The Anvil of Stars / Forge of God Analysis
by Greg Bear

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The Anvil of Stars / Forge of God Analysis

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Greg Bear’s sensitivity to sophisticated literary technique places him among the new breed of literary-minded science-fiction writers, including Gregory Benford and David Brin, who have blurred the traditional barriers between high literature and science fiction. In addition, although he holds a degree in English, Bear’s painstaking scientific accuracy in such diverse fields as theoretical physics, astrophysics, sociology, psychology, biology, and geology places him in the line of great scientist-writers such as Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. Bear shares with Clarke, and with Clarke’s pre-decessor Olaf Stapledon, a vision of human potential that can transcend apocalypse to survive in a previously unimaginable form, as in Clarke’s Childhood’s End (1953) and as in Bear’s own Blood Music (1985), winner of a 1984 Hugo Award and a 1983 Nebula Award in its novella form (1983). Bear’s vision of human potential is both frightening and optimistic: optimistic because it is transcendental but frightening because the transcendentalism is materialistic rather than theological.

Theological transcendentalism posits an anthropomorphic God guiding humans to some destined end. In contrast, Bear’s futures grow out of an interplay of three elements: the material universe, chance, and human choice. The title The Forge of God ostensibly suggests that God is testing, purifying, and shaping humankind through the destruction of Earth. Many characters in the novel choose to believe this, for it provides the comfort of a beneficent intelligence behind the scary changes. The title also has an ironic deeper meaning, for in reality the novel tests God in the forge of the universe as it really is and finds God lacking. That is, the novel challenges and burns away naïve anthropomorphisms that humans wishfully project onto the universe, anthropomorphisms epitomized in traditional concepts of God.

Bear’s novels nevertheless offer hope, for once humans have had their naïveté about the universe burned out of them in The Forge of God, they can be pounded into a courageous new shape on the Anvil of Stars, an anvil that symbolizes the hard but wondrous material universe as it really is. Once reshaped, humans can become mature team players with the rest of the adult universe. Anvil of Stars deals extensively with various types of teamwork: the...

(The entire section is 573 words.)