Just to set the scene, as we discussed in Day 0 of this mini-mega-series-saga, my chum John is building a LEGO Ultimate Collector Series version of the A-Wing Starfighter from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. In order to develop the drama and excitement, John has divided the 570 instructions into 30 days of 19 instructions each.

As you may recall, Day 1 saw the results from implementing the first 19 instructions, which form the heart of the beast.

The heart of the beast (Click image to see a larger version — Image source: John Alflat)

Today, John progressed to the second set of 19 instructions, after which he emailed me to say, “So it now becomes a bit more substantial with this central structure having a floor, which is in the fighter’s colours. Towards the front-end — slightly to the left of the middle and slightly off-center in this image — is a cog/gear-type wheel. The structure holding this wheel was quite complex. It will be interesting to see what purpose this serves later on.”

I’m not sure why, but looking at this photo made me think of two related science fiction books by Greg Bear: The Forge of God and Anvil of Stars.

In The Forge of God — which I re-read just a couple of weeks ago as I pen these words — a fleet of self-replicating artificially intelligent machines created by alien intelligences called The Killers arrives in our solar system. These machines, which are accompanied by artificially created organisms, are designed to destroy other races and they quickly start to work their mischief, including inserting a piece of neutronium and a piece of antineutronium into the Earth’s core.

Just to make things interesting, another group of alien intelligences called The Benefactors have created their own fleets of self-replicating artificially intelligent machines whose task it is to locate and fight the bad guys.

Sad to relate, the end of this book sees the destruction of the place we call home and the annihilation of the majority of the human face. Obviously, this is a bit of a bummer, as it were. However, the book closes on a hopeful note with the remaining bad guys having been cleansed from our system. Also, several thousand humans who were evacuated by The Benefactor’s surrogates before the Earth imploded were placed in some form of sleep/stasis for a few hundred years, and they wake to form a new colony on a terraformed Mars.

The Anvil of Stars is set sometime later. A small group of volunteers who survived the first book are sent on a quest by The Benefactors in an artificially intelligent spaceship called a Ship of the Law. In a nutshell, The Law is that “Any intelligences responsible for or associated with the manufacture of self-replicating and destructive devices have to be destroyed.” The quest for our heroes is to find the intelligences that destroyed the Earth and express our displeasure in no uncertain terms.

Initially, this would seem to be an easy task, morally speaking, not the least that we discover that — in addition to sending the fleet that almost wiped-out humanity — The Killers also bear responsible for the destruction of many other alien races. The problem is that, when we track them down to their home system, which boasts multiple inhabited planets, we discover that The Killers have augmented their awesome technological resources with formidable philosophical and psychological defenses. For example, they have camouflaged themselves by creating hundreds of sapient races that are interlocked in a multi-planetary culture of breathtaking complexity and beauty.

So, do we kill trillions of what are likely innocent creatures in order to destroy The Killers who may or may not be sorry for what they did (and who may not or may still be doing it)? And, if we do “finish the job,” will that make us no better than the ones we set out to destroy?

I’m not going to tell you the ending. What I will tell you is that I’ve also been re-reading this book and I’ll be finishing the last couple of chapters this evening. I can’t wait! Meanwhile, as always, I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.