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Although, I think a reader would not miss anything great (except some of its ideas) if this book is left unread, considering there is a lot more good content out there. These themes are further explored as we learn more about the rivalries between the two major factions of the "Stoners"—the more radical, pro-technology Geshel, and the more conservative and predominantly anti-technological Naderites, named in honor of 20th century consumer rights advocate Ralph Nader (who, in Bear's fictional future, was martyred in the nuclear war).

This book pulls the rug out from under the reader about 25% of the way into the reading; and I will not spoil that reality shift for you. I own a true first edition hardcover in fine condition—actually pretty rare, especially in such good shape—and it will remain one of the prized pieces of my book collection for a long time. Describes a book or dust jacket that has the complete text pages (including those with maps or plates) but may lack endpapers, half-title, etc.It was, and is, the result of the political propaganda, still alive, fed to the public in large doses.

We send people to investigate and discover seven hollowed-out chambers full of cities, forests, mountains, deserts, and machinery. And there's a library that appears to recount the history of Earth, but this history includes events in the future of our team, and even predicts the war they wanted to avoid. In fact, one can intelligently argue that mankind is still very, very close to destroying itself in a number of frighteningly different ways.Computers seem able to communicate “subliminally” with humans, but Bear never goes into the nuts and bolts. I will stop there, all this is obvious in the first few chapters of the book, I shall not spoil your anticipation of what is to come.

The scale is enormous: large cities in a hollowed-out asteroid, a tunnel that is so wide and long that a city with tens of millions of inhabitants had traveled a million kilometers along it, indefinite number of parallel universes, aliens and technologies that would sound very inventive thirty or forty years ago, they all combine into a very compelling worldbuilding. he can't seem to keep from following every thread to a conclusion at the expense of good story telling. The novel then progresses through a number of movements, each more mind-numbing and awe-inspiring than the previous.The least disappointing thing is that it's merely badly written, but worked well enough within its zeitgeist so that it skated by at the time. The seventh chamber is the start of a tube much larger than the asteroid it appears to be inside of -- in fact, as far as anyone can tell, it is infinite. It moves into an eccentric near-Earth orbit where the rival polities of Earth each try to claim this mysterious object. They discover that the interior has been hollowed out, and is full of equipment and even has people living in it.

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