Greg Bear's Eon was published in 1985, which probably explains why the plot starts with considerable tension between the U.S. and Soviets, even though it takes place in 2005. There's already been a little nuclear exchange, which destroyed Kiev and Atlanta, among other places*. Into this comes The Stone (or the Potato, if you're Russian), an asteroid which had been moving through the Solar System for years, and basically parked itself in orbit around the Earth. Scientists from allover the world are now inside, examining the cities and technology, but since the U.S. reached it first, they're running the show, and subsequently excluding most of the other nations from the coolest stuff (especially the libraries in the 2nd and 3rd chambers, and the kind of staggering 7th chamber). This causes tension. Patricia Vazquez is the newest addition to the science team, and her primary focus is to figure out what's going on in the 7th chamber, and what it all means. There's also something of deadline, as the library has revealed some troubling things.
The book shifts in perspective from character to character. Some characters as the focal point more often, such as Vazquez, her boss Gerry Lanier, or a Russian soldier named Mirsky**, but there are at least 8-10 characters we ride along with over the course of the book. With the characters who receive more attention, Bear does a fair job helping us get to know them. I couldn't tell you their hobbies, but I have a distinct idea what the Stone means to each of them. There are several times Bear loses me with the science speak, talking about geometry stacks or relativistic speeds, and even how things are laid out inside the Stone isn't always that clear. The key thing is, even if the specifics lose me, the generalities come through. Sometimes that's due to one of the characters needing it dumbed down for them, other times, it's simply Bear's narration simplifying what the characters were describing.
The book ends in a way as to suggest as sequel, which I think the library here also has a copy of. I'm somewhat curious what direction that book would take. There's the possibility of one character trying desperately to find what they think they need, or it could focus on the problems on Earth that were hinted at by the ending, or the problems Axis City will likely face down the Way.
About the conflict on Earth. The new arrivals are trying to force the Earthlings to undergo Talsit meditation. It's a process designed to help someone move past their troubles, be it anger, fear depression, mental defects, whatever other destructive impulses a person might have. The idea is, this process will keep the Earthlings from repeating their past mistakes, because they'll be in a state of mind beyond the one they were in when all those irrational things governed them. I'm not sure I buy it. These new arrivals have access to Talsit meditation, but they still couldn't work things out with the Jarts. And when the Jarts decided to open a gate inside a star, thus flooding the Way with plasma in an attempt to exterminate the inhabitants of Axis City, half the inhabitants decided to settle on Earth. The other half took their part of the city, cranked it up to light speed, and went through the plasma energy, wiping out all the gates the Jarts had, as well as any Jart settlements along the Way. Yes, it seems Talsit meditation did wonders for getting those folks past baser impulses, because otherwise, I'd think that was at least a little revenge motivated. I'm sure the Axis Citians would justify some way or the other, "The Jarts started it!" or "We created the Way, and they shouldn't be here anyway!" or something, but it still reeks of overdoing it. Maybe I just can't buy the assertion in the book that the Jarts simply can't be negotiated with, as that seems to excuse any actions by Axis City. We never see any negotiations, so we have to take their word that they haven't done anything that provoked the Jarts to the point they open a gate inside a star.
I was a little disappointed with the direction the book took. I was hoping to see more of a focus on the two antagonistic sides realizing they were now in the same boat and trying to work together, with various successes and failures along the way. The story went in that direction for a little bit, then shifted focus to this problem with the Jarts, as well as Patricia and what she's after in all this. Where the book ended up going wasn't so bad, but it lacked impact with me. Part of the problem is that I didn't feel much connection with Patricia, or many of the major characters, except Mirsky. It was difficult for me to care much about what happened to them.
* Each superpower's anti-nuke defenses were concentrated elsewhere.
** Mirsky's my favorite character, especially after some of what he experiences leads him to wonder if he's even still alive, and what that does to him.