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Anvil of Stars (1992)

by Greg Bear

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: FORGE OF GOD (02), Forge of God (2)

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1,446169,030 (3.55)12
The "provocative and entertaining follow-up" to The Forge of God: Exiled from their planet, humans unite with one alien race in the fight against another (Publishers Weekly).  The Ship of the Law travels the infinite enormity of space, carrying eighty-two young people: fighters, strategists, scientists--and children. After one alien culture destroyed their home, another offered the opportunity for revenge in the form of a starship built from fragments of the Earth's corpse, a ship they now use to scour the universe in search of their enemy.   Working with sophisticated nonhuman technologies that need new thinking to comprehend them, they're cut off forever from the people they left behind. Denied information, they live within a complex system that is both obedient and beyond their control. They're frightened. And they're waging war against entities whose technologies are unimaginably advanced and vast, and whose psychology is ultimately, unknowably alien.   In Anvil of Stars, the multimillion-selling, Nebula Award-winning author of Eon and other science fiction masterpieces "fashions an action-packed and often thrilling plot; by using each of the well-depicted alien races to mirror human behavior, he defines what it means to be Homo sapiens. . . . A gripping story" (Publishers Weekly).… (more)

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» See also 12 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
I found this to be a disappointing sequel. It's combinations of Peter Pan (overtly)/Lord of the Flies/...Wrath of Khan??? ultimately didn't pay off. There are perhaps too many loose ends (who are the mom's creators, what did become of the solar system's humans, what happens with the Brothers, who/what/why the Killers, etc.)

Worse, the great moral dilemmas/plots that the entire last third of the book hinges around are not satisfactorily addressed. I.e., "Collateral damage on the scale of multiple-genocide just happened... anyway, moving on." I.e., "We've got a religious movement developing... oh, its leader is murdered... oh, its vice-leader is now vice-president. Ok, no worries, now its over." I.e., the entire pacifism versus... not so much violence, as revenge. (There is even a passage that comes tantalizingly close to, in my ears, an "obvious" debate about the efficacy -not even the morals- of the death penalty.) Which is subsumed in the larger WTF of committing genocide on a planetary-system-wide scale...

Uggh, frustrating. I feel like this is a case of over-ambitious storytelling. If this was a 900-1000 page book maybe... or treated in two separate books... or re-editted to... ugh. ( )
  dcunning11235 | Oct 17, 2016 |
An intelligent and idea-rich follow-up to The Forge of God. After the events of that earlier novel, in which Earth was destroyed by an alien civilisation, we now follow some of the descendants of the survivors of humankind. Patronised by another benevolent alien civilisation, they travel through star systems on a 'Ship of the Law', seeking revenge on 'the Killers'.

One of the main strengths of the previous book was that it felt real and immediate, as our Earth was believably and terrifyingly unmade by the Killers' machines. This is, of course, lost in Anvil of Stars as it is more speculative: set in the distant future with advanced technologies and scientific developments and alien civilisations, it requires greater leaps of imagination and toleration. Author Greg Bear does well to keep it anchored but, unlike its predecessor, a lot of the pathos and emotion and anger has been lost. Bear remains as eloquent as ever in describing the mind-bending scientific concepts, but even more thrilling – for me – were the emotional gut-punches and twists. These remained as fascinating and well-told as in The Forge of God, but they were in much smaller quantities. Forge was as much a thriller as it was sci-fi; Anvil is most certainly sci-fi, and the deceptions were less frequent and less prominent.

This unmooring from earthier concepts – whilst necessary, given how the plot develops – does lead Anvil into some strange areas. Often, this is a good thing, as in the case of the aliens that the humans encounter. The 'Brothers' , as they are dubbed, are very believable, despite their strangeness and we begin to empathise and root for them almost as much as we do the humans. Similarly, the sheer epic scale of interstellar war and of supernovas and of planets being unmade is as rich as it was in Forge.

Elsewhere, Bear's strangeness is jarring. The humans' starship community is almost like a hippy commune. Most of the crew have weird names like Mountain Lily and Ginny Chocolate, and characters squat in the lotus position and speak earnestly of others' "personal treasure of spiritual solace" (pg. 192). Free love abounds, and the creepily-detailed sex scenes are both odd and often: an inadvisable position for a novel to find itself in. It creates a sort of tonal dissonance in the book: whilst we have characters speaking, dripping with raw vengeance, of turning the Killers' worlds to slag (pg. 147), we also have lines like "he had spoken with a staircase god, and drunk water from the fountain of Sleep." (pg. 420). For all its positive mind-bending ideas and excitements, there's also plenty that no staircase god or bishop vulture, no babar would understand.

This occasional flavour of oddness is prominent enough to be remarked upon, but it is by no means the main tone of the novel. Anvil of Stars is, primarily, a cathartic revenge quest for those terrorised by the obliteration of Earth and Bear fulfils this remit admirably. A lot of doubts are raised throughout this quest and many of the insecurities, deceptions and questions posed in The Forge of God are present again here, with many more raised. I particularly enjoyed this, as it allows the reader to truly interact with the book, even if my own speculations after reading the first book proved to be quite wide of the mark. Some questions still remain unanswered ([spoiler] not least that of the ghosts/shadows which start to be seen on the starship around the 100-page mark, or of the real role and benevolence of the 'moms' [end spoiler]) but the main threads are resolved and the ending is entirely representative of the tone of Anvil and its predecessor: epic and emotional. Just as the protagonist remarks amid the destruction on page 459, there is a melancholy thrill and grandeur in reading this novel, "watching worlds writhe and die across hours and days." ( )
  Mike_F | Jun 3, 2016 |
Greg Bear is one of my favorite authors, but some of his more recent books have not been to my taste. This one however, is classic science fiction. It is not quite as good as the "prequel", The Forge of God, but it is an excellent read. The book starts slowly, so when you read it, persevere. The pace picks up and accelerates as the book becomes a classic page-turner. It is ripe for a sequel. Highly recommended. ( )
  rondoctor | Jun 26, 2015 |
Follow-up to the also-excellent "Forge of God", totally stand-alone however. Small-group social dynamics in a pressure cooker, and amazing cosmology. Just following the physics is a delight. Survivors of the destruction of Earth (from "Forge of God)", 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 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

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

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The "provocative and entertaining follow-up" to The Forge of God: Exiled from their planet, humans unite with one alien race in the fight against another (Publishers Weekly).  The Ship of the Law travels the infinite enormity of space, carrying eighty-two young people: fighters, strategists, scientists--and children. After one alien culture destroyed their home, another offered the opportunity for revenge in the form of a starship built from fragments of the Earth's corpse, a ship they now use to scour the universe in search of their enemy.   Working with sophisticated nonhuman technologies that need new thinking to comprehend them, they're cut off forever from the people they left behind. Denied information, they live within a complex system that is both obedient and beyond their control. They're frightened. And they're waging war against entities whose technologies are unimaginably advanced and vast, and whose psychology is ultimately, unknowably alien.   In Anvil of Stars, the multimillion-selling, Nebula Award-winning author of Eon and other science fiction masterpieces "fashions an action-packed and often thrilling plot; by using each of the well-depicted alien races to mirror human behavior, he defines what it means to be Homo sapiens. . . . A gripping story" (Publishers Weekly).

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