Title: The Forge of God
Author: Greg Bear
Genre: Science Fiction
I’m not sure where the title “The Forge of God” came from; if it was mentioned in the story, I missed it. But the book has nothing (or little) to do with God.
As it says on the cover, the book “begins … with the shocking disappearance of one of the moons of Jupiter.” From there, it continues with the mysterious appearance of large artifacts on Earth, things that appear at first to be large rock outcroppings but turn out to be alien spacecraft.
Author Ben Bova reveals each new discovery to the reader through the eyes of his many characters, so the reader never knows more than they do. This is of course, more realistic, but can also be infuriating — you never know exactly what’s going on; you only know what the characters have learned.
Eventually, the reader realizes that Earth is being slowly invaded — and destroyed — by aliens. (This isn’t a spoiler; it’s in the blurbs on the back cover.)
I found the entire invasion just a little on the strange side. Aliens as advanced and powerful as these would have to reason to sneak in undetected, make initial yet deceptive contact with humans, and then go about destroying the planet with technology of which we can’t even conceive (including antimatter and micro black holes).
Now comes the spoiler: Fortunately for humanity, there’s another set of alien beings, a group that wants to help, but can’t quite compete with the destroyers. They’re only able to save a tiny percentage of humans, along with collected knowledge and information.
I also found them odd, mostly that they’re never really explained to the reader (because they never fully explain themselves to the human characters). We learned little-to-nothing about their history, and even the final pages of the book left me with too many questions.
As it turns out, there’s a sequel, called Anvil of Stars, which I haven’t read yet, and Bear plans to write a third book in the growing series. Perhaps one or both of them would answer my questions or fill in the gaps.
Overall, “The Forge of God” is epic in scope, has believable human characters, and keeps the pace moving quickly enough for an experienced reader. It would make a great movie (and it will be a movie, according to the book’s Wikipedia page). But it felt like Bear was combining the initial drafts of several works in progress. I got the feeling he’d conceived several versions of the end of the Earth and attempted to write them all into one book.
For sci-fi fans, it’s definitely worth the read. But this isn’t the kind of book that would get someone hooked on science fiction in the first place.