The Forge of God

Megan over at From Couch to Moon recently reviewed Greg Bear’s Blood Music. I didn’t write up a review for that novel, but I thought I’d drag out some Greg Bear material from the archives.

Raw Feed (1989): The Forge of God, Greg Bear, 1987.The Forge of God

This novel has the feel of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer with its multiple characters and widescale panoramic view though its concerns are emotional and spiritual and not political. (Larry Niven even as a veiled cameo as sf writer Lawrence van Cott.)

This novel features one of the greatest first words from an alien intelligence: “I am sorry, but there is bad news.”

The characterization was brilliant. You really cared about these characters. While mass religious movements thrive on the coming apocalypse, Bear downplays that element unlike so many anti-religious authors. The military is competent.

Bear does not give us looting, strange cults, massive hedonism, riots when humanity waits the end, but I think his spiritual, emotional vision of people accepting, however reluctantly, the end is very credible. People wait with dignity and in the company of loved ones at the places they love best, their homes.

One of the book’s blurbs emphasises Bear’s ode to the Earth. It is here. The most lengthy descriptions involve the Earth, its life and death. The book opens with that and ends with long descriptions of Yosemite Park’s grandeur.

I did have a few quibbles. I don’t read Latin so missed out on most of the headings’ significance. Second the rescue of humanity by a second group of aliens seemed like a bit of a concession to tradition (apocalyptic books almost always have humanity surviving in some state) and optimism. While relatively well handled, I thought the “Network” was the weakest part of the book. Still the presence of the Arks in space — I like them saving culture as well as species and the Moms enigmatic references to the Law and punishment of “the planet-eaters” — gave a chance for humanity to witness the destruction of Mother Earth. More importantly, the end, with Man avenging Earth’s death and finding another home on the terraformed Mars (like Earth lovingly, lengthily described) fits in with the tone and philosophy of Bear’s Blood Music: with man’s evolution (technologically or here by cosmic agencies) comes poignancy at loss, startling transformation (here it is in Man’s physical and emotional home, in Blood Music it is his very biology and intellect), and evitable change. Like an individual growing old we suffer loss and gain new, sometimes joyous and grand, experience. Bear weaves the experiences and emotions of life to cosmic events. Like the planet-eaters, he wastes little.


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