Ossus Library Index
Science Fiction Index


A novel by Greg Bear
(1993, Open Road Media)

The Forge of God, book 2

After the destruction of Earth, a crew of young humans search the stars for the source of the killer robots, forming relationships and rivalries, falling into traps and making decisions that could affect an entire society.


+ -- First reading (ebook)
April 18th to May 19th, 2021


This book started really slow and I did not identify with the characters or the situation. It was all about the psychology of being alone with bare minimum supervision. The first part dealt with the preparation and excitement of going into battle, and was the most difficult to read, and took me forever to get through. When they get caught in the trap, they go into a near-death spiral in part two, which was also difficult to read, and my rating was going down. The third part offers a little bit of redemption in my eyes, as the merging of the crews with the Brothers was a great addition. The interaction with the aliens was at least interesting, even if the long list of planets and their properties was tedious. I wonder if the author managed to name all of the eighty kids who crewed the ship. The list of names of who was where grew annoying really quickly. Martin was a sympathetic character, even if he was ineffective as a leader at the beginning -a role he grows into after he gives up the position.

Spoiler review:

This book was so different from the previous one, even though its whole being is due to the events that took place at that time. The complete destruction of Earth by the mysterious alien beings was so horrendously believable, as well as the various reactions of people, that it was a very interesting read. This book is the complete opposite. The kids of the survivors have been placed on a warship, something extremely powerful that could destroy a solar system if necessary. They are left to do nothing but wait, for years, as their ship accelerates towards potential locations where the savior aliens, the ones that created lifeboats for some cross-section of humanity, think the bad ones might be.

Although the mom aliens guide the human children, who have become horny teens at this point, they also bow to humanity’s decisions. If the kids were to decide not to attack, then they would pass up a target. If they decided to attack, the moms would configure the ship to go all out. It’s a story about change, and paying for the sins of previous generations. At the end of the previous book, it was said that the destructive aliens had created decoy planets, and that they hid because they had changed, and didn’t want to be judged for the actions of their much earlier generations. It’s an interesting premise, but it’s never explored.

The teens at this stage are being led by the son of the main characters from the previous book. Martin is in a relationship with another boy, and with a girl. He’s drifting away from the homosexual relationship, and everybody knows it. Apparently they were young enough when they started that they took the names of Wendys (girls) and Lost Boys (boys), with their leader as Christopher Robin and some Pans as a council. There’s nothing for them to do except work out as an army team and have sex. People form cliques, as they would at that age, but when a Christopher Robin makes a decision, they all obey, at least until the stress is too much to bear. Sometimes the sex is graphic, but not overly so. I just wish something in this first half of their day-to-day lives was interesting.

Their first major hurdle, where they come to their first potential target, nearly tears them in two. They attack the solar system, because the evidence is that the aliens who destroyed Earth came from there, from the spectra of the materials, and other observations. There’s an interesting dynamic, as well as a rise in the tension. Martin’s female partner dies in the attack when the solar system turns into a trap to catch anybody trying to come after the aliens, and they blow up the whole solar system. The spaceship harboring the humans is crippled so seriously that the moms shrink it to a single room so they can use materials and energy to repair it, at least somewhat.

Through the first half of the book, Martin’s foil was Ariel, an opinionated girl who refuses to follow Christopher Robin. She’s a nice counter to all the decisions that are made, and while she’s not a nice person, she does make a lot of good points. She doesn’t have much of a role except to be Martin’s nemesis, and eventually his lover in the second part, but she helps him through tough times, and she’s not a bad character.

Here, Martin gives up his leadership, and Hans is elected as Christopher Robin. They also meet up with the snakelike Brothers, whose ship is also crippled. Looks like the savior aliens have a habit of getting their revenge ships into a lot of trouble. First contact with the Brothers goes as well as can be expected among the crew. Some people are squeamish, others prejudiced right from the start. Martin is accepting, as are some others. People are willing to work with the Brothers, but in private it’s hard to get over how alien they are, especially in their snake-like form. These are pretty cool aliens, and raised the level of the story quite a bit. To form a coherent entity, they need several snakes in very close proximity. Individual snakes are pretty stupid. Under humanity’s curiosity, they even form a huge entity to perform highly complex tasks. They have a different, higher, math than we do, which is hard for many to understand. But the ship and the resurfaced moms give them resources that allow them to gain insight into higher functions.

In the end, it all breaks down, of course, as one of the crew beats a snake to death, and another group starts withdrawing because a girl hears voices she thinks come from the aliens, before she is killed. The crew fractures, and Hans also withdraws, taking aggressive stances from behind the scenes that Martin doesn’t agree with, but can’t contradict him because Martin himself withdrew from the leadership position. At this point, they arrive at the second star system, which is extremely advanced, such that each planet has its own function in the complex ecosystem. Martin takes a small ship to make first contact and evaluate if these are the aliens who destroyed Earth, while Hans stays far away and prepares for an eventual strike.

There are so many aliens in this solar system, as well as so many advanced technologies and superior skills that it’s fascinating to read about. Unfortunately, we don’t learn too much about it, just that they sound cool, before learning that the aliens who destroyed Earth are there, but they have evolved way beyond the bodies that we need, and have created this awesome community of so many alien species. Yet they suspect that Martin and his crew are seeking them. So Hans strikes first, and the whole solar system erupts into war.

There wasn’t that much interesting in the battle that played out, as Martin is sidestepped when his ship is targeted, and he’s taken out of the action by Hans. That’s probably a good thing, as it’s only the result that matters. Humanity wins, and the awesome civilization that existed in this solar system is completely destroyed. They are innocent casualties in a war not of their making, like so many others on Earth in our history. They were being used as shields.

I really liked the way the morals were ambiguous. Martin thinks the civilization didn’t deserve to die for what happened millions of years ago when their ancestors sent out those probes. Hans thinks they did, because they’ve already destroyed so many planets, and somebody has to pay. I can see both points. What completely ruins it is the discovery of the planet-destroying devices hidden away in the solar system, probably saved in case the aliens needed it. If they really had changed, they wouldn’t have kept the devices. It renders Martin’s opinion null and void. I much preferred the ambiguity.

There were some high points in this book, but they were hard to find among the dour and uninteresting lives of these young people, the mundane fights they had, and the lack of anything useful they did in the intervening years. Most of the book was pretty boring, and the bad decisions they made weren’t fun to watch. I preferred the emotions presented to a dying Earth in the first book.


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