Earth is dead, reduced to rocks and dust by a horde of marauding alien machine intelligences. A few thousand Earthlings have been saved by the Benefactors, themselves machine intelligences who have helped the survivors re-establish themselves on Mars. That story was told in Greg Bearís 1987 novel, The Forge of God.
Now, in Anvil of Stars, the sequel to Forge, three hundred years have gone by, and the Benefactors have outfitted 80 or so Earth children with a Ship of the Law capable of exacting revenge on the killer machines that destroyed their home. Three hundred years have gone by in a literal blink of the eye, as the children have been asleep, traveling at 99 percent of the speed of light. They begin training for what lies ahead of them: the willful destruction of an entire solar system full of intelligent beings.
This tightly plotted novel stands alone as a highly imaginative consideration of genocide. Enacting the Law of revenge is one thing; making sure youíve got the true perpetrators of Earthís destruction is another. Hundreds of years have passedówhat if the killer machines and their makers have changed their ways?
The pleasures of this novel lie in Bearís ability to weave together the action and pacing of a thriller with the philosophical puzzle of blame and the sociological complexities of a group of kids tutored by aliens so technologically advanced humans are simple animals by comparison. Simple animals, perhaps, but Bear always celebrates the ability of the human mind to learn and adapt. The alien Benefactors teach the human children a method of mathematical analysis called momerath, a kinetic visualization technique that enables them to calculate orbits in complex systems and develop weapons of unimaginable power.
A master of science fiction on an epic scale, Bearís Anvil of Stars has him operating on full imaginative power. Add to that the cultural relevance of the novelís central themes - justice and genocide - and youíve got a thriller as exciting and worthwhile today as when it was originally published in 1992.