Nominated for the Nebula in 1986 and the Hugo and Locus in 1988, The Forge of God by Greg Bear is our next stop in this series “Going to Mars: Word by Word.” It is a grim, relentless examination of what might happen if an alien society of machines wanted to destroy the earth without regard or consideration for any of her inhabitants or history.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Astrologists are stunned when Europa explodes. Chunks of the former moon hit Mars and Venus. Geologists are stumped when mountains suddenly appear in locations as diverse as the Australian Outback and the United States’ Death Valley. Oceanographers observe and track large meteor-like objects that enter the earth through the ocean’s trenches.
As the story unfolds scientists, politicians, and everyday people struggle to come to grips with the fact that the Earth is doomed to be destroyed by an unfathomable planet eater. Some of those people are tapped by a second race of robots to gather and load what they can onto space going arks.
Among the saved are those who stood witness to the earth’s destruction. “It is the Law.”
Awakened from nearly four hundred years of cryosleep, the survivors create a colony on New Mars. A select few of the survivors accompanied the robots to search the stars seeking to destroy the planet eaters. For this is how balance is kept.
HOW THE RED PLANET IS PORTRAYED
Only the last chapter of The Forge of God takes place on Mars. Despite the brief appearance, Bear does a good job of presenting the reader with a credible Mars, early in its terraforming. The colonists live in habitats with some functions occuring underground. Wearing cold suits, they can leave the habitat via air locks and breathe the cold, thin Martian atmosphere unaided as long as they don’t exert themselves. Lichen and mosses, seeded by the aliens, thrive on the planet’s surface. And the reader knows that while the colonists have a long way to go, they will survive.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Science fiction and mainstream author, Greg Bear (b 1951 – ) completed his first story when he was ten years old. He sold his first story at the age of fifteen and by age twenty-three he was selling regularly. His stories and novels have been translated into nineteen languages and have won numerous awards including Hugos, Nebulas and the French Prix Apollo.
The Forge of God is the first book in one of several series written by Bear and is in development by a film studio.
For more information and a complete list of works by Greg Bear please visit his website.
The Forge of God by Greg Bear could be excruciating in its merciless flight toward the destruction of earth, yet it isn’t. He isn’t heavy handed in his treatment of characters who greet the news of their fate with religious fervor, or stoicism, or panic. The appearance of the robotic saviors and characters who work to save art and history, who pursue life regardless, create a sense of hope. And Bear’s description of the earth’s destruction is wrenchingly beautiful and mesmerizing. It makes one wonder:
What would you do if you knew the earth would end in a few months?
If you survived, would you be on a needle-shaped ship seeking to destroy the destroyers?