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Anvil of Stars by Greg Bear
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Anvil of Stars (1992)

by Greg Bear

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Forge of God (2)

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Follow-up to "Forge of God", very different book. Small-group social dynamics in a pressure cooker, and amazing cosmology. Just following the physics is a delight. Survivors of the destruction of Earth, a large crew of young adults are chosen by the alien Benefactors who save a sliver of mankind. They are sent to find the "Killers", a civilization that spawns Berzerker-style robots to destroy all other life. Follows in the footsteps of "Ender's Game" and other "children at war" novels, with characters who must wage interstellar battle while agonizing over the morality of destruction. ( )
  Clevermonkey | May 29, 2014 |
Not bad in the end but nothing like Forge of God, of which this book is a sequel. Two totally different and bearly related novels. Good science, good story if slightly long winded, and annoying characters. ( )
  sf_addict | Mar 7, 2013 |
My reactions to reading this book in 1992. Spoilers follow.

I found this, a sequel to Bear’s very enjoyable – and different – Forge of God, to be surprisingly slow going, tedious. The book seemed to move slowly yet not provide much of the nitty-gritty detail of shipboard life on the Dawn Treader. Much of the technology was of the superscience variety (the ladders, the fields, the ship which could – presumbably through a form of nanotechnology – reorganize its mass and shape) and, not having reread the Forge of God, the weapons were little more than names since their function was little described. In fact, through a long book, Bear’s style was altogether too sketchy for me.

I did like isolated elements (the struggle between flaky prophet Rosa and Hans was interesting and reminded me of the mediaeval struggle between Church and State; ruthless, intuitively correct, obsessive, man-of-action Hans was an interesting portrait of an effective but tyrannical, deceitful leader as opposed to the fair-minded but somewhat ineffective Martin; I liked the anti-matter converting trap of the Killers and their elaborate system; the information theory enabling manipulation matter; the elaborate system of the Killers; I even liked the Brothers.

But the novel as a whole never engaged my feelings. I really didn’t feel the characters pain and only some of their doubts on their mission of vengeance (I certainly never thought the act of vengeance was wrong – only an uncertainity as to the rightful targets of it). I thought Bear could have made a much more powerful statement and ending if he left it in the air as to the Killer presence in the destroyed system (and I’m usually not in favor of ambiguous endings) rather than conclusively showing that the system should have been destroyed. ( )
  RandyStafford | Jan 22, 2013 |
A very different book to "The Forge of God", "Anvil of Stars" continues the story of the survivors of the destruction of Earth. A handful of survivors were rescued by an alien group called the Benefactors, and the youngest generation of survivors are sent forth to track down the originators of the von Neumann probes that destroyed the Earth. Their task is to carry out The Law – races that build destructive von Neumann probes must themselves be destroyed in a sort of interstellar lex talonis (‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’). The Benefactors provide the nominated survivors with the tools for The Job – a ship and super weapons.

We join the protagonists on board the Ship of the Law 'Dawn Treader', searching for the rogue civilisation. The society these humans, barely out of their teens, has created is modelled heavily on Earth children’s tales and mythology; the ship’s name is, of course, drawn from C.S. Lewis’ 'Narnia' books, and they refer to themselves as Lost Boys and Wendys, in reference to Peter Pan. The first section of the book is highly claustrophobic, and the combination of endless military training and a closed society of young people gives the whole story an air of being a combination of "Ender’s Game" and "Lord of the Flies".

A target system is identified, and the crew set out to enforce the Law. But the system is a decoy, and the attack barely succeeds, and only at considerable cost in loss of life. The pov character, the leader, Martin (son of the main protagonist of "The Forge of God"), relinquishes his position and a new leader takes the ship to the next target.

In the meantime, the ship is first of all directed to another Ship of the Law, a derelict, from which the crew retrieve records of a dead race who had the same Job, and failed. And then they rendezvous with a third Ship, whose alien crew are potential allies. These aliens are well-drawn, and certainly have little in common with the humans in form, biology and thought; their mathematics does not rely on integers, and they live as composite lifeforms, communicating by audible and olfactory senses.

Although they are quite likeable, some of the human crew cannot adjust to living and working in proximity – yet they have to press home their attack on the system now identified as the home of the builders of the original weapons. But are the inhabitants of this system all they seem? Are they the people who built the weapons that destroyed Earth? Or have those original builders died out, or moved on? And even if their descendants are the beings the crew encounter, to what extent is it right to impose a punishment on what might be an entire innocent civilisation?

There are no definitive answers, of course; so how valid is The Law? And what is the real obligation on the Lost Boys and Wendys to see it through? Whereas "The Forge of God" is pretty much a straightforward disaster story, "Anvil of Stars" asks a range of difficult questions, and also shows what happens when laws that were created a long time ago have to be enacted in the here and now. ( )
  RobertDay | Dec 16, 2011 |
Earth is dead, reduced to rocks and dust by a horde of marauding alien machine intelligences. A few thousand Earthlings have been saved by the Benefactors, themselves machine intelligences who have helped the survivors re-establish themselves on Mars. That story was told in Greg Bear’s 1987 novel, The Forge of God.

Now, in Anvil of Stars, the sequel to Forge, three hundred years have gone by, and the Benefactors have outfitted 80 or so Earth children with a Ship of the Law capable of exacting revenge on the killer machines that destroyed their home. Three hundred years have gone by in a literal blink of the eye, as the children have been asleep, traveling at 99 percent of the speed of light. They begin training for what lies ahead of them: the willful destruction of an entire solar system full of intelligent beings.

This tightly plotted novel stands alone as a highly imaginative consideration of genocide. Enacting the Law of revenge is one thing; making sure you’ve got the true perpetrators of Earth’s destruction is another. Hundreds of years have passed—what if the killer machines and their makers have changed their ways?

The pleasures of this novel lie in Bear’s ability to weave together the action and pacing of a thriller with the philosophical puzzle of blame and the sociological complexities of a group of kids tutored by aliens so technologically advanced humans are simple animals by comparison. Simple animals, perhaps, but Bear always celebrates the ability of the human mind to learn and adapt. The alien Benefactors teach the human children a method of mathematical analysis called momerath, a kinetic visualization technique that enables them to calculate orbits in complex systems and develop weapons of unimaginable power.

A master of science fiction on an epic scale, Anvil of Stars has Bear operating on full imaginative power. Add to that the cultural relevance of the novel’s central themes – justice and genocide – and you’ve got a thriller as exciting and worthwhile today as when it was originally published in 1992.

Originally published on Curled Up with a Good Book. ( )
  funkendub | Oct 4, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Greg Bearprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eggleton, BobCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Puckey, DonaldCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rodgers, NickCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0446364037, Mass Market Paperback)

The acclaimed author of Eternity offers a compelling sequel to his visionary Forge of God. Earth is gone, completely destroyed by a ruthless alien. Hundreds of years away, a handful of exiles hurtles through the galaxies in a quest for revenge, armed with powers they do not understand--and determined to find and punish the killers who murdered their world.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:53 -0400)

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Follows the mission of a select group of human survivors as they search in the Ship of Law for the aliens who destroyed their planet.

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