Perhaps it wasn't from our time, perhaps it wasn't even from our universe, but the arrival of the 300-kilometer long stone was the answer to humanity's desperate plea to end the threat of nuclear war. Inside the deep recesses of the stone lies Thistledown: the remnants of a human society, versed in English, Russian and Chinese. The artifacts of this familiar people foretell a great Death caused by the ravages of war, but the government and scientists are unable to decide how to use this knowledge.
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The crew of the asteroid-starship Thistledown has thwarted an attack by the Jarts by severing their link to the Way, an endless corridor that spans universes. The asteroid settled into orbit around Earth and the tunnel snaked away, forming a contained universe of its own. Forty years later, on Gaia, Rhita Vaskayza recklessly pursues her legacy, seeking an Earth once again threatened by forces from within and without.
In this prequel to Eon, Greg Bear continues to explore the possibilities presented by the asteroid Thistledown, a remnant of a lost human civilization. The Way is a tunnel through space and time that leads to other worlds, some more like planet Earth than Earth itself. It is perhaps the most formidable discovery in Thistledown and with it come disputes as to the nature of the Way and how it should be used. The Way can be reached only through Axis City, the only space station of Thistledown.