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The cover art of Eon
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Published||1985 (Tor Books)|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
Events in Eon take place in 2005, when the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. are on the verge of nuclear war. In that tense political climate, a 290 km asteroid appears within the solar system following an unusual supernova, and moves into a highly eccentric Near-Earth orbit. The two nations each try to claim this mysterious object (dubbed "the Stone" by the Americans and "the Potato" by the Soviets, with the Chinese using 鲸, meaning whale), with the U.S. and N.A.T.O. allied nations succeeding. Eon was nominated for an Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987.
The asteroid itself is an elongated prolate spheroid which appears to be virtually identical to Juno, a large asteroid in the main belt. It has been hollowed out along its long axis, and subdivided into seven vast cylindrical chambers. It rotates to provide artificial gravity. The chambers are terraformed, the second and third containing abandoned cities which appear to be built by humans from Earth's future.
The humans who built the Stone seem to come from approximately 1,200 years in the future. Their libraries record that human civilization was nearly destroyed by "The Death," a calamitous World War involving nuclear weapons, in 2005. Events recorded in the libraries prior to The Death (with the exception of the arrival of the Stone itself) are almost identical to events occurring on Earth in the explorers' present time. Rising tensions between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., now exacerbated by both rumors of the information in the libraries and the general situation on the Stone (the Soviets and their allies have only limited access to the asteroid), suggest that not only is such a war imminent, but the appearance of the Stone may actually make it worse than recorded.
Since the Stone appears immediately prior to the recorded date of The Death, and there is no record of its own appearance at the time, the scientists reason that the Stone may come from an alternate future. Patricia Luisa Vasquez, a brilliant but naïve young theoretical physicist from Caltech, is hastily sent to the Stone to determine if The Death can be avoided on the current timeline, and to work out the mysteries of the corridor.
A startling discovery is that the Stone is larger on the inside than outside: the seventh chamber extends beyond the end of the asteroid and appears to go on forever. When Patricia is mysteriously abducted by a strange-looking human and an alien, an expedition is sent after her. They travel down the final chamber (called "the corridor" or "the Way"), where they encounter humanity's descendants.
The Axis City and The Hexamon
The society of human descendents, called the Hexamon, live in the Axis City, a large structure on the axis of the Way, one million kilometers from the Stone, which they call Thistledown. The Hexamon is presided over by a governing body known as the Nexus. It is loosely divided into two social groups, Naderites and Geshels, based on widely differing cultural and political viewpoints.
The conservative Naderites reject much of the high technology trappings of their society for a simpler life. They are in fact, followers of Ralph Nader, whom they call "the Good Man". Nader, who was "martyred" during The Death, came to be canonized by the followers who took his name. This was largely because he opposed the technology (particularly nuclear energy) that led to the catastrophic war.
The futuristic Geshels, on the other hand, embrace all manner of technological advances including human augmentation and artificial bodies. Many radical Geshels go so far as to choose non-human (or neomorphic) shapes for themselves, as opposed to moderate ones who choose a more human (or homorphic) appearance.
The high technology of this civilization with their control over genetic engineering, human augmentation (including post-symbolic communication), and matter itself is a major theme in the latter half of the novel. The Way itself cuts across space and time: "gates" may be opened through its surface at regular intervals, which lead to space and worlds occupying other timelines. As a result of commerce through the gates, several alien species have come to be partners of the Hexamon as well. Another major theme is the Hexamon's ongoing war with an alien race known as the Jarts. The Jarts come from further down the Way, beyond 2x10^9 kilometers (2 billion kilometers).