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City at the End of Time Hardcover – August 5, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In his triumphant return to large-scale SF, Nebula and Hugo–winner Bear (Quantico) links three young drifters in present-day Seattle with an unimaginably distant future. When the drifters answer an odd newspaper advertisement, they soon find themselves caught up in a war between mysterious and powerful forces. Two not-quite-humans, creations of a million-year experiment, have discovered that their ancient fortress/city, perhaps the last refuge of intelligence in a dying universe, is about to fall before the onslaught of chaos. They have been chosen by beings evolved far beyond mere matter to undertake a dangerous mission to preserve the universe's last vestiges of consciousness. Somehow the two groups engage in telepathic communication despite the eons that separate them. Something of an homage to William Hope Hodgson's classic The Night Land, this complex, difficult and beautifully written tale will appeal to sophisticated readers who prefer thorny conundrums to fast-paced action. (Aug.)
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In a post-human future, one city, guarded by reality generators and surrounded by the terrible maelstrom of Chaos, is the sole bastion of order. In our time, three people who can alter the course of fate, a murky past, and the dreams of a decaying city at the end of time are brought together by a newspaper ad and into the hands of collectors of their kind. Back in the future, the strange characters include keepers and the Librarian, who seek to protect history, and others who welcome Chaos. As the lines of fate and possibility collapse toward inevitability, the three fateshifters resort to the tenuous protection of a Seattle warehouse full of books as a storm that threatens to destroy everything approaches. If the trio survives and holds onto memory through the disaster, memory will begin again, the long decay of reality will end, and mysteries will be solved in the eye of the storm. Fascinating. --Regina Schroeder
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Top customer reviews
So what is this book, for people who want to sort out all the glowing and nasty reviews? I would call it Bear's take on The Golden Compass with other more interesting mythologies in place of the Judeo-Christian religious framework of those books. It's also not accurately described as a hard SF book, which is a disservice by the publisher. It does however make some profound conjectures about the structure of time, completely aside from its multiverse mechanic, the former of which are strangely unmentioned in either the positive or negative reviews I have read. And whereas the multiverse aspect is quite clear in its definition, there's no place in the book where a narrator sits you down and explicitly shows the way in which time isn't what we think it is. You need to figure that out from the characters and their roles.
If that sounds like a slog, you may not enjoy this book.
It is a book clever enough to parody its own hundred-trillion-year pretense. Do you really believe that a thinker of Bear's caliber doesn't understand the corniness of the cats thing? Could it be that this book, being obviously an allegory about books, stories, and writers among other things, used this device as a little in-joke and commentary on writing as are so many other things in the book?
If the pretentiousness of self-parodying one's pretentiousness strikes you as baroque sophistry, you may not enjoy this book.
I believe this is a very personal book for Greg Bear, in which he wrote something for himself based on the things that he thinks are cool, rather than creating something biased by what he thinks readers will buy. And the reviews reflect that. However, I know that some people get it - after I read City I was searching the web and found a long rambling analysis / critique that a guy (Mike Glosson) posted on Bear's web site: a 3-part essay titled "A Fractured Eternity." Turns out this guy (who obviously has a lot of time on his hands) was very insightful and did the research to make the connections - I would highly recommend reading that essay, but not until you've read the book.
In a nutshell, if you like puzzles, philosophy, metaphors, and obscure references and aren't averse to searching Wikipedia for clues, chances are you will like this book. If you're the kind of person who watched Memento and got mad because it wasn't explained to you "what really happened," then you're really going to hate City at the End of Time.
As a math geek with pretentious artistic inclinations, I give it five hyperthumbs up.
While this novel is brilliant, it was ultimately boring due to its slow, repetitive plotting and its use of well-worn ideas which have been seen in numerous novels previously (including novels by Greg Bear himself). This novel often plods along for scores of pages at a time without anything interesting happening or any advancement in the plot; hence, I was rather bored most of the time. If Mr. Bear had distilled this novel to approximately half its length it would have been much more satisfying. Lastly, I hate that Mr. Bear resorted to a deus ex machina ending (I HATE such endings). I appreciated Mr. Bear's clever use of mythology and symbolism. I also appreciated his writing style in this novel (it reminds me of Samuel R. Delany at his best).
In the end, "City at the End of Time" was brilliant, but boring. Although it was disappointing, I shall continue to buy every Greg Bear book that is published. He is a great writer: I am always hoping he will hit it out of the park (so to speak) one more time again.
But I got to tell the City at the End of Time totally captivated me. The first time I was exposed to it was through the audio book (which I also highly recommend). But audio books for all the drama of the spoken word still limits you in that you really have to listen. Well duh right? But what I mean is that if you miss something you have to rewind yadi yada and try to pick up what you lost.
But with the printed work you can actually dwell of something. Really get your head around it. There is a LOT to get your head around in City. These are some of the most amazing concepts. I won't ruin for you. But read the damn book. If you like anything he has written, I have got to believe you will love this book.
I'm a cat lover. Hey I like dogs too, but I identify with cats. Cats play an amazing role in this book and not in the way you expect. There are fantastic heros. Astounding villains and gods and demons you have never seen before. And amazing cats!
My most favorite book about the end of all things. But is it REALLY the end? With Mr. Bear you never know. Thank you Greg Bear for this marvelous voyage into what may happen and the view of love and devotion and courage in the places you would least expect it. If you really like the unknown and unexpected and views of worlds never before seen you will love this this book. Watch out for the cats!!