The Naked God

The Peter F. Hamilton series continues with the conclusion of his Night’s Dawn trilogy.

If I was less lazy, I’d actually check to see if “dickcities” is an inspired typo or actually used in the novel.

Raw Feed (2000): The Naked God, Peter F. Hamilton, 2000.

It was perhaps inevitable that such an enjoyable epic, a saga so long and complicated that an index would have been nice, would have something of a let down at the end.

To be sure there was, like the earlier two books in the Night’s Dawn trilogy, a lot to like here.

The center of this book is the quest for the Sleeping God, and I liked that part very much:  the surprise revelation that the plodding, unimaginative Tyrathca pose a military threat with their imperialist, genocidal history, the quest for the location of their Sleeping God, the Mosvda and their desperate dickcities, faction wracked, and orbiting a dying sun.

I also liked the antimatter attack on Tralfalgar; the secret masters of Earth, B7, and the secret human observers (and interferers) employed by the alien Kiint, and I especially liked the harpoon missile attack on Ketton to generate an artificial earthquake.

I was interested in how the possessed of Norfolk began to adapt the personalities of those whose bodies they inhabited.

I liked the assault on Martonridge.

I appreciated the often logical arguments of the ultimately power mad and insane Annete Ekelund and how Hamilton continued the process of making some of the possessed sympathetic victims and fellow members of the human family found in a bind the result of a universe they did not design.

Hamilton ties his themes neatly together at end.

B7 and the Corpus are, ultimately, ineffectual. B7 can’t stop Quinn Dexter except by destroying an arcology. (It was nice to finally visit Earth’s arcologies which were somewhat reminiscent of Judge Dredd’s Mega-Cities.) The Kiint don’t have the power of the Sleeping God.) observers and sometime manipulators.

London’s Andy and Beth and Jed Hinton are signs, along with Lalonde’s colonists, of the poor of the Federation given a new chance by Calvert’s godlike exercise of powers. (I also liked the Skibbows dogged vengeance against Kiera and the trials of the Valisk habitat.)

Louise Cavanaugh’s acceptance of nanonics and sexual liaison with Andy – both against the mores of her native Norfolk – foreshadow Calvert and the Sleeping God determination that the segregation of technology – Adamists vs Edenists – must end.

The theme of the rich attempting to maintain their advantage by limiting technology is highlighted by B7 initially trying to keep affinity technology to themselves. The idea of a core-Confederation is also an example of the rich trying to maintain a status quo by abandoning the relatively poorer worlds.

Indeed, the overarching theme is the necessity of evolution. The possessed of Ketton, who flee into another universe m,ust accept a new life in order to return. The Kulu worlds turn to proscribed biotek to fight the possessed, with whom, eventually, some peace must be made. (Though the book is of a split mind here. Ketton’s possessed get to return to our world while the rest of the possessed are banished from the universe.)

Calvert arranges man’s worlds to force a new economic order. Calvert abandons captaining a starship, a job radically changed by his actions.

The devotion of loved ones is a theme here with the Skibbows, Al Capone and Jexxibella Calvert and Louise.

I didn’t mind the Sleeping God’s nature – a naked singularity capable of manipulating wormholes in our universe and into others. The very name of this book, the search for the Sleeping God, prepared me for the almost deus ex machina ending.

I thought Quinn Dexter – a memorably evil character not matched even by his monstrous creator, Banneth – was dispatched too vaguely, too neatly. I also thought the revelation that Fletcher Christian’s body is almost a “simulacra” was a cheap attempt to make him more sympathetic. I also wanted more Manani who made a welcome return from The Reality Dysfunction.).

However, I thought a couple of the novel’s ending philosophical points were rather arguable if not banal. The solution to our problems is ultimately, according to Calvert and the Sleeping God, to have faith in ourselves and in our visions. While this may give us the confidence (a la Calvert) to meet the challenges of change, to help evolve ourselves and society toward a better state, in doesn’t help much to define the goal, to judge the mechanisms of change.

The book has Calvert adapting almost an extreme of tactic of n aenvironmentalist. He unilaterally realigns reality so that a new order is forced by denying humanity the ability to expand, binds man to an artificial star cluster so that he’s forced to eliminate poverty, physical drudgery, and enable mental advancement. This may fit in, as a goal, with Jay Hilton’s observation that man, to be satisfied, needs to build. However, simple, personal conviction of the desirable order of things is explicitly attacked in the character of Quinn Dexter whose utter conviction and desire to bring Night’s Dawn, is a jarring counterargument. (That the possessed must accept restrictions on their power, the limits of their wishes is a neat story point and, also, an argument for not thinking mere wishes can order reality, an argument undercut for regular humans by the existence of the Sleeping God.)

The origin of the possessing souls as being too fearful to move on in their evolution was hinted in previous books.

The other philosophical point I disagreed with was the guilt heaped on Hiltch for seeking a violent resolution to the possession problem of Mortonridge. While his guilt over sacrificing Edenist souls via the sergeants was understandable, his guilt over trying to remove the possessed was a bum rap – they were harming regular humans. I think Hamilton wants us to take Ekelund’s claim that violence wasn’t the answer, that the possessor-human conflict would be solved by other powers undercuts the book’s other statements.

Calvert, via violence facilitated by the Sleeping God, banishes the possessed, and it seems that part of the thematic message is that each of us must embrace evolution and not rely on external powers as Louise, after B7’s failures to stop Quinn Dexter, goes to talk him out of his course of action and as Calvert has to find the Sleeping God since the Kiint won’t help.

It may be that Hamilton intends some philosophical ambiguity here, to undercut the neatness of the end; however, the tone makes it seems as if his heart lies in these two questionable philosophical points (and the end is very neat with the fate of every character wrapped up).

 

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