Friday, 22 August 2014

Characters And Cosmos

Greg Bear, Eon (London, 2002).

No character has ever been more developed than Pavel Mirsky. In the first place, he is killed and resurrected. I know that this happens regularly in a certain kind of fiction - superheroes are, at worst, "currently dead" - but Mirsky suffers more than that. The loss of half of his original brain means that his psychology cannot be reconstructed with total accuracy. But he copes. Even more than that, after a lifetime of state indoctrination, he gains unlimited access to a high tech library and learns. He realizes that he has been lied to about history. He opts out of the power struggle among his fellow Russian survivors of a nuclear war. He opts into a near light speed cosmic journey instead of returning to Earth.

He writes, "So much to learn, and so much change to look forward to...I am free." (p. 495)

There is hope for humanity as long as there are people like Pavel Mirsky.

That cosmic journey is a peculiar one. Instead of traveling through space between super-clusters of galaxies, as in Poul Anderson's Tau Zero, Greg Bear's characters travel along an infinite corridor beyond the domain of the super-sets of our external universes. Mirsky writes:

"Even were we to stop now and open gates to the 'outside,' whatever that may be, we would encounter realms without matter, perhaps without form or order; it is highly doubtful we would find anything familiar." (p. 492)

Mirsky writes more about what is "outside" but it is highly abstract. I would like to see these "realms" dramatized somehow. Otherwise, what is their role in a novel?

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