Greg Bears novels are so massive and ambitious that even an extensive summary hardly does them justice. Bears sweeping vistas show how successful a complex and visionary conception of the future can be. Although some of Bears shorter-term predictions have been superseded by history, his long-term vision of the future is compelling.
For all the complexity of the Eon-Eternity diptych, the two books are dominated by several basic themes. Perhaps the most central of these is the opposition between going “home” and journeying “out,” of seeking knowledge versus returning to deep and permanent loyalties. This dichotomy can be seen even within the councils of the advanced Hexamon itself, in which the Geshel faction, favoring technological progress, is opposed to the Naderite group, which opposes science and wishes to return to Earth. Bear implies that it is foolish to hope to suppress either of these tendencies in the human spirit. When the Naderites let the Geshels take half of the Hexamon into infinity and take their half to Earth, this does not prevent the eventual emergence of neo-Geshels within the Naderite group who wish to re-open the Way.
Bear threads this going home/voyaging forward dichotomy throughout the two books. Lanier and his wife Karen go home with the Naderites, even though it is to a devastated Earth they have never known. Patricia, on the other hand, attempts the absolute negation of all given reality. Her only purpose is to recover and rejoin her family. The Hexamon itself has made many almost inconceivable steps forward. It has made it possible to store souls in a kind of eternal afterlife, to traverse different dimensions of time and space, to preserve essential human identities even after the body has died, and to allow humans to assume any size, shape, or form that they wish. None of these achievements can eliminate human nature. The bickering between the Naderites and Geshels is as fierce as that between the...
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