Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Forge of God

Greg Bear
Tor, 1987 (my copy is from 2001)
Size: Average (my copy has 473 pages)
Theme: Apocalyptic global events
Narrative: Third-person
Main character: Arthur Gordon
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

This book narrates the story of Arthur Gordon, an astronomer, as he witnesses events unfolding around him that seem to forecast the destruction of Earth. Strange phenomena are taking place all over, from the disappearance of Jupiter’s moon Europa, to the appearance of mountains, which are found to actually be alien spaceships. From then on, information starts pouring in which raises serious doubts about the intentions of the different alien species as well as what is going to happen to humanity.
The story is compelling, entertaining, and fast-paced. The characters scramble to try to understand the situation and what role they can/should play, even as they are faced with Armageddon. The main character is very well developed, and some other main characters are adequately explored. I also found they fit perfectly in the story; for example, the authorities’ selection of people to involve in the case, while information is being kept confidential from the general public, makes sense. The reading is also light and fluid, without unnecessary flourishing.

Whilst initially I was expecting more action in space, or greater interactions with alien cultures, from the front cover image and the short description on the back cover, I ended up very pleased with how the plot developed and how the story ended. The story is as much mystery as it is sci-fi. The end is indeed apocalyptic, and shifts in scale from our planet to span across the universe. The story throughout will keep you on edge and there is an aura of mystery pervading the entire plot, which is only unveiled in the end. I should mention that everything indeed gets explained in the last few chapters, while allowing enough leeway for a sequel (or several). I would recommend this book to any sci-fi fan, including people starting to read the genre and young readers.

Follow-up books:
The story is continued in Anvil of Stars, which seems very promising. However, I have not yet had the chance of reading it.

Spoilers (warning: the following text contains information that may hamper/ruin how much you enjoy the book):
The destruction of Earth was orchestrated by a war faring alien race. However, the other alien race involved wants to preserve humanity, which they do by collecting a series of people and samples from plants and animals. The book ends with Arthur and many other humans witnessing from space the final moments of Earth, and being taught what are the rules for survival in their new situation. The action then shifts forward in time to show us spaceships piloted by humans in search for the civilization of “planet-eaters” responsible for the destruction of Earth in order to enact justice/revenge.

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