About the Author:
Greg Bear has earned several Hugo and Nebula awards. He and his wife, Astrid Anderson Bear, have two children, Erik and Alexandra.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
2.5 out of 5
Songs Of Earth And Power
An omnibus edition which contains the duology 'The Infinity Concerto' and 'The Serpent Mage'. Frustrated poet Michael Perrin befriends an eccentric composer and when the composer dies, Michael is left a key to his mysterious old house. Through the house Michael finds a gateway into another world, a world ruled by the cruel and uncaring Sidhe and where the creative arts are the key to great magical power.
I picked this book up after having largely enjoyed Bear's Star Wars novel 'Rogue Planet' and I have since read reviews by other readers which highly praise this book for its creativity and grasp of traditional Irish-style fairy folklore. The truth is though, that I disliked this book so much that when I came to make this website I had actually blanked ever having read it from my memory. It was only chance that made me suddenly think Hang on, I've read that!
To be honest, the title of the first part of this omnibus, 'The Infinity Concerto', is pretentious enough to give you a sense of this book's own grandiose aspirations. It tries far too hard to be a whole new way of seeing the fantasy genre and, although I don't know for sure, I rather suspect that it was the author's first novel as an inexperienced but ambitious writer. The truth is that the idea of the Sidhe, the faerie, as harsh, inhuman and occasionally malevolent is well established both in folklore and in fantasy fiction and here their portrayal is frustrating more than fascinating.
The concept that did pique my interest was that the world of the Sidhe is one where the creative arts are closely-guarded keys to power and that Michael's background as a poet actually gives him enormous magical potential. Unfortunately, the clever concept is completely unwieldy as a plot device and at its most ludicrous, leads to Michael encountering the great magician Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Frankly, this book was a chore to read and never lives up to its own sense of importance.
1 out of 5
Star Wars: Rogue Planet
Three years after 'The Phantom Menace', in 29 BBY, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are sent to an enigmatic planet in search of a missing Jedi Knight.
A good many Star Wars book fans strongly disliked this book, but I'm prepared to say that is was the best story to come out of the merchandise explosion that followed Episode I's release. Rather than simply trying to cash in on an element of the film (*ahem* 'Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter'), Bear writes an original stand-alone story dealing largely with the exploration of a strange new world and in that way, 'Rogue Planet' is a lot like many of the post-RotJ Star Wars novels.
It's also our first real chance to see the development of the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin, with Anakin struggling against the restrictions of the Jedi lifestyle and Obi-Wan feeling very much in Qui-Gon's shadow, having even taken to using Qui-Gon's lightsaber. As well as the development of the prequel characters, Bear also goes to some effort to tie the book into the larger Star Wars saga. It has strong ties to the massive New Jedi Order series, featuring the discovery of the Yuuzhan Vong's first foray into the galaxy and revealing the true identity of Vergere.
The book's villains, although that word doesn't really fit one of them, will also be known to Star Wars fans; Raith Sienar (the guy who goes on to design TIE-Fighters for the Empire) and Wilhuff Tarkin (Peter Cushing in 'A New Hope'). In fact, the book's finest moment is one between Sienar and Tarkin, who are both friends and enemies, in which Sienar reveals his designs for a moon-sized battlestation (that coupled with Zonama Sekot's surprising travel abilities give Tarkin some familiar ideas).
Other highlights include the first time Anakin kills with the Force and the boy's discovery of a sport to fill the gap in his life since he stopped Podracing. Sadly, because of Lucasfilm's strict control of the prequel era, there is a strong feeling of restraint about the book, as if Bear wanted to go further but wasn't allowed.
Followed by Jude Watson's 'Jedi Quest: Path to Truth'.
4 out of 5