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Friday, August 3, 2007

"The Dreaming Void" by Peter F. Hamilton

Order “The Dreaming VoidHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read SFF World’s Review of “The Dreaming Void
Read Pat + Adam’s Interview with Peter F. Hamilton HERE

It’s been twenty years since Peter F. Hamilton first started writing science fiction and during that time the author has established himself as Britain’s number one science fiction writer, as well as acquiring a massive worldwide following for such books as the Greg Mandel series, the bestselling Night’s Dawn trilogy, “Fallen Dragon”, and various short fiction. “The Dreaming Void” is the start to Peter F. Hamilton’s brand new The Void Trilogy, which is set in the Commonwealth Universe that began in 2002’s “Misspent Youth”, and was continued in The Commonwealth Saga (“Pandora’s Star”, “Judas Unchained”). “The Dreaming Void” is my first Peter F. Hamilton novel, and it’s easy to see why the author is such a respected and popular voice in the genre.

For starters, the book is fairly lengthy, weighing in at 647 pages. Sure, it’s not the largest novel I’ve ever undertaken, but “The Dreaming Void” definitely requires a certain commitment. Thankfully, it’s not hard to commit to the book since the story is so engrossing, even if it is a bit complicated. Here’s the simple version: “The Dreaming Void” is set in the year 3589—1500 years after The Commonwealth Saga—and focuses mainly on the Void, an artificial event horizon located at the very heart of the galaxy, which supposedly houses an entire universe within its core that is billions of years old. Because of the Dreamer Inigo, humankind has been shown that there is a way to enter the Void, thus attaining an ‘absolute pinnacle of evolution’. The downside is that the Void has been slowly expanding, consuming the galaxy star by star, and many feel that if anyone were to try and enter the Void, it would trigger a devourment phase that could destroy the galaxy. Based on this premise, the majority of “The Dreaming Void” centers on the many different factions that either oppose or support a Pilgrimage into the Void, and is told through multiple viewpoints including the following characters:

1) Aaron—a secret agent with no memory of who he is, who he works for or what his goals are except finding the missing Dreamer Inigo.
2) Troblum—a brilliant physicist, obsessed with the Starflyer War, who’s been hired to work on the starships that will lead the Pilgrimage.
3) Araminta—an aspiring entrepreneur, who will play a key role in the Pilgrimage even though she doesn’t know it herself.
4) Edeard—an apprentice eggshaper with powerful farsight/telekinesis abilities who will discover his destiny.
5) …and various supporting characters such as the newly elected Conservator Ethan who is leading the Pilgrimage, The Delivery Man, Marius, and a few familiar faces from The Commonwealth Saga which I’ll leave as a surprise to those who’ve read the books :)

For me, the characters and plotlines were a bit hit or miss. For instance, I enjoyed Edeard’s story the most, probably because it reminded me of many fantasy coming-of-age tales—a young hero with extraordinary powers starts out as a lowly nobody, experiences tragedy & growth, journeys into the larger world, and eventually becomes ‘the chosen one’. A close second was Aaron’s narrative, which read more like a spy thriller and had the best action sequences in the book. Troblum’s and Araminta’s accountings were slower and not as interesting, with the former dealing with political intrigue and revisiting the Starflyer War, while the latter dealt with economic issues, although there were some very intriguing sexual ideas explored involving multiple humans—‘one personality shared between several bodies.’ There were a few other characters that I wish had had more face time, but I think we’ll see more of them in the next two volumes of The Void Trilogy. Speaking of which, since “The Dreaming Void” is just the beginning of a trilogy, don’t expect to get a lot of answers at the end of the book, and in fact you might want to prepare yourself for a few cliffhangers. Just something to think about in case you’re one of those readers who doesn’t like to wait ;)

Aside from the labyrinthine plot and the numerous characters, there’s a ton of other details to process as well: futuristic technological concepts and jargon (biononics, u-shadow, gaiafields, farsight, telekinesis, re-life, ultradrives, etc.); different levels of humanity (Advancer, Higher, ANA); alien races (Raiel, the Ocisen Empire); political factions (Greater Commonwealth, ANA:Governance, External Worlds, Central Worlds, Protectorates); social, economic, philosophical & religious ideals; and so much more. In short, “The Dreaming Void” can be quite a handful, but it’s definitely well worth the time & effort.

Now since “The Dreaming Void” is the first book that I’ve read by Peter F. Hamilton, I think that gives me a unique perspective. Obviously, I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to comparing this book with the author’s previous works, and of course the elements that were carried over from the previous Commonwealth novels had little impact on my appreciation of “The Dreaming Void”. On the other hand, I went into this book with virtually no knowledge of the author, and thus, no expectations. So in this regard I can’t say if “The Dreaming Void” is better or worse than other Peter F. Hamilton novels, or if longtime fans of the author will enjoy this book as much as his previous ones, or if there is another novel that is a better starting point for readers new to Peter F. Hamilton. What I can and will say is that I was thoroughly impressed with “The Dreaming Void”, that I thought it was one of the most challenging & rewarding science fiction novels that I’ve read this year, that I would highly recommend the book to anyone who calls themselves a SF fan, and that I absolutely cannot wait for The Void Trilogy to be completed…

NOTE: Exclusive, limited signed boxed editions of Peter F. Hamilton’sThe Dreaming Void” are available for purchase HERE via Pan Macmillan. Also for the month of August only, Pan Macmillan is offering a 20% discount on selected SF & Fantasy titles, including works from Peter F. Hamilton, Neal Asher, Lian Hearn, Hal Duncan, Greg Keyes, etc. You can check out the full listing HERE.

5 comments:

gregor said...

Help, I am addicted to Peter H. writing's when can we expect the next part of the trilogy. Any word on what the next Title might be?

gregor

bloggeratf said...

Heh, I take it you have read the Temporal Void by now? I thought it was so much better than the Dreaming Void.

http://onlythebestscifi.blogspot.com/

Liviu said...

Not sure that Robert - who reviewed this one - read Void 2 - but as I said in my review of that one and the comments I loved it

But now PFH is my co-1 favorite sff writer so no wonder :)

Anyway any and all PFH including his planned YA series will get full coverage as long as I review for FBC.

kjcolewelle said...

Hmm,

It's a bit hit and miss; the Night's Dawn trilogy and especially the Greg Mandel series explored social, political and economic issues with much greater bite and pertinancy: here, everyone appears to be 'sorted', so there's no real tension, despite the numerous political factions.

I love the action scenes, Aaron's sequences are wonderfully done, and it makes me think that the next thing PFH should do is screenplay writing.

A lot of it though is reminiscent of Fallen Dragon - very, almost sniggering, adolescent view of sex rather than really looking at sexuality in the future.

As someone else has said, he needs a better editor - and he also needs to let go of his Tolkien complex (which leads to these mammoth volumes in the first place)

Liviu said...

Temporal Void is better - but you gotta love fantasy since that book is dominated by Edeard with the Commonwealth action really in the background

This one reminded me of Fallen Dragon indeed, but the part that did not jell for me that well was the "boy with a destiny" one; the "established" Edeard is much more interesting

For me Nights Dawn is still the #1 finished series of all time (both sf and f) because of characters and sense of wonder - it just has (almost) everything in sf, but in a personal, easy to relate to way - you can see yourself there

There are books more sophisticated in the future tech (Reynolds, Egan) and books with much more extensive reach (IM Banks) but in the former the people are distant - planning for a million years ahead or complaining that you wasted 2000 years here is just not "human" the way I see it and while it may be "post human", it makes for less sense of wonder than Joshua stepping in Ione's apartment and gaping at it, however mundane that is...

While in IM Banks case the books themselves are marvels, but the whole Culture society, or to be more precise the costume aliens milieu with tons of races... does not hold really water under closer inspection imho, while the Confederacy is again very "believable"

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