Monday, February 13, 2012

Anvil of stars

Greg Bear
Warner Books, 1992 (my copy is from Warner Books, 1993)
Size: Average (my copy has 471 pages)
Theme: Space war
Narrative: third-person
Main character: Martin Gordon
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

Anvil of stars is the sequel to Forge of God, which had been written 5 years before (see my review). In the end of that first novel, the Earth had been lead to destruction by a war faring mechanical alien race, termed the Killers. A different race, the Benefactors, has been trying to stop them for millennia or, at the very least, save some representatives of each dying species. After rescue, the Benefactors provide a Ship of the Law to a selected group from the survivors of that race to enact the Law, meaning, going after the Killers’ original planet/system and attempting to get revenge on them.

The children/teenagers maintain a rotating system of democratic leadership, and follow a particular moral and ethical code adapted to their situation. Despite the formidable power of the ship, going after an unknown civilization, with no idea of their current level of technology, is not an easy task. The children will encounter different alien races in their voyage, including one with which they will end up working together. As the ship travels along, sensors keep searching each system for proof that the killers might have originated there. But not everything is what it looks like at first glance, and deciding to exterminate planets or systems will be daunting to the children. Maintaining their sanity and health throughout the trip will be equally taxing, and dangers will come as much from outside as from within.

Overall I much enjoyed the novel. It keeps a good pace and provides meaningful characters, which are well explored. What I felt worked less well were the training exercises within the ship… It reminded me of Ender’s Game, but it pales in comparison. One should note that I rate Ender’s Game as one of the top sci-fi novels ever, so I would not expect to be dazzled here. The story is nicely built and there are many technological wonders and alien races to satisfy any sci-fi fan. As a sequel, it works as well as one could expect; the framework, cast, scenario and action are entirely different from the original novel. Also, the dynamics of space travel are very well - and realistically - described.

*** Spoiler Alert ***
(Warning: the following text contains information that may hamper/ruin how much you enjoy the book):

For the major part of the book, the human children pair up with a race of snake-like creatures, from another Ship of the Law, made of individual components that join up to make more complex and intelligent formations. Together they find a system very likely to have originated the Killers and decide to enact their revenge, waging war on the different planets in that system. Despite several losses on both groups, they end up surviving and launch off to find a new place to call home. Martin and Ariel manage to stick together in a stable relationship.

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