Forge of Heaven takes place hundreds of years after the events of Hammerfall, and takes place on a space station above “Marak’s World,” a planet being “remediated” after having been bombarded from space in an effort to destroy extremely dangerous “First Movement” nanotechnology. The political and social situation in the satellite is extremely complicated, a delicate balance of three governments and two species. Our Hero is Jeremy Stafford, who prefers the name Procyon. He has a very secret, very classified job–he is one of the “taps” who communicate with the inhabitants of the planet. Specifically, he is the youngest and newest of Marak’s taps.
Procyon’s life becomes unnecessarily complicated when an Ambassador from Earth turns up, wanting to investigate possible leaks of information from Marak’s World. It turns out that Procyon is a potential suspect for the leaks because he once belonged to a radical political group known as Freethinkers. (Procyon is no longer a member of the group because of incidents that caused him to become disenchanted with the group’s philosophy.) It eventually turns out that there is a valid concern, but Procyon is not the one responsible.
Meanwhile, the governor of the station must deal with the political situation from his end while also mediating an ongoing conflict between his teenaged daughter and his wife. This leads to a situation where his daughter accidentally gets tangled with the outskirts of the political situation when she decides to skip school with her friends. (One of the things I like about Cherryh is that she writes some great family squabbles, especially those involving family members who have no concept of priorities. The wife and daughter are kind of oblivious to the larger problems that the governor is dealing with, which was both horrifying and funny.)
Then we have Marak, who is on a field trip with his wife and a group of young men setting up communication arrays. This trip is pretty much an excuse to head out to a distant location to watch an extremely dramatic geological event take place. Unfortunately, a minor disaster strikes the group, resulting in Marak and his wife Hati having to go after their strayed pack animals. On top of that, Marak is extremely displeased to discover that his youngest tap has been sent off on another task.
This book is an engaging tangle of interactions that leads up to an ending that is slightly surreal. (The day is saved by fashion model/ fashion designers known as Stylists. No one expects the Stylist Investigation. Least of all the official law enforcement types who were attempting to find out where the terrorists/radicals were hiding.) I really liked this book, the character interactions and the dialog.