The Forge of God (1987)
To the public at large, the sudden disappearance of Europa, one of Jupiter's Galilean moons, is a mystery of interest only to scientists. Soon afterwards, opal prospectors in the Australian desert find a large rock formation that isn't on any maps or older satellite images. From what appears to be a disguised spaceship, three floating robots emerge to proclaim that Earth is about to enter a new age of peace and prosperity as a member of the galactic community. Meanwhile, geologists hiking through Death Valley in the American Mojave Desert find another mysterious mound and, lying helplessly nearby, an alien creature that enounces in careful English the memorable words: "I am sorry, but there is bad news".
Arthur Gordon, science advisor to the former U.S. President, is called in to head a special presidential task force to figure out just what on Earth, and in space, is going on. A gloomy feeling takes hold of the team as people can't escape the suspicion that the events they are investigating are the dark foreshadows of terrible things to come.
True to its title, The Forge of God is a story of apocalypse. A terrifiying novel, if less chillingly executed than The Killing Star. One horrifingly realistic, and thus the more nightmarish part is the portrayal of an American President who falls victim to the Christian mysticism permeating American society, and whose subsequent slide into religious insanity paralyzes his nation. Paralleling the considerable momentum of the main plot, the fate of many minor but still sympathy-rousing characters pads out the novel.
There are details I could quibble with, but The Forge of God is a frightening novel that graphically and with little compromise puts humanity in its proper place in the universe.
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