Great North Road

Another retro review, this time of a rare Peter F. Hamilton singleton.

Being a Hamilton fan, I was happy to get this via a review copy from Amazon.

From January 18, 2013 …

Review: Great North Road, Peter F. Hamilton, 2013.Great North Road

After something of a misstep with his Void Trilogy, Hamilton is back in top form.

This has almost everything you expect in a Peter F. Hamilton novel: a murder mystery, soldiers, mysterious tech billionaires with ambitious ideas for transforming the world, gazillionaire families, detectives, a sort of technologically mediated telepathy, spies, an astronomical mystery, life extensions, aliens, sex and easy, casual travel between planets.

The plot is relatively straightforward. A North turns up dead in Newcastle, UK. Norths are the male clones that fill many of the upper echelons of business in this society. The trouble is not only is it not obvious who killed him but his exact identity is unknown.

And the method of death wakes the professional paranoia of the Alien Intelligence Agency. They already have one alien menace to contend with — the Zanth, who have destroyed one human inhabited world. They don’t need another, but the murder weapon seems possibly related to a 20 year old mass killing done by one Angela Tremelo.

The story centers around two main characters: Sid Hurst, the detective heading up the Newcastle murder investigation, and Angela, who is taken out of jail to serve as technical advisor on a mission to the planet St. Libra, the site of her alleged murders – which she has always claimed were done by an unknown alien.

Hamilton keeps the pace cranked at full level. At about midway, the story of the St. Libra expedition becomes even more compelling. Its isolation, stalked by an alien force from without and, maybe, from within reminded me a bit of the Alastair Maclean novels I used to read, especially Night Without End. At this point, when he’s got you hooked, Hamilton makes a lot of diversions to backfill the story of his characters’ lives. Some of these may strike the reader as a bit too long, but I didn’t mind all that much.

What I did mind, but it didn’t ruin the experience in a major way, was a couple of things at the end. The first was a bit of silly, eco-centered moralizing. The second was a bit of happy talk and improbability about the fate of a minor character.

As perhaps a sign of the times, this is not an almost utopian world like Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga. There is a note of economic anxiety throughout it. I also liked the air of casual corruption, especially tax evasion, amongst the Newcastle police. I also note that Hamilton, in his depiction of his Grande Europe political alliance, shows some of the Euroskepticism that marked his Misspent Youth.

And, yes, this truly is a standalone novel. Everything meaningful is wrapped up, so there’s no reason to wait to start this one whether you’re new to Hamilton or an old fan.


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