Heads Hardcover – Sep 1991
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From Publishers Weekly
Hard-science-fiction master Bear's ( Queen of Angels ) gem of a novella shines with provocative scientific speculation, well-drawn characters and powerful prose. Mickey Sandoval is a minor administrator in his family's moon-based corporation, supervising accounts on his brother-in-law William's project--an attempt to reach absolute zero, 0 on the Kelvin scale. His mostly routine job becomes rapidly complicated when his sister Rho, William's wife, brings a load of 410 cryogenically frozen heads back with her from earth. Mickey finds her interest in tapping the memories of the long-dead bizarre yet harmless, but suddenly the other industrial families on the moon grow hostile to the project, led by Council President Fiona Task-Felder, a member of the cult of Logology (which bears an unmistakable resemblance to a certain contemporary pseudo-religious movement). Mickey is plunged into high-level political conflicts he cannot handle, stumbling from error to error before Rho's examination of the heads unveils a monumental secret--and explains the Logologists' stake in her project. Readers hungry for the intellectual thrills of traditional science fiction with the literary merits of the best of the genre need look no further.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
YA-- The concept of a future society purchasing 410 cryogenically frozen heads and then probing their minds is the basis of this short novel. Mickey Sandoval, the administrator of a lunar farm station, finds himself involved in a political struggle against a religious group because one of the heads was that of their founder. This is a lean, hard-core science-fiction novel that can be booktalked with success and used by the next-day assignment completion seekers.
- Nora Jane Natke, Riverside City and County Public Library, CA
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I would recommend this book only to die-hard Greg Bear fans.
Having read ALL (I repeat, ALL) of Bear's science fiction library to date, Heads is the last book which I have gotten a hold of. Though published in 1990, it has a certain nostalgic theme (cryogenics) of the 1970s like Psyclone (1978) and a progressive drive towards a goal like Blood Music (1985). In the meantime Bear produced great early space opera in his Forge series and The Way series. So, I can see Bear writing retro sci-fi when publishing Heads in 1990 after releasing some operatic science fiction, coming to a more central theme.
Heads starts with a bang, roping in the reader with Triple politics (Mars, Luna and Earth), the quest for absolute zero and the acquisition of the cryogenic heads. The initial one-sixth of the book is a solid lead-in to a prospective greater scope of things to come. However, much of this lead-up is lent to the bubbling caldron of changing Lunar politics, where `politics aside' takes precedence in lunar communal relations. `Politics aside' does not, paradoxically, take priority in this book. The Triple politics takes up a fair chunk of the remaining five-sixths of a plot but the ramifications of the outcome are substantial to the Lunar communal families. The recently-founded religion of Logologists and early-founder K.D. Tierry takes a number of anti-religious hits from the scientific Sandoval-Rice collective, taking one-on-one the religious Task-Felder collective. It gets a fair bit testy at times, especially when the held beliefs are at serious stake.
It is a fairly short read (110 total pages in the British edition) but it is well worth the read. The feel of it all is very obviously pro-science and anti-religion. There is an obvious underpinning foundation of foreshadowing two-thirds of the way through, which any experienced reader can grasp on with the single word of "forced." A good addition to the Bear bibliography.
For hard SF reader, the story has interesting gadgets like quantum logic computer -- self-aware AI thinkers with mental aberrations --, post-Boolean three-state logic invented by Chinese and singularity applied to politics(?). The Moon in the 22nd century is very libertarian: business is the driving force behind everything. The trade clicks seldom interfere to each others' businesses and prefer to deal schisms behind the curtains.
One (1) star. Written in 1990 this an old-fashioned tale about human soul. There are two parallel stories that should somehow connect at the, but the end is forced. The search for absolute zero that is supposed to pluck scientific speculation as well as religious and moral questions in contrast to frozen heads is more like a jab at Scientology. The limited hard science content embedded in the story, as good as it is, cannot do marvels to the thin plot. Abruptly switching from trade politic clicks to hard SF content and family bonds is like rumbling in the forest. A novel that had potential, but lacked leverage.
Curiously enough, spacetime was indeed apparently affected by Heads, because I must have seen the future--I was right, and it was all a bit much to handle in such a short book. By necessity, Bear's writing was much more expository than usual, and I didn't find that very satisfying. The story was promisingly offbeat, but behind the story was a blatant parody of Scientology--now, I'm not a Scientologist, nor do I know any Scientologists and I have a healthy skepticism of any religion founded by a science fiction writer, especially one that espouses Body Thetans--ghosts of an alien civilization--as the source of physical illness. It's a valid target, but somehow I'd like a touch more subtlety, a soupcon of sophistication about it...perhaps that's a bit much to ask of a book titled after decapitated noggins...
At any rate, it's a good story, with an effective and creepy climax...it's merely the baldness of Heads that detracts.