The sequel to Greg Bear’s Forge Of God concludes some of its mysteries, but unfortunately its pacing and suspense hardly matches the former.
The Forge of God described the destruction of Earth itself by self-replicating robots, Von Neumann machines designed to use the planet’s mass to create more robotic creatures and spread throughout the Galaxy. Only a few humans have survived, aided by a mysterious alien race known only as “The Benefactors”, who arrived at Earth too late.
Now the small group of human survivors is determined to track down the criminal race who launched the planet killers. Humanity is given a starship by The Benefactors, and driven only by revenge they set out to find the unknown beings who are responsible for the destruction of Earth, and many other worlds.
Some Spoilers Ahead:
In this book we follow the son of one of the original characters from the previous novel, Martin, who is leading a group of other young adults on a ship designed by the mysterious machines of the alien benefactors to find the planet killers. Basically, on a mission of vengeance for Earth. The machines are present only to instruct the ‘children’ as they call themselves, on finding information and tracking the planet killing machines, but they don’t interfere otherwise.
The bulk of the novel focuses a great deal on social-political struggles within this group, and the deceit and deaths that arise from it. There are a few notable events between this slogging narrative, such as coming across derelict craft similar to their own, and an exchange of fire that somehow turns their comrades’ fighter ships to antimatter. They end up joining ships with a large worm-like alien race, who are also survivors of the planet killers.
Finally toward the end of the book, the characters stumble upon a seemingly utopian solar system, wherein many races congregate in pleasure and commerce. The crew decide to enter this system under the pretense that they are a new space faring set of races, lacking the technology that would make them seem like a threat. Martin, as blah as his personality is, can’t pinpoint whether this world is truly hiding something, or if they are completely unaware. There are trillions of inhabitants in this system, all who seem to have little knowledge of any planet killer race.
In one of the meetings with the alien hosts down on the utopian world, Martin is questioned by what he calls a ‘staircase god’ that appears to only him. It knows that they are lying about who they are, and admits that its ancestors, the planet killing race, are long dead and forgotten. They only want for peace now, and warn that the many races on the surface of the world are completely innocent and without knowledge of any of the past. Martin is unsure whether to believe this being, but confers with his crew mates and current leader, who is anxious for their job to just be done and over with. He cannot help but weigh the job set before them, and also the trillions of innocent lives on the surface of the world about to be destroyed.
It isn’t long before the leader makes the decision for him, and starts the attack. Martin and his friends are helpless to watch as the world is destroyed in much the same fashion as Earth was. When the air clears, so to speak, the same planet killing weapons are left floating where the center of that world was. They destroy all they can find, not leaving any to chance. The crew is relieved the job is done, but the weight of guilt still remains.
The book ends with the alien companions separating ships and going their own way, and the humans searching for a new planet to settle on while dealing with the loss and hardships they’ve all suffered.
I liked the parallels of Earth’s survivors becoming killers themselves in the act of destroying the planet killers’s last weapons. Trillions of innocent lives was what it cost to prevent any further destruction from those things. A high cost that those who enacted ‘The Law’ must bare with.
The hardest part of getting through the books was its pacing and the characters’ lack of driving force. I didn’t feel enough emotion from any of them. Martin himself is wishy-washy, and even adversarial characters don’t bring enough kick to make me care about their survival much. I enjoyed the story, but found the interactions between the humans frustrating, and dull. I expected something more eventful. More violence among humans in a tin can wouldn’t have surprised me at all, but it wouldn’t necessarily need to be there. Maybe more clues about the planet killers scattered throughout their journey , or more threatening danger would’ve felt more satisfying.
I’m not sure. Like I said, I enjoyed reading it, but trucking through the middle of it was tough without more driving events or emotion.
More reviews coming soon! Still have two more books in the reading list to finish off.