Heads by Bear, Greg, 1990
I have never really been sure how many stories Greg Bear wrote in his Moving Mars/Heads line of tales, but Im beginning to think that there are more than the four I am aware of. Moving Mars is probably Bear's best piece to date, even better than Blood Music, in my opinion. Heads is a novella that was written 1990, four years or so before Moving Mars. It tells a story set on the moon involving the Sandoval family. It is tightly plotted, the characters are as rich as they ever are in a Bear novel, and the story is quite good. 4 out of 5 stars.
The background of the story in Heads and its successor very much make this novella enjoyable, and in fact are so well created that the plot seems an afterthought. Bear has created a world where a post-colonial mentality governs the Moon, which itself is part of the "Triple," or a loose confederation (no more than an economic alliance really), between the Earth, the Moon and Mars. The Triple is dominated by binding-multiples, or BM's, which are large and sometimes powerful economic institutions patterned after extended families. This book tells the story of conflict between Sandoval BM and Task-Felder BM, with Task-Felder currently occupying the office of the President of the Moon. Task-Felder BM also is the product of a religous movement that started on Earth (making them the only non-Moon based lunar BM) that is startlingly similar to Scientology.
This novel tells the story of the start of the development of the Lunar government from a Don't-Tread-on-Me/laissez-faire attitude towards management to a modern one that is more capable of protecting individual's rights and maximizing economic use of the Moon. At least, that is the story that they tell. In Heads there really are two things going on at once, both of them at a Sandoval family outpost. First, one of the Sandoval family members (Rho) has purchased 410 corpsicle heads from a slowly dying Ted Williams type preservation outfit on Earth, because it has been discovered that the lot of heads in question contains the former noggins of the great-grandparents of the Sandoval family. Rho wants to try to access the memories of the corpsicles for posterity and family history purposes. Unbeknownst to Rho however, the cranium of the "prophet" of the religous movement is also in the same lot. At the same time Rho's husband is trying to bring some test samples down to absolute zero in a shaded creater of the moon. The heads are stored in the same creater. Most of the action of the story centers around Task-Felder's attempts to stop Sandoval from continuing at all with the heads experiment. In fact it is not until the end of the book that the Sandovals even find out why the Task-Felders even care. The main character of the book, Mickey Sandoval, is young and as administrator of the outpost, is trying to make a name for himself in the BM. Unfortunately he is hopelessly outmatched by the political machinations of his nemisis, President Fiona Task-Felder.
As I have said on at two occasions at least in this thread, there is really nobody better at drawing characters than Greg Bear. His early to late career books are pure testament to this. This book is no disappointment. Bear is limited by the novella format, but he easily crafts these in this book as indivuduals with complex motivations and histories without once seeming to be overreaching. But perhaps the best element of this novel is the depiction of the beginning of political the transformation of the moon, and the description of political intrigue noted above. Easily on the same plane however, is the depiction of the religous movement. Its one of the best send ups of Scientology I have ever read, although in one or two places it may go too far. One wonders if Bear has personal feelings about the scientologists.
This book is quite difficult to find, but if you can locate it, buy it and read it. Especially if your are a fan of Moving Mars, as this book answers certain questions from that later work (such as, what are the Logolists, where are they from, and what is Green Idaho?)
Copyright © 2007, Gregory Tidwell