I am such an easily led reader. The cool kids mention Heinlein, I read the Heinlein. Instapundit mentions Greg Bear, and I read one of the Greg Bear on my shelves. I think I bought both this book and its sequel, Anvil of Stars, from Downtown Books in Milwaukee some years ago because he has a lot of books, so if I liked the books, I could get a lot of books. Also, Ted Nugent sings about his brother, Fred Bear. So Instapundit mentioned the book, and it was like Pavlov ringing a bell.
That said, this book provided me with flashbacks of bad Niven, too present in my memory. The book covers an alien invasion whose first appearance is a couple of strange geological structures that appear out of nowhere. Then, a series of disconnected scientists hold a bunch of meetings and put together some papers about what might happen. Then, an alien appears that might or might not be a natural alien or just a biological construct. Then, pre-meetings, politickings, and a religious President who thinks the alien invasion–and probable destruction of the Earth–is punishment from God.
Seriously, the first 200 pages of this book are event, meetings, politicking, papers, hard science. The book cuts between disparate groups, some of whom I forget between their brief cut scenes. But the main characters are hard scientists, a science fiction writer, and politicians (sorry, national leaders). This is supposed to be hard science fiction, which I can take when it when the characters are good and the plot moves along. Unfortunately, with this book, I don’t really get into the characters, the plot drags, and ultimately the enemy who is destroying the Earth is so abstract that I can’t really get a mad-on. The author treats them like a force of nature. And there’s another group of aliens who are helping to save a few Earthlings–they cannot stop the inevitable destruction of the Earth. They, too, are unclear.
However, in the last 200 pages (slightly less), some of the good aliens possess–as in take over the wills of–some of the characters, and then the possessed characters work toward salvation of a small number in arks that will take them elsewhere. So that happens.
I guess that allows me to put a finger and pixels to another annoyance about the plot: The events happen to the characters. They don’t really influence the story, it just takes place and the people go along for the ride. Or die.
The book certainly bears a lot of influence from Lucifer’s Hammer; in the afterword or whatnot, the author thanks Niven himself. Sadly, it’s not as good as good Niven. It’s worst than bad Niven. Hard Science Bureaucracy Fiction.