Fiction Reviews

City at the End of Time

(2008) Greg Bear, Gollancz, 18.99, hrdbk, 550pp, ISBN 978-0-575-08188-8


Three young people in different places, and unknown to each other, each have a peculiar stone that seems to have its own inertia (they are difficult to move in a certain way). Each of the three youngsters also has a peculiar ability: they can change the world around them into a different one. Each also seems to be being chased.

Yet a hundred trillion years (1014 yrs) in the future there is a city literally at the end of time. Chaos is closing in around it and the chaos seems to be controlled. The city's last best hope is to contact another surviving enclave. To do that the messengers (marchers) must venture out into the chaos. Somehow the fate of the three youngsters is entwined with the last of the marchers.

Greg Bear is known for his hard SF and especially Blood Music. He has also included infinities (or at least big numbers) in his fiction, notably with Eon and its endless tunnel. So dealing with the end of the Universe should be easy-peasy. Indeed with Greg's latest work he has taken on a real challenge so the question to be asked, by regulars and the authors new readers alike, is how has he fared?

In truth the answer depends on whether or not you are a Bear regular. If your reading has yet to include Greg's work, and you enjoy a good science fantasy of epic proportions and plenty of weird, then this will be for you and a sure fire hit. However Greg's regulars of a harder SF persuasion may be a little disappointed that he has left really hard SF behind. In truth the fantasy element is one born of Clarke's law: any technology sufficiently advanced will appear as if magic. Here at the end of time with reality breaking down (they have to use reality generators) we are very much into such advanced technology and ideas that to all intents and purposes the book reads like a fantasy. Whether this is a blessing or not depends on your tastes. Irrespective, many will enjoy it and adding a solid science fantasy to the spectrum of sub-genres in which the author has already excelled is no bad thing.

Jonathan Cowie

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