I must apologise for a lack of activity over the past 3 or 4 days. I’ve had a dreadful cold that really knocked me around. On the bright side I did finish reading Peter F Hamilton’s “The Abyss Beyond Dreams” while bedridden. So I figured that I would write a book review as I once did quite a bit on Amazon. I will also try to avoid any Spoilers, though that limits what I can effectively say.
Introduction to the review
I was really looking forward to this science fiction book. I had the pleasure of meeting Hamilton in Sydney at a book signing towards the end of the 1990s (I think he had just finished writing the Neutronium Alchemist). At the time of this long-forgotten book signing I think all of about 6 or 7 fans had gathered at Galaxy Bookshop to meet him and so the exchange was quite decent (from our perspective) as we all threw questions at him. He really came across as a thoughtful and sincere writer and I liked him immediately. Since then I have been a big fan. So I am pretty biased in his favour… normally.
Note: A friend of mine is also a fan, and so I discussed some of my feelings with him today about the novel and he tends to agree.
This is basically a logical next-step from the previous Void novels written by Hamilton. Someone (I won’t day who) deliberately enters the Void with the purpose of solving its mystery. In doing so we meet a whole new cast of characters on a new planet. The plot then revolves around the characters finding themselves in the middle of a Russian Revolution-style situation, but with telepathy and mod-beasties involved. As a further twist (not a spoiler) weird body-snatcher style aliens are this planet’s bogey-men.
What I liked
There are so many clever concepts within this book, as there are with so many of Hamilton’s other books. He really is a powerhouse of ideas. His writing style was, for the most part, consistently on par with earlier works. I really enjoyed some of his descriptive writing. I also felt that the aliens had quite a bit of potential.
What I did not like
1. The Russian Revolution rip-off was tedious for me. Not the concept, but the implementation. This said, I find few people who can write political/conspiracy fiction that truly engages me. Perhaps it is just how intricate and verbose such things tend to be. I don’t know. In this case I thought that I was reading a science fiction novel and so the political conspiracy aspect of it just was not what I wanted.
2. Lack of thoroughly enjoyable characters. Well, maybe the one who deliberately came through the Void had their moments, but where was someone like Gore Burnelli who was just so thoroughly enjoyable in the previous novels? I think the need to write fanatical conspiracy oriented characters tended to make them flat and boring.
3. It was way too long. I reckon that if I had written this and sent it to an editor they would have sliced away at least a quarter of it. This meant that the pace was far too slow in places. Interestingly I really enjoyed the pace of the space scenes. It was the planet-based scenes (viva la revolution) that seemed so slow.
4. The aliens’ potential was never really explored to my satisfaction. They certainly were not significant enough a threat beyond the first fifth of the book.
5. While I was not impacted, my friend complained that the inconsistent timeline confused him on a few occasions. Yep, it’s one of those novels where half-way through the book they step back a few months and do not bother telling you.
Will I read the sequel?
Will I ever re-read this novel?
Should you read it?
If you enjoyed the Void series then yes. If you are new to Peter Hamilton then read some of his other work first. He is generally a very enjoyable read.
OK. Hopefully this is a satisfactory review that did not give too much away.