This science fiction novel by Greg Bear is among my all-time favourite books. In my opinion, it doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

It’s the sequel to the enigmatic and fairly nihilistic “The Forge of God” in which, without giving too much away, the worst happens.

“Anvil of Stars” follows that story up with the tale of how the disaster of the first book is avenged.

But it’s so much more than that.

An air of melancholy and despair, and barely suppressed terror, carries right through from start to finish.

The humans and aliens caught up in the story are overwhelmed by the mysterious technology that surrounds them, and never fully understand what is happening.

Bear makes economical use of little suggestions and implications to give texture to the weird, merciless galaxy in which the story takes place.

The characters feel fully realised, and the little society they form together seems at once strange and distorted, yet exactly right.

The Braid aliens, too, are a superb invention. They seem completely ahuman, yet – like the human characters – fully realised.

Furthermore, Bear doesn’t shirk the philosophical and moral implications of the story he is telling. You’re left at the end with a bunch of questions to ponder. Maybe this is why over the years I’ve read this book several times, and most certainly will again.

I think that “Anvil of Stars” is science fiction at its finest, written with literary ambition and serious intent, but at the same time providing immense entertainment.