I just finished reading Greg Bear’s The Forge Of God, and this is my review.
On September 28th, a geologist working in Death valley finds a mysterious new cinder cone in very well-mapped area.
On October 1st, the government of Australia announces the discovery of an enormous granite mountain. Like the cinder cone, it wasn’t there six months ago….
Something is happening to Planet Earth, and the truth is too terrifying to consider….
This book started well enough with a strange first contact scenario involving fake volcanoes, and their odd artificial lifeforms appearing around the world. One tells a story warning of impending disaster, the others act as intergalactic welcoming committee. It’s not long after that the human characters start to realize they are being deliberately deceived. When confronted with the suspicion, the more positive messengers self destruct. Months before, Europa went completely missing, only to be later found in chunks that will eventually impact on Mars and Venus.
Slowly, officials in the government realize they have no power to stop what’s coming, nor to control a panicking populace. The fake cinder cones are destroyed by some countries, but in the end they aren’t the tools of our demise. Their destruction means nothing. Two super-dense objects (one is made of antimatter) are shot down into the Earth’s core, slowly spinning until they meet and annihilate. This is in essence the ticking countdown until it all ends. There is also mention of bombs being planted in deep ocean trenches by the hostile machines.
Throughout the book, we get the perspective of several characters, a family man/ astrophysicist, a biologist, a geologist, a journalist, and more. We spend most of our time with the first, mainly showing his love for his family and for his close friend who has cancer. We see the man go from being consulted by the government and helping to decipher the events that transpire, while struggling to keep his family safe. Eventually coming to the realization that no one is safe, and that there is nothing he can do. We watch the man go from calm and collected to sinking acceptance of what is happening.
You’d think all is completely lost at this point, until silvery spider-like robots show up. They begin possessing people, connecting them to a ‘network’ in order to collect history records, parts of our culture, animals, plants, etc. Some of the POV characters are taken into this network by the spiders, and apparently they are machines sent by another alien race to help us. They state they are too late to save our world, but can save our history, culture, and just two thousand people with their ships. These benefactors also state that they’ve been following this other race of planet-eaters and rescuing other species for a while.
Climatic changes began to take effect around the globe, mainly in the form of wildfires. Relentless earthquakes begin breaking the continents apart, and numerous tsunamis decimate coastlines. There are some incredibly written scenes of the final destruction of Earth in this book, especially those involving some of the characters. Most of them end up perishing in the final moments. The sense of powerlessness against the alien mechanisms that doom the world is a real presence throughout, and each character has to find their on way of coping.
At the last moment, the ark-ships escape from Earth’s oceans, taking the precious cargo that will be the last of humanity and all we’ve known. Through the characters we witness Earth from the ship’s view as its seas boil away, continents rupture, and its surface turn to molten rock before exploding. The passengers are told by the benefactors that this is a crime by their Law, and that someday it must be punished.
After a while, we learn that the remnants of Europa that crashed into Mars and Venus have effectively terraformed the previously desolate worlds while Earth’s survivors hibernated in the ark ships. We see most of the people settle on either Mars or Venus, growing forests and raising animals. We get to see the family man settled in with his wife, adapting to the new life they have. We end with him mentioning that he will never see his son again, because he has left on a Ship Of The Law to hunt down Earth’s killers.
Finally, the son remembers his days on Earth while aboard the ship, thinking of vengeance in the name of not just himself and other families, but for his dog.
I enjoyed reading this one, as I usually enjoy most end of the world stories. Very well written, and the lead up to the end is quite satisfying.
I’m currently reading the sequel, Anvil Of Stars. It doesn’t have the same feel obviously, but I’ll let you know how I like it next post. Stay tuned.