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Literature / The Way Series

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The Way is a science fiction series by Greg Bear, composed of three novels and a short story.

  • Eon (1985)
  • Eternity (1988)
  • Legacy (1995, a prequel to Eon)
  • "The Way of All Ghosts" (1999, a short story)
The series centers around an asteroid called the Stone that suddenly appears on the galactic scene and enters orbit around Earth. However, as the NATO scientists who explore the Stone soon discover, the human-built facilities inside the Stone may not have come from their future, but that of an alternate Earth. The libraries in the Stone tell of a nuclear war that has yet to occur in their time, leaving said scientists the task of changing the course of their own future.

Oh, and the descendants of humanity are still living in the asteroid, down a corridor in the last chamber that extends beyond the end of the asteroid. And they've been waiting a long time to come back home...

Eon should not be confused with the RPG of the same name.

Eon contains examples of:

  • After the End: With Earth plunged into a nuclear war, the NATO forces on the Stone convince the Soviets to work together to survive. They eventually return to Earth to start caring for the survivors and dissipating the radiation.
  • Alien Geometries: Patricia has a device that measures the value of Pi. Since the series deals with some seriously warped spacetime, a locally determined value for Pi (the ratio between the circumference and radius of a circle, which is not constant in curved space) is a physical property she suspects might be useful to know while testing and exploring.
  • Bad Future: Patricia thinks the future history books found on the Stone foreshadow possible events in her own Earth’s future.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In the end the Jarts manage to shoo axis city out of The Way.
  • Big Dumb Object: The Thistledown, and then an interesting case of a Big Dumb Object having an even bigger Big Dumb Object inside....
  • Bigger on the Inside: The seventh chamber The cover description actually spoils that surprise.
  • Bizarrchitecture: Due to the lower gravity closer to the axis, the buildings in Thistledown were build larger as they got taller - like a golf tee.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: Patricia.
  • But Not Too White: Patricia reassures Paul that he is “the first non-Anglo boyfriend” she’s brought home to meet her parents. But her mother later thinks to herself that Paul looks “more Anglo than the others” because of his pale skin.
  • But What About the Astronauts??
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: There have been reports of people seeing things around The Stone. They've been brushed off as hallucinations brought on by the stress. Some may indeed have been hallucinations, but Olmy and his Frant were scouting around.
  • Costume Porn: When the rogue appears to Patricia a second time:
    "She rolled over and rubbed her eyes. The rogue's appearance had changed; he now seemed to wear baggy pants and a cardigan sweater. His hair was styled in a loose shag, and a watchless fob hung from a belt loop, terminating in a hemline pocket in the sweater. The rogue was in the height of 2005 fashion. She leaned forward in bed and examined his shoes. Huaraches and Japanese tabi socks completed his wardrobe."
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: After being shot in the head, Mirsky can feel the difference whenever he thinks with the replacement parts of his brain, and considers himself a different person from before.
  • Death Is Cheap: Axis City citizens are granted two times brought back from the dead, and after that they spend eterity in city memory, a computer network in which people continue to live rich lives in and can still communicate with those who are still corporeal.
  • Designer Babies: An interesting twist - to make a child, two personalities are copied from the parents and merged in city memory, and the child grows in city memory. When they decide to become corporeal, they are the ones deciding how they want to be designed.
  • Disposable Woman: Yefremova to Mirsky, and Paul to Patricia, pretty much.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: During Mirsky's training.
  • Failed Future Forecast: In the novel's version of the twenty-first century, the United States enters a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Also, The Berlin Wall still seems to be up, due to West German personnel on the Stone.
  • Freudian Trio: The Zampolits have Belozersky as Id, Vielgorsky as Ego and Yazykov as Superego.
  • Gender Bender: Axis City citizens can pick whatever gender they want - or none!
  • Gender Rarity Value: A shortage of women on the Stone after the Death leads to arming said women to protect against rapes.
  • The Ghost: The Jarts never physically appear in Eon.
  • Hive Mind: Sort of. Frants don't have names. When they are near another Frant, they share all memories with them. As a consequence, all Frants end up knowing everything every other Frant knows.
  • Human Aliens: The Frants, but oddly enough many of the future humans avoid this by having artificially designed bodies.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Time-related One Word Titles for the main books:
    • Eon
    • Eternity
    • Legacy
  • Interservice Rivalry: Mirsky's men vs. the Zampolits.
  • I Want My Jet Pack: Patricia says the second chamber, “just doesn’t look that much like the future.” She’s somewhat justified in this case, though, since the second chamber architecture was built to resemble twentieth-century Earth; technology in other parts of the Stone is more advanced.
  • LEGO Genetics: The Geshels like different bodies.
  • Lucky Seven: The seventh chamber of the Stone is the important one. It is blown off the end of the Stone with seven charges.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The rogue says he's working for a very powerful person who is going to reward him surprisingly well. In a not-bad-guy sense it turns out Olmy had hired the rogue.
  • Mr. Exposition: Chapters Three and Four are basically Lanier doing this for each chamber in the Stone.
  • The Mole: Takahashi.
  • Nobody Poops: In axis city, you don't have to. Olmy's body is a self-contained system.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Averted with Ralph Nader and Mikhail Gorbachev. One has to wonder if Nader "The Good Man" has been told of the book in Real Life.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: During the famine after "The Death" i.e. World War III that broke out partly because of the arrival of "The Stone/Potato/Thistledown", as documented by Gershom Raphael in his book "The Book of the Death", today's brother or sister could become tomorrow's dinner.
  • Not Quite Dead: Mirsky is shot in the head. We have to wait ten chapters before finding out he was regenerated by the library’s emergency systems.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Subverted by the Neomorphs, many of whom have amazingly inhuman engineered bodies.
  • Nuke 'em: Both the United States and the Soviet Union have this attitude.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Belozersky and Yazykov.
  • One-Word Title:
    • Eon
    • Eternity
    • Legacy
  • Outrun the Fireball: As an offensive weapon, The Jarts open a gate into the heart of a sun. This is bad for The Way, and the Naderites have to escape it.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Axis City does send someone along now and then to check up on things in the city, but when the library's computer is programmed to handle the repair of a man who had half his head shot off on the offchance that medical services doesn't come when it has been summoned - that's some serious contingency programming.
    • In the second book, Eternity (tropes below) it is pointed out that because they had gotten to the point that technology not only prolonged life but life depended on it, everything was built to last.
  • Real Trailer, Fake Movie: In 2007 the CGSociety (for Creative Digital Artists) held a contest to create images and pieces using the book as a reference point. The winning trailer was titled "Worlds Within Worlds" and had more than one fan drooling and wishing it were real. (All submissions are here.)
    • The Worlds Within Worlds Trailer has a trope - who knew a frant would be an Adaptational Badass? In the book Patricia meets Olmy and the frant as she steps off a train, and they leave peacefully - no others were present.
  • Red Scare: Still scary.
  • Ring World Planet: The Stone, with the Thistledown inside.
  • Serious Business: Technological advancement, for the Naderites.
  • Space Amish: Played with in The Naderites. They keep themselves a tech bracket a little beyond the 21st century, but below the Geshels of Axis City.
  • Starfish Aliens: Of all the species that trade along the Way, only the Naderites and Frants are humanoid. (The Geshels can be, if they choose.)
  • Throw-Away Country: Subverted when Patricia reads a textbook with an index of all the casualties in her home state of California.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: The book doesn't have time travel, it's more alternate universes - the Thistledown was dragged into an alternate universe which was the same but The Death hadn't occurred yet. This doesn't stop some concern about timey-wimey though, as one of the reasons Olmy takes Patricia to Axis City is because she's almost figured out the math behind the inertial dampeners, and it was some papers she hasn't published yet that laid down the theoretical framework for them.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: The Soviets.
  • Trapped in Another World: Patricia, literally.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Eon begins on Christmas Eve in 2000, and most of the action occurs during 2005. The book was published in 1985, so it was set 15-20 years in the future at the time.
    • Patricia's 10-key "slate" she takes notes on is odd, but on the other hand that's how most people were texting at the time!
  • Unusual Dysphemism: The Earth team’s name for the Stone’s original builders? Stoners. Having a nervous breakdown over the existential ramifications of the Stone? Getting Stoned.
  • Unable to Cry: Olmy is engineered not to cry, but says when he actually watched The Death happen it was the first time he ever wanted to.
    • Revisited in Eternity when he learns his son chose to be able to cry.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Once the traitor is uncovered, that particular plot pretty much goes away. You never find out what happens to the traitor.
  • World War III: The Death.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: When humans closed up The Way after opening their first test gates, the Jarts came though the test gates and had plenty of time (relative to the humans) to make themselves at home.
  • You Are in Command Now: Mirsky

Eternity contains examples of:

  • A God Am I: The inhabitants of Axis City, at the end of The Way.
  • Alternate History: Patricia ended up in a world where Alexander the Great survived his illness and lived to old age - changing the whole of history.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: Jarts sense their surroundings mainly through a sense that combines sight and hearing into a single mental image.
  • Child Prodigy: Turns out that Ways are permissible, but the powers that be have never seen a race come up with one so early in their development.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Turns out The Way is screwing with the grand plan of creation. Oops...
  • Fighting from the Inside: Olmy
  • Genre Savvy: The Engineer had a feeling someone would come from the end of time and tell them they'd screwed things up with The Way.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: Whatever the powers that run the universe are, they send Mirsky to go tell everyone that The Way is interfering.
  • Idiot Ball: Wise, James Bond-ish Olmy, - uploading a Jart into his brain and thinking he can contain it.
  • Multiversal Conqueror: After taking sole control of the Way, the Jarts use it to take over every planet in every universe they can access.
  • Pieces of God: More or less the motivation for the Jarts' actions. Turns out to be correct.
  • Powers That Be: The "Final Mind" has sent a representative back.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The inhabitants of Axis City are the descendants of those who had to crawl up through the rubble after The Death. In this alternate universe, they are helping the survivors dig out and decontaminate the planet.
  • Starfish Aliens: While the Jarts have mostly evolved beyond physical forms, their original bodies are utterly alien. Command Jarts resemble black, two-headed Hallucigenia the size of elephants, and lower-ranked Jarts use smaller, ancestral versions of those same bodies when they need to take on a physical form.
  • Turn Out Like His Father: Olmy's son
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Olmy rarely visits his son in person - though its not that bad because he sends partials often.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Mirsky says even the gods are perplexed by fate.

Alternative Title(s): Eon