From: Steven Sowards
Location: East Lansing, MI
No need to post this, and in fact no real need to reply either.
I just finished rereading Forge of God and Anvil of Stars, after many years. I had remembered them as very effective, gripping and moving books and I wasn't disappointed ... in fact, I found that I had forgotten so many of the many story details, that it was almost as fresh as the first read. THANKS.
These are two of the best science fiction works I know, and I've been reading since my own "golden age of science fiction" at age 12 and that's been a long time. I was struck this time by the simplicity of the story that unfolds in the first book, and then the complexity (I suppose that means the multiple layers of known and unknown events) in the second -- great contrast in texture as a result, but the two fit together like hand and glove.
I read most of your ongoing and current work too, with pleasure. I'm a sucker for outer space adventures though (as opposed to near-future science) so perhaps that's why these two stand out for me.
Looking forward to whatever you offer next. Best wishes from a fan.
From: Greg Bear
Thanks, Steven! Tor has just reissued ANVIL in a lovely trade paperback, complete with the original terrific Bob Eggleton cover art.
From: Isaac Lisik
Location: Victoria, BC
I've just read Anvil of Stars, and it was quite entertaining. I've limited experience when it comes to Science Fiction, but having read Asimov, some of Card, and Le Guin, I can say Anvil of Stars compares very well in originality. I'm posting because I have some questions for discussion, that are kind of itching me having read this book, so stop reading now if you haven't read the book and don't want it spoiled.
As I said before I'm not a hardcore fan of Science Fiction, but I just checked up on the Fermi paradox on Wikipedia; so the idea in Anvil of Stars is that some civilizations are inclined to use killer probes to cleanse, at least the surrounding environment, of life, out of fear, paranoia, or caution. In Anvil these civilizations are described as also being very technologically advanced, and at end of the book, evidence of recent killer probes is found. Does this mean, they're just evil, no matter how much time passes and regardless of technological advancement? I mean, shouldn't higher intelligences be able to conceive of interactions with other intelligences other than preemptive killing, which is shown in Anvil to not be all that successful(Humans, Brothers, Benefactors survived).
Okay, but discussion of evil can on and on, and it isn't my only question. What about the Law? This is seen as a serious question, reading the book, and having finished it, I would say Greg Bear was on the right track about this. If the killers really won't change their ways, and the Benefactors know this, why resort to using victim civilizations to do the dirty work, and yet give over all control of the work to the chosen crew? The Benefactors knew Wormwood and its vicinity was suspect, and they knew the mission was very dangerous for a Ship of the Law. I mean, why couldn't the Benefactors have told the the Ship of the Law to simply monitor the three star systems. In hindsight the humans and Brothers would probably agree, considering the technology learned by observing Leviathan. Why give all the decisions to the the humans, who already volunteered; the independence comes at the cost of human lives, and in the end the lives of the Leviathan inhabitants as well. I really empathise with the regret of their destruction. Even the Killers, who could have been guarded and prevented from unleashing more probes or something. I don't think the Benefactors are evil like the Killers, but their intentions are strange. Martin was definitely too trusting towards them.
Anyway it's a neat story, Anvil of Stars, and these were just my afterthoughts. And thanks to Mr. Bear for writing it. I just bought the book and was pleasantly surprised, I mean, it's hard to judge a book from the first few pages, so I just try to pick stories I think I'll enjoy/relate to. Are any of your other books of this genre? It doesn't matter, I know I'll read more books by you, but I don't think I'll read Forge of God for now, considering I've read Anvil and all...
From: Greg Bear
Thanks, Isaak! All terrific observations and great questions. Anyone care to dive in?
From: James Campbell Andrew
Location: Stafford, England
Any story where it basically boils down to the question "anyone object if we blow this planet up?" is always going to have some moral ambiguities..! (unless you're the Lexx, of course)
Here's how I see it: the Benefactors use victim civs because those civs are the ones who have the most moral justification for wholsale planetary destruction.
Why do the Killers kill if they're so technologically advanced? Because technological evolution is different for every culture. The Killers could well be afraid that for all their technology, someone else may come along and have some technology that could wipe them out, even if that other civ is only generally equiv tech or less (sorry, Iain M. Banks terms coming into play here). A civilisation that has only sub-orbital space faring capabilities may also have, say, a competant working knowledge of wormholes. They (the other civ) may simply know something that the Killers don't. Add to that the fact that the Killers may have evolved from predatory species and it could be argued that they're acting in what they see as pre-emptive self defence. Evil? Not necessarily...
As to why the Benefactors didn't simply monitor Wormwood and the surrounding volume: 'suspect' doesn't equate to 'hostile', and resources are always going to be limited. Monitoring even one stellar volume would be a huge task, and virtually impossible to do without the monitoring devices eventually being discovered, especially if the monitoring involves non-passive scanning methods (which they all will when they come to transmit the data).
Earth may also have been amongst the first victims of the Leviathan-launched killers probes (unless I've forgotten something - it's been a wee while). The Wormwood/Leviathan system therefore became the most likely prospect, hence the course that Dawn Treader took. Ultimately it had to be a Human decision, perhaps because the Benefactors don't want to impose their own moral guidlines on other species. They give them the tools and the knowledge to use them, but the *decision* to use them must be as un-influenced by the Benefactors as possible. I guess that's why the Moms always seemed a bit cagey.
From: Greg Bear
Fine analysis, thanks, James!