(US cover left – UK Special edition cover right)
- by Greg Bear
- ISBN: 0-812-52047-5
- Pages 502: paperback
- Tor/Tom Doherty Associates, 1985
- Genre: Hard Science Fiction
This is an extremely clever, thought provoking and entertaining “hard” science fiction book.
As the world again teeters on the brink of nuclear war, a huge asteroid hurtles out of space and goes into orbit around Earth. After the shock of its sudden arrival, many more shocks are in store. Teams of astronauts find that the 300 kilometer long asteroid is hollow and contains seven enormous chambers – each containing wondrous discoveries including two large but deserted cities. Incredibly advanced technology has been used, but strangely it is clear that the cities have been built by humans and one of them strongly resembles a present day city on Earth.
The biggest shocks are found in the city libraries and in the seventh chamber. Among other things the libraries contain detailed histories of the world up to the present day and for several centuries beyond. Chillingly they detail a nuclear war which annihilates most of the world’s population, and it is due to happen soon. The histories are so shocking that only a very small team are allowed to know about them, and they struggle to determine what, how, when and if the content should be shared. Can they change events which have already been written in these human histories? Ironically, their decisions seem to pushing the world closer to the edge of war.
Meanwhile, the seventh chamber is the most wondrous of all, for despite being contained within the asteroid it appears to have an infinite length. The astronauts have little time to explore the seventh chamber or the “Way” before they are overtaken by events. In the meanwhile, many hundreds of thousands of kilometers along the Way, there is a civilization whose inhabitants are intensely interested in the activities of the astronauts in the first six chambers, where they themselves used to live. These future humans built the Way, which is a hollow singularity constructed from the mathematical fabric of space/time, slicing across multiple centuries and galaxies. Should they be helping the people of Earth? Should they be preventing the explorers from discovering too much or tinkering with some of the key machinery in the chambers? But they too are facing terrible challenges from a race of beings that is trying to take over the Way.
This is a complex story with many facets and themes – not least of which is man’s apparent inability (or lack of will) to stop a global disaster that all can see coming. While the book was written when the cold war was still in full swing, sadly that theme still resonates all too much today as we face different global threats.
Some of the hard science (or science fiction!) in the book is tough to follow, but I just went with the flow and I thoroughly enjoyed it. To my mind it felt current and certainly didn’t have the feel of something written 25 years ago. Plaudits to Greg Bear on that one, and indeed plaudits all round to him. I’d thoroughly recommend this to anyone who likes science fiction with a big dollop of science thrown in, or to anyone who enjoys an epic story with strong characters and lots of imagination.
I’d rate this book 4.5 stars.
This book is the first in a series. The other two are:
- Legacy – The prequel: Published in 1995
- Eternity – Published in 1988
Comments, thoughts, links to your review of this book, and questions are always welcome and encouraged!