The novel “City at the End of Time” by Greg Bear was published for the first time in 2008.
Ginny, Jack and Daniel are apparently normal persons but what could seem dreams are actually connections with a future so remote that the universe is completely different. Yet even in a hundred trillion years there are human beings, the result of a series of humanity’s rises and falls.
Jebrassy, who wants to be a warrior, and Taidba, an explorer, live in this very remote future. Their connection to Ginny, Jack and Daniel involves all of them in the events that threaten the destruction of the universe. Is it possible to save those future humans from the strange entity that is destroying the universe?
“City at the End of Time” takes place between what is perhaps the present of our universe and a very remote future, in which the universe was restructured to prevent its continued expansion and death of galaxies from causing the destruction of space- time. Greg Bear was inspired by classics such as “The Night Land” by William Hope Hodgson and “The City and the Stars” by Arthur C. Clarke but also by various other works.
From the beginning, “City at the End of Time” is developed alternating between what could be the present and a distant future. The periods are vaguely indicated, not labeling the year with accuracy but only with the number of zeros it contains. Greg Bear writes stories that are usually hard science fiction but in this case includes the elements closer to fantasy.
The first part of the novel is mainly an introduction of the protagonists and, in the case of Ginny, Jack and Daniel, of their attempts to understand their visions but also the events in which they get involved. Unfortunately I think the problems in the story’s development that somehow quickly cripple it start too.
In many ways this first part seemed an existential quest for the protagonists, unfortunately it dwells a lot with a pace sometimes really slow. All this is supposed to aim at least at developing the protagonists, instead in my opinion it ends up being rather dull, with the result that I quickly lost interest in their stories.
The plot’s complexity increases in the second part, when Greg Bear adds information about the history of the universe that led to that very remote future. It’s a kind of story I usually like but in “City at the End of Time” it’s somehow “drowned” in a fragmented and dispersive development.
Greg Bear adds complexity over complexity in the course of the novel and this doesn’t help to appreciate it better. I often like and I’m intrigued by the many ideas included, the problem is that in my opinion he threw them into a mix-up that turned out rather uneven.
“City at the End of Time” is very different from the novels Greg Bear wrote in those years but in some ways the problems seemed similar. I wonder if there was anyone doing a minimum of editing work because his novels of those years often have structuring, pace and development far from optimal.
In “City at the End of Time” in my opinion an improvement would have been a shorter first part, more focused on character development. For the rest, I think Greg Bear should have focused on a lower number of ideas, without mixing genres too much. It’s true that technologies advanced enough are indistinguishable from magic but I don’t think that the mix between hard science fiction and fantasy elements succeeded.
I happened to be frustrated reading some novels by Greg Bear that weren’t very successful but with “City at the End of Time” I felt mainly boredom and this is an unpleasant news. This novel is very ambitious and for this reason is probably the most disappointing of this author.
Certain parts of “City at the End of Time” could deserve a rereading to fully appreciate them but they are pieces of a novel that altogether seemed to me quite unsuccessful. Readers who care about idea-based stories, even if the ideas mix is uneven, might like it.