Songs of Earth and Power Critical Essays

Greg Bear


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Infinity Concerto represents an anomaly of sorts within the context of Bear’s output. Bear is known primarily as a writer of “hard” science fiction rather than fantasy. His best-known works include Blood Music (1985), Eon (1985), The Forge of God (1987), and Eternity (1988). Both The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage compare favorably with his best science-fiction efforts.

Although thematically both novels cover territory familiar to any fantasy reader—Faery creatures, magical worlds, rites of passage, and wizardly battles—Bear’s two books deliver a panoramic view of Michael’s quest in the Sidhe Realm that is fresh and grippingly penned. Bear’s style is straightforward and simple, yet the plot can be almost devilishly intricate. From the time of his arrival in the Sidhe Realm, Michael struggles to cope with the alien landscape and its nearly hopeless human inhabitants while also coming to terms with ancient Sidhe prejudices and internal power struggles.

Every bit of knowledge Michael gains, both about the Realm and about his purpose there, is hard won. The skills he finally acquires come after many difficult and costly personal lessons. Nothing is for free, and this is an essential quality to the story. Bear manages to impart to the reader a strong sense of Michael’s bewilderment and degradation in this hostile and completely alien en-vironment. Michael’s struggle to understand continues throughout both books, with every piece of the puzzle he unearths proving to be slightly inadequate. Although Bear covers topics previously examined by fantasy masters from J. R. R. Tolkien (The Lord...

(The entire section is 695 words.)