The Forge of God – Greg Bear

Having dipped my toes in the world of Goodreads, this was one of the site’s recommendations, based on my previous reading (as submitted to the site). It was available at a good price from the Book Depository (including shipping) and so, having decided it looked interesting,  after a couple of clicks it was on its way to join my Shabbat reading bundle.

And interesting is a good overall description of the book.  The story? It begins with the sudden and unexplained disappearance of Europa (a moon orbiting Jupiter). The public is not that interested.

This is followed up by the appearance of new mounds on Earth – in the USA and Australia. The USA site sprouts a little green man. The Australian site sprouts three alien flying robots.

Who are the aliens? What is their mission? How does planet Earth react?

From here on, the plot goes in an interesting (that word, again!) direction, which I will not spoil by revealing. It should be enough to know that there are some good pieces of action, with some believable and well drawn characters. There are also some characters whose purpose is unclear. And there are moments when the book gets stuck in high introspective overdrive.

The science stuff is reasonably clear. but there were a couple of passages I had to reread to get the gist of what was going on.

The other aspect to be aware of is that this is a 1980’s book set in the 1990’s, and the future that is portrayed was not wholly accurate. For example, and most obviously, the absence of mobile phones jars somewhat.

The finale is shocking, and it is in the closing stages that the author sharpens his message and his craft. I much more enjoyed the last quarter of the book than the rest.

However, I still did not ‘get’ the alien strategy and despite a couple of attempts in the book to explain the logic of it all, it remained unconvincing to me. But, if I ignored it,my reading experience was more enjoyable. I suspect most readers will overlook that aspect anyway.

I’m glad I read it, I largely enjoyed it, and it gave me something to think about on more than one occasion. A good read. An interesting read.

 

Hull Zero Three – Greg Bear

[It’s almost two months since I read any fiction, having set aside the time to concentrate on more Hebrew. I anticipate there will be more such sessions in the future, but meanwhile I will post whatever fiction stuff I get to.]

This is the story of a man who wakes up in a starship, naked and freezing, and is forced out into the corridors of the ship to survive; to find out what the hell is going on.

Split into three sections – The Flesh, The Devil, and The World –  it starts like an offshoot of the Alien franchise movies, with a dash of Event Horizon, as our narrator encounters deadly beasts, and struggles just to survive.

Some parts of the ship are cold and getting colder. Some have lower gravity and some have higher gravity. It’s a puzzle, and therefore the story progresses, with the struggle for survival combined with the hunt for answers and redemption. Where is the ship going to, and why? Are his memories dreams, reality, or implanted? Should he be trusting the voices he hears, and the creatures he meets? Any? All? Which? And, ultimately, is there an escape?

The horror aspect is truly horrible; there are some pretty awful things he encounters. I wasn’t a hundred percent convinced by the rationale, but accept it as at least a possibility in that world. The unravelling of the riddle about the ship was, to me, a bit patchy. As the bits and pieces were revealed, there was no sense of wonder or surprise, or satisfaction. (Maybe I missed some detail in the reading.) However, this did not detract as much as I thought it might, perhaps because the survival story keeps racing along and is engrossing.

I hope somebody decent has bought the movie rights, as with good direction this could be a super piece of cinema.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. Bear’s observations, and his whole take on the position of the book’s central figure, is both entertaining and thoughtful. It is well written, largely cliche free, contains a good blend of action, puzzle, and conjecture, and is a fine piece of fiction. I was itching to get back to English language fiction, and this book was a nice way to return.

Score: 7/10.