The Peter F. Hamilton series continues with some other reviewers’ perspectives.
(“Wait a minute!”, you say. Wasn’t there a sequel to the last Hamilton work I covered, Pandora’s Star? Yes, there was. It was called Judas Unchained, and I read it just like a normal person. In other words, I made no notes on it at all.)
A retro review from October 8, 2010.
Review: The Dreaming Void, Peter F. Hamilton, 2007.
Peter F. Hamilton fans won’t be disappointed with this, a return to the universe of Misspent Youth and the Commonwealth Saga approximately 1,200 years after the events of the latter. [That would be after the end of Judas Unchained.] Hamilton’s usual themes and motifs are here: fantasy combined with science fiction (here a world in the ravening Void at the heart of the galaxy, a world where psychic powers are quite common and technology rather limited); a keen visual sense exhibited in his combat action scenes and descriptions of architecture and clothing; outré sex (here an important character coupling with a man who shares one mind across several bodies); worldbuilding that combines economics, politics, law, technology, and geography to make credible several settings; godlike technology, and a plot with elements of espionage and police thrillers.
What is that plot? Well, I’m going to be lazy and leave it up to other reviewers to give you the broad outlines and dramatis personae. I will say that, at its core, the novel is about a very human tendency – even though many characters strive for a post-human, post-physical existence: the fear and belief that other humans just shouldn’t be allowed to make their own lifestyle choices. Several characters take the justifiable position that sometimes those choice are threatening to outside parties. Here the argument is how much humans should modify their minds and bodies or even abandon them altogether, if man is to bootstrap himself into a Rapture or if it will be an alien god.
If the Commonwealth books were sort of a science fictional belle époque complete with anarchists and trains, this series is very much concerned with some of the issues of the Singularity, the looming debates of our world.
Are the Commonwealth Saga books a prerequisite for this new series? They are not strictly necessary. (It’s been long enough since I’ve read them that I forgot a lot of details about the many characters who show up in both series and plot details. But then I frequently feel like I need a reader’s guide and concordance even when I’m in the middle of a Hamilton series.) However, certain characters are going to have a lot more resonance if you know their background.
As usual, Hamilton’s prose pulled me through a thick book quickly. The only part I didn’t care for initially was the magical world in the Void. However, after the initial set up there, those dream interludes became much more interesting though they still were sometimes annoying breaks in the action of the central plot.