Books by Greg Bear

Released: Dec. 8, 2015

"Not a banner year, all in all, but good enough to delight and entertain."
The Nebula Awards 2014 showcase, for works published in 2013. In 2015. At last! Read full book review >
WAR DOGS by Greg Bear
Released: Oct. 14, 2014

"An intriguing story, but fiction at this high a level deserves just a little more."
First of a new science-fiction trilogy from the author of Halo: Silentium (2013, etc.).Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 12, 2008

"Somehow, all this will save the universe, or maybe start a new one, but trillions of—no, wait—hundreds of pages later, you still won't care."
Eschatological fantasy from Bear (Quantico, 2007, etc.). Read full book review >
DEAD LINES by Greg Bear
Released: June 1, 2004

"The final close, though, is a quiet-as-dust epilogue."
The Big Sleep meets Dean Koontz in Bear's first big leap into mainstream fiction after a lifetime of high-grade SF (Darwin's Children, 2003, etc.). Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 2003

"Scary and technically plausible though demanding work, even if the good guys' resurgence depends more on coincidence than logic."
Not so much a sequel as a continuation of Bear's near-future biological thriller, Darwin's Radio (1999). SHEVA, a human endogenous retrovirus—it's attached to our chromosomes—became active, causing the birth of millions of genetically altered children. But these, according to an increasingly paranoid and repressive Administration, represented a deadly threat to public health and safety. So the mutated children were taken from their parents and placed in soulless concentration camps. There's a powerful unstated motive too: fear of the children's remarkable abilities. In the camps, such education that they receive is designed to limit the children's posthuman development: they communicate using complex verbal tricks, enhanced facial expressions, and psychoactive chemical scents manufactured by their own bodies, and form naturally stable social groups that minimize conflict and maximize cooperation. Former archaeologist Mitch Rafelson and his microbiologist wife Kaye Lang have a SHEVA daughter, Stella Nova, whom they attempt to shield from the government's EMAC (Emergency Action) forces, but eventually she is captured and sent to a camp. Mitch and Kaye split up, and the future looks increasingly grim for all such children and their grieving parents. However, government virus researcher Christopher Dicken gradually makes significant discoveries, as does Kaye after returning to her former profession. EMAC boss Mark Augustine, once stifled and sidelined, slowly makes a comeback. And Mitch makes an archaeological breakthrough that will permanently change everyone's perceptions of human evolution. Read full book review >
VITALS by Greg Bear
Released: Jan. 2, 2002

"Bear whips up a marvelous froth of doom and paranoia; his ideas are frighteningly plausible, and the whole thing clatters along at a smart pace. But where it's all going not even the author seems to know, and the upshot is both baffling and inconclusive."
Near-future biological thriller, very much in the vein of Bear's previous outing, Darwin's Radio (1999). Researcher Hal Cousins, close to achieving human immortality, studies primitive bacteria and DNA, and embarks on a dive in a bathysphere to capture the organisms he needs. During the dive, his companion, Dave, inexplicably turns homicidal, obliging Hal to knock him unconscious. When the sphere surfaces, Dave struggles out of the hatch and vanishes into the sea. Aboard the mothership, too, there's murder and mayhem; later, when Dave's body is recovered, Hal comes under suspicion of murder. His wealthy backer dumps him, and his twin brother Rob, also a biology researcher, turns up dead. Then, the mysterious Rudy Banning brings a package of information from Rob. Hal learns that Soviet genius microbiologist Maxim Golokhov discovered back in the 1930s how to use bacteria to control human behavior. His program, Silk, apparently rejected by post-Stalin leaders, came secretly to America and spread its means of control all around the world. Banning, a historian, ran afoul of Silk and was sabotaged by them—but is that all he is? Rob's ex-wife, Lissa, shows up—but is she a Silk operative? Is Golokhov still alive? Why is Silk preventing Hal and others from perfecting the immortality treatments? Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 17, 1998

Fantasy built on a fantasy—in Bear's alternative 1947, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World wasn't fiction, but fact!—mingling real and imaginary characters with a quite unbelievable hodgepodge of defiantly unextinct beasties from the Carboniferous on up. Circus Lothar, the last dinosaur circus, is closing down, and its animal trainer, Vince Shellabarger, is determined to return his charges to their home, the isolated Venezuelan plateau of El Grande discovered by Professor Challenger in 1912. National Geographic's Anthony Belzoni will cover the event, assisted by his 15-year-old son Peter. Filming the cavalcade will be Willis ""OBie"" O'Brien (of King Kong fame) and special effects/animation genius Ray Harryhausen. The tough journey is made more difficult by the Venezuelan Army's quarrel with both the politicos and the local Indians. Still, the expedition reaches the rickety bridge leading on to El Grande, and most of the animals cross safely. But Dagger, a vicious predator, escapes from his cage; predictably, the bridge falls, marooning Peter, Anthony, Obie, Ray, and Billie, an Indian pursuing a spirit quest. After various adventures—the group is menaced by critters ranging from giant salamanders and hungry therapsids to huge ""death eagles""—they make it back, minus assorted limbs and teeth, bearing a couple of precious eggs. Amiable, sometimes stirring incident-packed baloney: a yarn that screams I wanna be a movie! Read full book review >
SLANT by Greg Bear
Released: July 28, 1997

This sequel to Queen of Angels (1990) continues Bear's exploration of artificial intelligence and nanotechnology in the mid-21st century. Robber Jack Giffey—he likes to challenge machines, though he isn't what he appears to be—prepares to break into Omphalos. Omphalos, supposedly a cryogenic repository stuffed with valuables, is actually a huge survival fortress run by Roddy, a bacteria-based distributed neural network created by crazy genius Seefa Schnee. The owner of Omphalos is Aristos, a secret organization of super-rich whose members intend to destroy society while they hide inside Omphalos. Schnee has already distributed a nanovirus that breaks down the genetic, physical, or mental therapy upon which millions of people depend. Meanwhile, Jill, the first artificial intelligence to become aware, is contacted by a previously unknown AI—the well-informed but possibly untrustworthy Roddy. As the FBI puts together a team to investigate Omphalos and Aristos, Giffey's assault gets under way; Roddy attacks Jill and takes her over. The FBI rallies its investigators, Giffey discovers he's really someone else, and Jill fights desperately for her life. Complexity without clarity; Bear's yarn eventually packs quite a wallop, but what with the numbing present-tense narrative it seems to take forever to get there. Read full book review >
NEW LEGENDS by Greg Bear
Released: Aug. 1, 1995

This original anthology of 15 stories and an essaya collection that, Bear hopes, amounts to "science fiction with a great soul"is divided into six sections: "Choices," "Growing Up," "Them and Us," "Win, Lose, or Draw," "Redemption," and "Ciphers,"all themes familiar from Bear's own fiction (Moving Mars, 1993, etc.). Ursula K. Le Guin's fine "Coming of Age in Karhide," set on the planet Gethen (Winter), echoes her magnificent novel The Left Hand of Darkness. In Paul J. McAuley's stunning tale of the remote future ("Recording Angel"), a humanity gene-engineered into a multiplicity of forms dwells on a flat world midway between an ancient galaxy and a colossal black hole. A failed archaeologist is tempted to swap places with a being from the end of time in Robert Silverberg's fascinating "The Red Blaze is the Morning." And physicist and author Gregory Benford's fascinating essay, "Old Legends," tracks the influences science fiction has had on the real world since the 1940s. Nonpareil. Read full book review >
LEGACY by Greg Bear
Released: July 1, 1995

A prequel to Eon (1985) and Bear's subsequent hard-sf yarns describing the Way, a multidimensional passage to other worlds and times. The Way is controlled by the Hexamon, whose preoccupation hitherto has been fending off incursions by hostile alien Jarts. A newly discovered planet, Lamarckia, is home to marvelous life-forms called "ecoi"; each single "ecos" is composed of bizarre plant/animal hybrids known as "scions" analogous to single cells, all of them managed, so it is hypothesized, by a "seed-mistress." But then radical fanatic Jaime Carr Lenk opens an illegal Way gate and disappears onto Lamarckia with 4000 followers. The Hexamon dispatches agent Olmy to investigate. Arriving 37 years later, thanks to the uncertainties of Way transit, Olmy discovers a brutal war in progress between Lenk loyalists and rebellious Brionists. In order to better inspect the ecoi, Olmy joins the crew of an oceangoing research vessel. They come upon a dead ecos, confirm the seed-mistress hypothesis, and discover the skeletal remains of quasihuman scions. Later, Olmy barely survives shipwreck in a gigantic storm whose living components comprise yet another ecos. Finally, coming to the stronghold of the rebels and their bloodthirsty leader, General Beys, Olmy must somehow compel Brion, Beys, and Lenk to face the truth about their presence on the planet. A remarkable and utterly convincing feat of creation, from which the lack of really memorable characters and their often turbid motivations detracts hardly at all. Read full book review >
MOVING MARS by Greg Bear
Released: Nov. 1, 1993

Medium-future Martian odyssey from the author of Anvil of Stars (1992), etc. In 2171, Mars inhabitants are grouped in extended family businesses that sometimes compete, sometimes cooperate, and resist the imposition of a central authority. But Earth is forever trying to impose its will upon Mars; and so young politician-to-be Casseia of the old and powerful Majumdar family—following a brief and painful affair with ambitious, brilliant physicist Charles Franklin—will travel to Earth with her uncle Bithras to negotiate with the powers that be. Unexpectedly, the talks fizzle; worse, Casseia learns that Earth has infected Mars's artificial- intelligence "thinkers" with virus-like "evolvons." With Earth now openly hostile, Mars must present a united front, and Casseia is elected Vice President. She realizes that what has alarmed Earth are the discoveries of Charles Franklin: his physics of "descriptors" allow the alteration or "tweaking" of matter and energy within the absolute-zero Bell Continuum. In practical terms: instantaneous communications, the ability to fry remote targets instantaneously, even the moving of entire planets! Earth attacks by activating the evolvons that sabotage Mars's thinkers, producing chaos. Charles Franklin's team retaliates, and the attack ceases. Clearly, though, this is just the first phase of a struggle that must result in Mars's subjugation—or its leaving the solar system altogether. Mundane politicking, plotting, and characters combined with stunning and remarkable invention and extrapolation. Bear is an infuriating writer in that his narrative skills never come close to matching the sheer brilliance of his ideas. So it has been; so it is here. Read full book review >
Released: May 12, 1992

A book-length amplification of the last pages of The Forge of God (1987). After Earth's destruction by the planet-eating machines of the Killers, the Benefactors—another group of aliens—create the Ship of the Law crewed by Earth survivors (it's the Law that victims of the machines must pursue vengeance). Martin, a young boy in the previous volume, now near-adult, is the Pan (i.e., leader—the rest of the crew are Lost Boys and Wendys). We see them drilling endlessly for the future skirmish and arguing over whether the mothers (Benefactor robots who maintain the ship) have told them everything they need to know to do the Job. They find several star systems that seem to be the Killers' home; they attack one and are repelled by an anti-matter counterattack, escaping only by a high-tech hairsbreadth. Then they continue to a second system, and are joined in their effort by a fascinating alien race who are aggregate intelligences braided of individual snakelike animal-level parts. Internal strife among the humans makes more difficult their task of penetrating the overwhelming technological superiority and deceptiveness of the Killers; but they ultimately destroy the entire system via a combination of superweapons and aggressive brute force, leaving the moral tone highly ambiguous. Lacking both the real-world anchoring of its predecessor and the transcendent ending it promises (finding a new home planet—a third volume?), and telling far more than it shows. Despite some interesting ideas, then: slow and unrewarding. Read full book review >
HEADS by Greg Bear
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

Slender illustrated science-fiction novella (it first appeared last year in Britain) from the author of Eon, Blood Music, Queen of Angels, etc. In the 22nd century, the Moon is inhabited by extended industrial-economic families. Young narrator Mickey Sandoval's brother-in-law William wins a contract to do research at absolute zero. William's facility offers plenty of spare cooling capacity, so Mickey's sister Rho buys 410 cryogenically preserved heads from Earth, intending to scan the heads for historical information—indeed, two of the heads belong to the founders of the Sandoval family. Then Mickey, selected to boss the project, runs into unexpected political opposition over the heads from the Moon's ruling council. Why? Well, the councilors belong to a weird space-age cult cooked up by a certain K.D. Thierry. And—readers will guess at once, though Mickey takes forever—one of the 410 heads belongs to Thierry. The cult, which doesn't care to have its fraudulent secrets exposed, eventually will attempt to blow up the heads (and William's experiments at absolute zero), resulting in an eerie psychic meltdown that gobbles up William and Rho and most of the heads too. Wonderfully inventive, but with flabby patches even at this restricted length. The irritatingly stupid narrator doesn't help. Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 1990

Sort of futuristic police procedural/psychocrime brain-twiddler, as Bear continues his rather obsessive exploration of a single theme: the perfectibility of humanity. In 2047, the wealthy and therapied classes live in huge, luxurious "combs"; bodies can be reshaped to any design; eco-criminals and such, beyond the ambit of the police, are captured and torture-brainwashed by vengeful Selectors. For no apparent reason, poet Emmanuel Goldsmith murders six people in his apartment, then vanishes. Reshaped cop Mary Choy is assigned to track Goldsmith down, only to end up freeing Goldsmith's brother (a case of mistaken identity) from punishing Selectors. Untherapied writer Richard Fettle, once Goldsmith's friend until betrayed by him, explores Goldsmith's motivations as a form of self-therapy. Industrialist Thomas Albigoni, whose daughter was one of Goldsmith's victims, captures Goldsmith and hired discredited therapist Martin Burke (he of the miraculous new technique) to probe the murderer's psyche, then discovers that Goldsmith is the victim of a sort of demonic possession. And elsewhere: an intelligent interstellar probe, AXIS, explores the planets of Alpha Centauri in the hopes of finding advanced lifeforms, and in its loneliness and despair becomes self-aware. Many individually quite impressive parts that don't add up to a coherent whole. Damaging, too, is the absence of recognizable characters, as well as the overblown, obscuring symbolism. Better, overall, than Bear's recent offerings—but not by much. Read full book review >
TANGENTS by Greg Bear
Released: Aug. 21, 1989

Nine stories, old and new, plus an article on computer graphics that never saw print: Bear's first collection since his brilliant 1983 The Wind from a Burning Woman. As with much of his previous work, Bear here displays a broad, deep imagination, along with an almost willful lack of control and direction. "Blood Music" (later overexpanded into a novel), about organic microcomputers that infect their invent or's cells, lapses into talky improbabilities. "Tangents," an angry parable about an Alan Turing-like mathematician, introduces other dimensions, both literal and figurative, and is probably the most impressive entry here. A rewritten older piece, "A Martian Ricorso," very plausibly describes a catastrophe-driven Martian ecology. Elsewhere, the flaws tend to loom larger than the inventiveness. "Sleepside Story," a coming-of age yarn, never employs its eerie, intriguing backdrop to any purpose. The life-after-death yarn, "Dead Run," meanders at length. An attempt to demonstrate, in fictional terms, a principle of atomic physics fails to convince. And some near-future gene-tailoring comes unstuck, in so-so fashion. Hints, plus several longer passages, show what Bear is truly capable of; but, by and large, the impression is of a major talent slowly but surely wasting away. Read full book review >
ETERNITY by Greg Bear
Released: Oct. 3, 1988

Sequel to Eon (1985), exceedingly hard to follow if you haven't read the original or don't recall precisely what occurred therein. For openers, various factions are debating whether or not to reopen the Way, the endless corridor that threads through spacetime and yields doorways to countless probability worlds. The benefits are obvious: contact and trade with other inhabited worlds. The drawback: the hostile alien Jarts have probably reoccupied the corridor. Meanwhile, Way policeman Olmy discovers a Jart, captured five hundred years previously, its mentality stored in a computer and then deeply hidden. In order to study the enemy, Olmy secretly takes the Jark mentality into his own implant-enhanced brain. Then, to everyone's astonished disbelief, Mirsky shows up—he vanished down the corridor a while back, and the Way has since been closed! What's going on? Well, Mirsky turns out to be an avatar of a godlike being, the Final Mind, that exists at the end of time; the Way must be destroyed or the Final Mind cannot come into existence. Nevertheless, the Way is reopened and is found to be full of Jarts; Olmy's Jart takes Olmy over; finally, Mirsky prevails upon the Way's builder to destroy his creation, and the Jarts turn out to be allies of a sort. Imaginative but overcomplicated, bogged down in purposeless information and irrelevant subplots, largely devoid of narrative tension. Another disappointment: the ideas are there, the discipline isn't. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 2, 1987

Bear's problem is that his so-so novels (Eon and Blood Music, both 1985) have not lived up to the promise of his dazzling story collection The Wind from a Burning Woman (1983). This one, a love song for an Earth doomed by an alien invasion, is his weakest outing so far. In 1996, former presidential science advisor Arthur Gordon receives a confusing telephone call from a colleague: Europa, one of Jupiter's large moons, has inexplicably vanished! Other oddities soon crop up. A cinder cone appears out of nowhere in Death Valley, baffling geologist Edward Shaw; an alien, emerging from the cone—actually some sort of spaceship—croaks apologetically about "bad news." In Australia, a duplicate Ayers Rock—another spaceship—yields some robots who claim to be information-bearing galactic emissaries. A radioactive meteorite plunges down from space into the Earth's core, while other mysterious activities occur deep in Earth's ocean trenches. What's going on? Well, the Earth has been invaded by bad-guy planet-eating robots, you see; the US President thinks they're angels and forbids all opposition—not that nay meaningful opposition is possible anyway (the aliens are vastly superior). Belatedly, good-guy aliens pop up to build some spaceships and rescue a lucky few, leaving the Earth and everyone else to be chewed up by the bad robots. Prolonged rhapsodizing but little solid plotting—what there is doesn't add up—and ininvolving in that the faceless cast of thousands exerts little or no control over what goes on. Very disappointing work from a talented but overproductive and erratic writer. Read full book review >
EON by Greg Bear
Released: Aug. 1, 1985

A big, ambitious, highly imaginative but less than fully persuasive novel from the author of Blood Music (p. 62). In the near future, after a limited nuclear war, a large asteroid—the "Stone"—takes up orbit around the Earth. The Stone is hollow, containing six huge, apparently abandoned chambers, cities, lights, forests, and whatnot—and a mind-boggling seventh chamber, a corridor that somehow continues beyond the exterior length of the Stone! As the Western allies explore the Stone (the Russians are mostly excluded), they find books detailing the Stone's past (it was built in an alternate universe) and future (a full-scale nuclear war is about to happen). Then a Russian invasion of the Stone duly triggers the war on Earth; so the surviving invaders and occupants alike are marooned in the Stone—where they're being observed by ghostlike beings from the mysterious corridor. Thereafter, things get complicated. The corridor, or "Way," extends indefinitely in time as well as space; along its length are openings, "Gates," into other worlds. Far down the Way, Axis City is the hub of a large inter-Gate trading complex—but it's threatened with invasion by the enigmatic, hostile Jarts. The humans in the Stone, led by administrator Garry Lanier and mathematics whiz Patricia Vasquez, become integral to the Axis City political disputes stirred up by agent Olmy: one faction favors accelerating the City along the Way to shut out the Jarts; others agitate for a return down the Way to help out their hapless ancestors on the devastated Earth. An impressive and often absorbing enterprise, but patchy and problematic, from the unconvincing characters and poor descriptions to fizzling subplots and the prolonged, dull opening. And even when the narrative finally gathers momentum and excitement, the many dazzling ideas here are never firmly under control. Read full book review >
BLOOD MUSIC by Greg Bear
Released: April 30, 1985

Expanding one of his splendid short stories (a standout in The Year's Best Science Fiction, 1984), Bear has fashioned a woefully ragged and aimless novel—despite some arresting ideas and images. Genius researcher Vergil Ulam, developing organic microcomputers, hits upon the notion of putting the cell's own DNA to work as a computer; his technique is so successful that computing bacteria become as intelligent as mice. But then Vergil's self-serving boss orders his research shut down—so, to save the experiment, Vergil injects himself with his own computerized blood cells. The cells spread; soon his body's other cells, working in concert, become more intelligent than Vergil himself—beginning to redirect his metabolism to their own ends. And meanwhile Vergil unwittingly infects others with the computing cells, causing them to undergo weird physical transformations and eventually dissolve. . . as they become linked in a vividly described super-organism encompassing plants, animals, even buildings. Unfortunately, however, while some of the original story's concepts remain striking, Bear's additions—uninvolving subplots, vague and unsatisfying explanations—only manage to dilute and obscure. Very disappointing work from a strong talent. Read full book review >
Released: March 7, 1983

On the basis of this first hardcover collection—two novellas and four substantial stories, 1978-82, drawn from magazines and anthologies—Bear is one of sf's most impressive up-and-comers. For openers, there's the gripping title novelette, in which a young woman avenger-fanatic discovers the self-destruction in even the most nobly-motivated terrorism; and the lighter, wry tale of a boy, abetted by two mysterious yarn-spinning oldsters, who learns the value of fantasy and creativity. But the other stories form a heavier, more darkly fascinating group. In one, objective reality collapses, cities turn into forests, stone becomes flesh, and—in a crumbling cathedral held subjectively together by the piously cruel remnants of standard humanity—the offspring of a gargoyle and a nun documents the emergence of a new social order. In another, a dimension-traveling ship is attacked by "disruptors," producing a bizarrely jumbled reality of machines and creatures drawn from different parallel worlds. And the remaining pieces offer the Biblical lament of a dying, ambulatory cyborg-city (mourning the citizens its faulty programming has caused it to expel into the desert) and the mindless, billion-year war between a frantic, pitiless no-longer-human race and incomprehensible, cold-planet aliens. Fractured, brooding scenarios with barely human protagonists: superior orthodox sf plus some of the most effective surrealism since J. G. Ballard—in a powerful, original, and startling package. Read full book review >