City at the End of Time
Del Rey, Aug 2008, $27I
In Seattle, three people (Ginny, Jack, and Max) separately and with no seeming connection see a newspaper ad that stuns them. The advertisement states: “Do you dream of a city at the end of time?” Each can answer in the affirmative as they have had visions of a dark desolate landscape of a devastated wasteland; they also share in common a form of amnesia in which none of them know anything important from their respective pasts. They only have just flashes of urban desolation.
They respond and soon learn they are the Protectors of time. An enigmatic, at one time seemingly omnipotent race has created a million-year sentient species experiment. Now after a hundred trillion years the ancient Kalpa is the last vestige of true knowledge and is rapidly deteriorating as the universe dies. The insanity of chaos fills the vacuum. The trio understands their mission is to save any form of awareness of being to pass on to the rebirth and know the danger they face in attempting this, but consider the alternative nothingness.
THE CITY AT THE END OF TIME is not an easy or fast-paced read but worth the time for those science fiction fans who appreciate a very complex story line that increasingly turns even more complicated as Greg Bear explores an ontological theme. The key characters especially the threesome, the ad taker, and those at the Kalpa discussing the end of times seem real enough to have the audience feel the countdown to the big crunch has begun. The hope is that the trio will save a flicker of light that survives into the universe reincarnation that the Kalpa inhabitants believe will occur. Mr. Bear provides a well written cerebral sci fi tale. Harriet Klausner