August 10, 2004
Queen of Angels by Greg Bear
The book opens on 12.23.2047 with the world undergoing yet another millenium fever for the `binary' millenium: 2^11. The plot is set in these last few days before 2048. The concern over the date, while not plausible in itself, is a concept useful in creating a sense of a Singularity: a sense that simply surviving a date will transform the world.
This book is intended to be an exploration of consciousness, intelligence and free will. There are three interleaving stories which are related only by this common theme.
Greg Bear tries something very ambititious in this book; unfortunately he does not succeed. However, the result is still interesting, but if you're looking for a representative Greg Bear novel there are much better ones out there ("Moving Mars" for example).
The main story follows a hardboiled LA detective Mary Choy who is assigned to find out why a famous American poet and author Emmanuel Goldsmith has killed 6 of his friends. Following standard cyberpunk tradition, Mary has been completely transformed physically and mentally by modern nanotechnology: a process called transforming. The other (more interesting) thread follows the exploration of the planetary system of Alpha Centauri B by an artificially intelligent probe called AXIS. The third thread follows Richard Fettle who is one of Goldsmith's friends who has to deal with the murder of his friends by his mentor. Greg Bear uses a hypothetical architecture of the mind called the Country which is modeled vaguely on Minsky's "Society of Mind".
Unfortunately, the content in this book outstrips the length. It could have been an interesting, even recommendable book at less than half its current size (about 400 pages). As it stands it is sluggish and self-indulgent.
Greg Bear seems to have read a lot of Harlan Ellison while writing the first few hundred pages of this book which is filled with phrases like `dolphinslick' and `sherlocking'.
Greg Bear cites the following non-fiction works as inspiration for the ideas in this book: "The Engines of Creation" by K. Eric Drexler (Doubleday/Anchor), "Bound for the Stars" by Saul J. Adelman and Benjamin Adelman (Prentice-Hall/Spectrum) and "Mirror Matter" by Robert L. Forward and Joel Davis (Wiley).
%T Queen of Angels %A Greg Bear %I Warner Books %D 1990 %G ISBN: 0446361305 (pb) %G ISBN: 0446514004 (hc) %P 420 %K science-fiction
Review written: 1999/08/15Posted by anoop at August 10, 2004 10:02 AM