Discussion Board

Topic: City at the End of Time

From: Andy Roland
Location: UK/France
Date: 10/11/2009


Hate to complain. BUT, just bought your book City at the End of Time. It is almost incomprehensible! Terribly difficult to follow, connect etc. I am writing as an SF afficionado of many years standing - not as the man in the street. Have also enjoyed many of your previous books - especially Eon.

Problem might be you understand the book because you wrote it! Similar to the classic problem with many fledging authors - who introduce too many characters into their books. They don't see the problem because they know why all these characters are there. And are living them.

Anyway I am lost and about to give up on the book which I only do once in a blue moon. Perhaps I am not helping because I am a fast reader. Even so.

Maybe the book just doesn't flow. I mentioned the word connect earlier. That is important I think. The book is all too bitty and the flow is only semi connected. One is being thrown a melee of almost unrelated chapters. One lives in hope they might all tie up at the end. But it's not exciting in between!

Anyway, I should look on the good points - you have written some great books previously. Thank you.


Andy Roland

Re: City at the End of Time

From: Greg Bear
Date: 10/14/2009

Some have reacted this way, and others have loved it from start to finish. Don't know what to make of that split! Maybe it's just a new kind of book and takes getting used to. Thanks for your thoughts, Andy.

Re: City at the End of Time

From: Mike Glosson
Location: San Diego - Normal Heights
Date: 10/15/2009

So what I want to know is if any Appendixes showed up in the paperback version of CITY. I intend on buy a copy for my current Protege, who is some what like Ginny...

Re: City at the End of Time

From: Bill Goodwin
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Date: 10/15/2009

Some readers (and writers) think in a primarily linear fashion, and enjoy plots that progress in a straightforward, no-nonsense way, building tension and significance through a series of events that sharpen the point of the story and result in a final, "Aristotlean" climax. They're challenging to write and fun to read and we're hardwired to enjoy them. Then there are those (far be it from me to qualify them) who, on occasion, enjoy reading (or writing) stories that require a number of details to be held in mind simultaneously and correlated in a less linear, "holographic" sort of way. Given its themes, CITY could hardly have been the first sort of book. Viva la difference!

Re: City at the End of Time

From: Stephen Kagan
Location: Victoria, BC
Date: 10/19/2009

Didn't one of the characters say that Breed stories start in the middle and are like puzzles? Very different from your other recent novels Greg. It helped me to think of this novel as more like a brush painting. Strong lines in some places surrounded by emptiness. Maybe this was metaphorical of the state of the Universe(s) at the end of time?

Re: City at the End of Time

From: Greg Bear
Date: 10/20/2009

The German edition has appendices--but not the U.S. or UK editions. Maybe the scholarly edition? I still have an article to post which is part of the German appendices...

Re: City at the End of Time

From: Greg Bear
Date: 11/05/2009

Any far-future epic is likely to draw broad strokes and leave much to the reader's imagination.

Re: City at the End of Time

From: Kelly Marsh
Location: Everett, WA
Date: 11/06/2009

You know, I have to jump in here. In modern parlance, it may TOTALLY just be me, but when I first started reading Greg's books, I also found a lot of them difficult to identify with. Slow, difficult plots, and so on.

However, as I got older, and more experienced in my reading, I began to realize that my difficulties were actually as a result of Greg being a lot smarter than I was. Or, at least, a good deal more educated than I was when I first started reading his books.

And, lest you think I am making a case for "egghead" books most "normal" people would never appreciate, what I am saying is that most of the books I was reading when I first discovered Greg's books consisted largely of flash, and little substance. Lots of action, magic, sword fights, space battles, explosions, and the like. Most of Greg's books don't depend on stuff like that. In fact, though he is not shy regarding "Special FX," none of his stories really depend upon these effects to drive them. Edit them out, and all you would get is less flash, color, and kabooms. The story remains.

It took me a while to really appreciate the subtleties of Greg's storytelling. A long while, in fact. But, once I took the time to look, and was in a place where I could appreciate it, I discovered there were actual stories there. Sure, the plots are more complex than the average twelve-year-old can understand, but that is why we read books, instead of watching television, right? And, please don't misunderstand me; I am not accusing you of the mental level of a twelve-year-old, it is just that this is the level most TV is aimed at these days, my love for the Stargate stuff notwithstanding.

But, if you still want the thud and blunder of TV fantasy and Sci-fi in a book, Greg's books are not (yet) for you. Keep reading, however, and one day, you may learn to appreciate them fully. I am still waiting to appreciate them fully, and perhaps I will when I am truly old. Greg is not that much older than I am, but he seems to be one of those people who was born old and wise.

Now that I am of middle age, I like his stories. A lot. Greg is now firmly in the list of my top ten favorite authors, and though he doesn't know it, out of the thousands of books, and hundreds of authors I have read, it was quite a struggle to get there.

Re: City at the End of Time

From: Greg Bear
Date: 11/12/2009

Thanks, Kelly.

Re: City at the End of Time

From: Ian Dalziel
Location: Christchurch, New ZEaland
Date: 11/14/2009

I recommend perseverance
(or if you do put it aside
try again later)
you will be rewarded :- )

this book unfolded in a most
visual way, as I read it...
(is there a movie planned?)

it may help you to get into the
scope of Greg Bear's vision
when you absorb the ancient meaning
of the word Sanskrit Kalpa
(and also the name of the City at the End of Time):

1. Imagine a huge empty cube at the beginning of a kalpa, approximately 16 miles in each side. Once every 100 years, you insert a tiny mustard seed into the cube. According to the Buddha, the huge cube will be filled even before the kalpa ends.

2. Imagine a gigantic rocky mountain at the beginning of kalpa, approximately 16 x 16 x 16 miles (dwarfing Mt. Everest). You take a small piece of silk and wipe the mountain once every 100 years. According to the Buddha, the mountain will be completely depleted even before the kalpa ends.
(from Wikipedia)

I haven't felt time rendered as such a tangible
and immense thing since reading Olaf Stapledon's
"Last and First Men" & "Star Maker"
and maybe William Hope Hodgson's
"House on the Borderland" - all humbling stuff...

Time, observation and information
that is our lot - enjoy

Ian Dalziel

Re: City at the End of Time

From: Ricardo
Location: Encintas
Date: 11/19/2009

I think the difficulty some readers may have might be due mostly to expectations - if you sit down to read City hoping its going to be like Eon/Eternity or Forge/Anvil, you're just setting yourself up for disappointment.

I really liked an earlier far-future short story of Greg's, Judgment Engine, and hoped City might be similar, but of course it was not! And like the original poster here, I found it to be a bit of a difficult read at first too. But as I got into the book and accustomed to the style (interesting that Greg calls this perhaps "a new kind of book!)I found it ultimately to be very enjoyable and rewarding.

I, for one, am glad Greg isn't writing the same stories over and over again, and is willing to go out on a limb and write new kinds of books.

Re: City at the End of Time

From: Greg Bear
Date: 11/23/2009

Thanks, Ian!

Re: City at the End of Time

From: Greg Bear
Date: 11/23/2009

Guarantees I'll never reach the top of the NYT list. Sigh!Thanks for the kind words, Ricardo.

Re: City at the End of Time

From: Michael Lee
Location: Baton Rouge, LA
Date: 11/06/2014

I thoroughly enjoyed CITY.

The visuals GB created were fantastic. Theyre both extremely detailed and thoroughly abstract. I know thats contradictory but the notion is true. Many times I paused my reading to consider certain ideas and plot twists. GB is excellent at planting a thought seed in your mind. This allows the reader to continue to develop introduced notions in his/her own mind. Its wonderful. Its exactly why I love Greg Bear books. If you treat his stories as more than entertainment, youre never disappointed.

The fragmented style and chaotic plot seemed to match perfectly with the mood and theme of the story  the breakdown of time and the (characters')feelings of an inability to fully understand concepts. Furthermore, after reading CITY a second time, the fragmented style did not seem as fragmented. It was actually perfect. Upon realizing this, the story can be classified as genius. Rarely does an author layer a story with such foresight. Three days after youve completed this story, when youre performing your regular life duties, youre going to have mini-epiphanies about CITY. Only then will the full vision of this story make sense. Love it love it love it. Makes you think. Makes you question what you really enjoy in a novel. This aspect alone sets GB apart from others.

Please keep them coming GB&
-Michael Lee

Re: City at the End of Time

From: Greg Bear
Date: 11/11/2014

Many thanks, Michael--

I'm working at it! And having readers like you makes it all worthwhile.

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