Saturday, 10 January 2009

I have a dream

Some thoughts on The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton. I thought I'd spend a good few weeks on this lengthy book but it's only January 10th and amazingly I've run out of pages. TDV is the first in a new trilogy, set a few thousand years after the Commonwealth Saga.

This book gradually becomes more addictive. It's not original in terms of concepts or settings - human political factions with different attitudes to body or mind upgrades are a common theme in modern-day space opera, and this and the central mystery, the Void reminded me of Reynolds' writing; there are also Culture-like elements. There are plenty of ancient wise or warlike alien races, and a lot of zipping around through hyperspace or wormholes. The space-opera strand is countered by the experiences of a human colony within the Void on a world where people have varying degrees of telekinetic powers, experienced in the galaxy outside through the dreams of the faithful. This is simplistic fantasy and occasionally veers into Discworld-like territory - the hero Edeard has a little of Sam Vimes about him, but I found this strand the most captivating part of the book.

Back in the outside world most of the players (and there are a lot) are searching for something or someone and there's a lot of political machination and plotting. A religious movement founded on the Void dreams plans a massive pilgrimage into the Void but other factions believe this will trigger galactic destruction. There are a few brief bouts of action courtesy of Aaron, the maximally upgraded hitman-without-a-memory, and some bad sci-fi sex courtesy of Araminta the seemingly innocent property developer and her "multiple" partner Mr. Bovey. Different characters seem designed to bring action, comedy, sympathy or other experiences into the novel.

I enjoyed this book and thought it was well-written and structured - particularly given it's length it could easily have lost it's way but didn't. Despite the standardized settings there's a lot of originality in the actual characters and situations. Mostly the characters are convincing as motivated individuals, just occasionally they all start to speak with the same voice. I intend to go back and try the Commonwealth series in the near future and may well continue with this trilogy later.

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