Year of publication: 1983

Hull Zero Three

By Greg Bear

Rating: 4 stars

I man awakes naked and confused on the deck of a spaceship that is trying to kill him, with no memory of where or who he is. He has to stay alive long enough to try and figure out what’s gone wrong with the ship and to find the answers that may be found in the mysterious Hull Zero Three.

This is a pretty tense SF-horror, although perhaps thriller would be a better description than horror, since although it was tense and kept me turning pages, I didn’t feel the sense of personal discomfort that horror often realises in me (one reason why I avoid the genre). The trope of the small group of survivors on a large spaceship, with things trying to kill them is an old one, but Bear pulls it off here, with the central mystery being strong enough to keep me reading.

A colony ship that can create creatures from the templates in its gene banks, a war on the ship, conscience and metaphysics all pull together to form a compelling narrative, even if the final chapters were slightly confusing.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575100961
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2010

Anvil of Stars (Forge of God, #2)

By Greg Bear

Rating: 3 stars

After the destruction of Earth, only a tiny proportion of her population was saved by the mysterious Benefactors. They equip a number of her children with a ship and training and send them to enact the Law: that any civilisation that creates self-replicating killer robots to destroy another must be killed by those it sought to destroy. This is the story of the Dawn Treader and her voyage to seek and destroy the Killers of Earth.

Although this book is a sequel to Bear’s earlier The Forge of God, you don’t need to have read the earlier volume to follow this (and, indeed, I haven’t). The premise is fairly simple and the story is one of revenge and redemption. Apart from one brief segment, the entire story is set aboard the Dawn Treader, giving the book a somewhat claustrophobic feel, which is interesting and did help to set the scene. None of the characters other than our protagonist and PoV character, Martin, made much of an emotional impact, and even though you’re never entirely sure who’s going to live and die, it didn’t make as much of an impact as it should have done when some did die.

I picked this up because I remember reading it many years ago, probably picked up from the local library and I wanted to see how it fared on a re-read, without remembering many of the details. In the event, it was okay but I don’t think I’ll be reading it again.

Book details

ISBN: 9781857237054
Publisher: Legend
Year of publication: 1992

City At The End Of Time

By Greg Bear

Rating: 3 stars

In an unimaginably distant future the threads of reality are finally starting to fall apart into a Chaos where the laws of physics break down. But this isn’t the natural end of Everything, but a potentiality known as the Typhon that is preying on the old Universe in its attempt to create a new one. Life is eventually beaten back to The Kalpa, the last city in existence, which fights back against the Typhon with reality generators to keep the Chaos at bay. Meanwhile, in present day Seattle three young people, fate-shifters with the ability to move between realities following the best fate lines for themselves, are drawn together, all dreaming of a city at the end of time.

This is a very dense book with lots of characters and even more ideas. The main characters in the present day felt a bit like ciphers to me, getting neither much character development nor much insight into their powers and how they’ve used them in the past (apart from ‘bad shepherd’ Daniel who doesn’t dream of a city, but merely a blank emptiness). By contrast, the villainous Glaucous and the enigmatic Mr Bidewell are much more interesting and feel like they’re fleshed out more, even though they’re just supporting characters.

The structure of the book is odd too, with threads coming together into what feels like a climax about half way through the book, before continuing without that much tension or pace for another 250 pages. The conclusion in particular left me feeling a little “what, was that it?” with many questions either being left unanswered or answered in such an oblique way that they might as well not have bothered.

If I’m sounding somewhat negative here, I don’t intend to be, I did enjoy the book as a whole, but I am frustrated by it as well and think that Bear could have done better.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575081895
Year of publication: 2008

Eon (The Way, #1)

By Greg Bear

Rating: 4 stars

The Stone is a vast hollowed-out asteroid that appears in Earth orbit from outside the solar system. Inside are six chambers filled with fabulous technology – but that’s not the greatest wonder: the seventh chamber goes on forever.

This is a book that very ably balances fabulous high technology and Big Ideas with petty politics and humans being humans. The fact that the main antagonists are Soviets dates the book a little but even with that, the motivations behind all the politicking seems very believable, and the ideas behind the infinitely long corridor of the seventh chamber and what the explorers from Earth find up there – not to mention what finds them – is fantastic.

Brilliant science fiction and a great look at politics in a tense situation.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575073166
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 1985

Blood Music

By Greg Bear

Rating: 3 stars

Brilliant geneticist Virgil Ulam is fired for ‘extra-curricular’ work, and the only way to save some of that work is to inject himself with it. He could never have dreamed of what happened next.

This was a pretty good book but it’s hard to describe the main contents without giving things away. Some of the ideas are massive, although it took a bit of a left-turn towards the end which was unexpected. Not complicated, but I still think it’ll need a re-read.

Book details

ISBN: 9781857987621
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 1985

Powered by WordPress