The Evolutionary Void; or, Adventures in Reviewer Parallax

The Peter F. Hamilton series continues with this retro review from December 4, 2010.

I see the mandatory Amazon title line of the review was “Too Much Superscience and Not Enough Tragedy”. Accurate and better than the usual tag lines I come up with.

As with the other books in the Void trilogy, Luke Burrage provides another perspective.

Review: The Evolutionary Void, Peter F. Hamilton, 2010.Evolutionary Void

Yes, if you’ve read the other books in this series, you will want to read this. (That would be, five, four, or two books depending on how you want to split them.) Yes, the Void series, if you haven’t started it yet, is worth the time as a whole.

Hamilton delivers in fusing, thematically and plotwise, the worlds inside and outside the Void. All secrets from the earlier books (except, perhaps, the Cat’s exact origins) are revealed including some mysteries brought up in this book.

Araminta continues her struggle with the Living Dream movement as its putative prophet. The demoralizing vision of Inigio’s last dream is revealed. Gore and Delivery Man seek alien technology. Ozzie shows up with his weird girlfriend. Aaron’s personality continues to deteriorate until we get a wonderful combat sequence told from the point of view of his emergency automatic personality. The rest of the characters continue their spying, sabotaging, fighting, law enforcing ways. New crises emerge. The fate of the galaxy is still at stake. And we get to meet a very old, very cunning survivor of our time.

Most importantly a prime theme of this series – should sentient species evolve by chance or deliberation (and, if so, by what sort of technology) and the spillover effects on those who don’t approve of the chosen evolutionary methods or goals — continues. And not just with the struggle of human factions but the Anomine, an alien race that faced a similar quandary.

But, at the end, the Void doesn’t completely satisfy.

Hamilton, in other series, is a talented writer of exciting, technologically interesting, detailed combat sequences. Here, though, the many space combat sequences, with their talk of force fields and quantumbusters, really aren’t very interesting, seem too much like a modern updating of E.E “Doc” Smith’s blasters and force fields.

Hamilton has often had a supernatural or fantasy flavor to his work – the returned dead from the Night’s Dawn trilogy or the dragon in Fallen Dragon. However, this series, with its religion based on dream revelation, Eduard’s world of wish fulfillment, and a plot that features several versions of heaven and transcendence, isn’t helped by its vague concluding descriptions of the Void and the purpose of its Heart – and the moral and psychological qualities necessary to talk to it.

Finally, this is a universe in which some of material of drama is inherently missing. Specifically, death has lost a lot of its sting through computer uploads, the resets possible in Eduard’s world, and re-lifing. Hamilton’s ending seems too pat, too devoid of any real tragedy or cost paid – particularly when Eduard is allowed to do something, to exploit a feature of the Void, we have been told is a reason to reject that alien menace.

 

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

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