Some geologists were hiking in the American far west desert when they notice a cone shaped geological formation. Hmmmm, said Geologist #1. That’s new. That wasn’t there before. Coming closer, they find ….. gasp ….. an actual alien who seems to have crawled away from the … uh… thing…. and seems to be dying. They haul it to a local gas station/convenience store, call the feds, and you can guess what happens from there. The alien does tell everyone that it is here to warn the earth that another alien entity which basically eats planets in order to have more material to grow in order to go around eating more planets, etc., is on the way. Woe is us.
Meanwhile, in Australia, another artifact has appeared, along with floating aliens who claim they come in peace and have much wonderful stuff to teach humankind. Hot diggity dog. Wait just a UFO minute. Which is correct? Good stuff for all or total annihilation of the planet?
Turns out that Door Number 1 is correct – total annihilation of the planet, coming right up.
So we follow a couple of scientists, a journalist, some government folks, as they try to deal with the Big Boom that is coming.
Implausible alert <<<<beep beep beep>>>> they are helped by the helpful aliens who send hand size metal spider-like creatures all over the place who bite certain selected people thereby transferring all kinds of knowledge and info and instructions on where to go to get on a generation ship that will get them the heck out of Dodge before the Big Boom. Why should the idea of metallic spiders biting people in order to share info bother me more than the idea of high density masses hitting the earth and burrowing straight into the core, going round and round eventually to collide and create a black hole? But there it is, a sour note in the symphony of destruction.
As a reviewer Rose said, “All I kept thinking while reading this was that it felt like an Arthur C Clarke story. You know, complicated science, great concept, crappy two-dimensional characters. I didn’t like or dislike one character. They were there only to showcase the idea and the science.” Gee she is smart. My opinion? What she said. Didn’t keep me, though, from turning pages all the way to the bitter end, including the somewhat superfluous epilogue.
The title? (I love to know where author’s get their titles. Just a little quirk of mine.) Here’s a couple of quotes which might explain it.
God, a superior intelligence, sculpts us all, finds us wanting, and sends our material back into the forge to be reshaped. That thing out there. The Furnace. That’s the forge of God.
He has sent mighty machines, mighty forces which could begin, at any moment, to heat this Earth in God’s forge, and beat it to pieces on a heavenly anvil.
It will not surprise you to learn that the next book in the series is Anvil of Stars.
Lots of fun science stuff in this 1987 book. Like a von Neumann probe, which is, in theory, a self-replicating spacecraft which could be sent to a neighboring planetary system, where it would seek out raw materials (extracted from asteroids, moon, gas giants, etc.) to create replicas of itself. These replicas would then be sent out to other planetary systems. The original “parent” probe could then pursue its primary purpose within the star system. This mission varies widely depending on the variant of self-replicating starship proposed. And we have the Molokai Fracture, which is a fault zone in the ocean and lies between Molokai Island, Hawaii and Baja California. Who knew, right?