Saturday, September 13, 2008

They live inside of my head

I've just finished Peter Hamilton's The Dreaming Void and I have to say I am pleased as punch. Is this book as good as the Reality Dysfunction? No, but it is superior to Pandora's Star, which should make his fans rest easy.

Backing up a moment, if you are a fan of titanic space opera, involving massive perils to the universe, myriad subplots, outlandish characters and inventive action scenes, you really have to read Reality Dysfunction (don't read any of the reviews- really). Also, unfortunately, you shouldn't read anything about the book, otherwise you will spoil one of the great surprise plots in all of science fiction. You can find the book easily enough in a two part mass market, but a combined trade paperback is coming soon as well.

Pandora's Star took Hamilton's creativity too far. He spun plotline after plotline and the book became leaden. While the overall story was interesting, you had to wade through far too much detail too get to it.

The Dreaming Void, set in the same universe as Pandora's Star, is a far more streamlined book. This is a relative term as the book still has twice the plot of an ordinary space opera. You may wonder what is going with the apartment redeveloper and her multiple (in more ways than one) sex partners. This is the only case of Hamilton's frequent trick of hiding an important development in an apparent side plot. The majority of the book is spent on fast paced chapters involving agents of rival elements of post-humanity. The future direction of human evolution is at stake and a dream worshiping religion threatens to hasten the conflict.

The Void of the title is an impenetrable and deadly hole in the middle of the galaxy. Every once and again it expands, destroying all it touches. The dream worshippers believe heaven is on he other side of the event horizon and plan to go in. Others believe this will destroy the galaxy. All manner of hijinks ensue.

Hamilton's space opera is in the mold of the optimistic science fiction of the 50s and 60s. The threats are huge, but there is a sunniness to his books completely lacking in Banks, Morgan, Asher or other contemporaries. This is not to say that they read like throwbacks. There is frequent and often peculiar sex in these books and the violence is often alarmingly casual. Reading his books is the closest things to finding the next Star Wars, pure science fiction entertainment in which to fully immerse yourself.

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