SciFi Discussion – Anvil of Stars

On Tuesday last week Manchester SciFi Book Club got together at the Madlab to discuss the 1992 Greg Bear novel Anvil of Stars, which was advocated by Mark.

Is it SciFi?

Anvil of Stars book cover

Given that the story is about a group of people setting forth in a futuristic space ship to avenge the destruction of the planet Earth, we thought that, yes, it is SciFi!

Did We Like It?

The opinion was somewhat mixed, the general consensus being along the lines of we’re glad we read it but we wouldn’t read it again. It was a bit boring at first but did get better. We liked the Brothers and the fact that it was a voyage in which we didn’t know what would happen.

The start of the book was quite slow and then all of a sudden it became manic. We wondered if this was deliberate since the story begins with a long journey through space which would be pretty boring. It also struck us that being in the military would involve long periods of inactivity followed by sudden bursts of adrenalin fuelled violence. Anvil of Stars did seem to convey this aspect of warfare.

Philosophy of The Law

After destruction of the Earth, the mysterious Benefactors sent 82 young volunteers, the Children, on the Dawn Treader spaceship to enact the Law. The Law being:

“All intelligences responsible for or associated with the manufacture of self-replicating and destructive devices will be destroyed.”

We felt that the Law raised a number of points and questions…

  • Is execution of the Law murder?
  • Are the Benefactors effectively committing the same crime?
  • Does the Law allow for redemption?
  • Is enactment of the Law simply a knee-jerk reaction?
  • Were the Children carrying out the Law to relieve the Benefactors of guilt?
  • Are civilisations responsible for the deeds of their ancestors?
  • Could the self-replicating destructive devices be eliminated by destroying their source?

At the very end of the book the Children were vindicated, but there was doubt about the validity of enacting the Law. If the Children had allowed democratic process they probably would not have got the job done. It was only because the leader or Pan, called Hans, took control and initiated destruction of the suspect planetary system that it was annihilated.

Were the Benefactors Holding Back the Technology?

We though that they were, but that they probably wouldn’t have revealed so much of their technology if the humans and brothers weren’t on the road to discovering it themselves.

Much of this technology involved persuading particles to change their state remotely, generally for the purpose of undetectable communication or to make them unstable and explode. Whilst this maybe fanciful, we think that the author had read about scientific theory from which he developed these ideas.

Citation Needed

References to stories and films were plentiful throughout Anvil of Stars. The name of the spaceship, the Dawn Treader is the name of a children’s book about self-discovery. The elected leader of the Children being called the Pan, with second in command Christopher Robin. Also mentioned was the Forever War, the first SciFi novel read by the Manchester SciFi book club!

Brothers Gonna Work It Out

There were lots of characters in the book, but most weren’t that well defined or that interesting. They were a bit dull and “middle management”.

Without a doubt the Brothers were everbody’s favourite species. An intelligent life form consisting of separate worm-like entities, the brothers generated smells as part of their communication skill set. They were a nice, trusting bunch of aliens who used a fuzzy integers to work out mathematical problems.

The Brothers Made It!

What About the Pizza?

Following Snow Crash last month we decided to buy our pizza from Uncle Enzo. Not really, but we did change supplier. The good people at Chillis do a meal deal: a 7″ pizza with two toppings, chips & a can of drink for £3. Nobody complained!

What Do You Think?

Don’t forget to leave a comment or tweet your opinion about Anvil of Stars!

A final thought…are humans self-replicating destructive devices?

Manchester Sci-Fi Book Club Contacts

You can contact us via Twitter @mcrsf_madlab using #mcrsf

Keep up to date with Manchester Sci-Fi book club posts at Madlab:
http://madlab.org.uk/content/tag/mcrsf/

We also have a group on Google which we would encourage you to join.

Next Sci-Fi Book:

The book is I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. September will be a special month in which we will be joining up with the Graphic Novel Group and Bad Bugs Book Club! Trauma Films will be screening three films adapted from this novel in All Saints Building, MMU, at 6pm on 13, 14, 15th of September. Please follow this link for full details.

SciFi Books for Following Months:

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