Sunday, June 08, 2008

Peter Hamilton: The Dreaming Void

New releases torture me.

I don't buy hardback books because they are too big and awkward to fit into pockets or briefcases. When a new title comes out that I want to read I am forced to wait enviously until the first hardback run has sold out. As if to prolong my agony many publishers then bring out a large format paperback with all the size and cost disadvantages of hardback but without even the attraction of robustness. I generally hold off another six months or so for the small paperback edition which size is more appropriate to my nomadic reading habits.

It was an unexpected treat therefore on discovering a new book from one of my favourite authors to realise that I had serendipitously managed to miss the hardback release and there it was sitting on the shelf in paperback, demanding to be bought.

"The Dreaming Void" is the start of a new trilogy set 1500 years into the future of Hamilton's previous Commonwealth Saga novels. The plot so far as I have covered it concerns the plans of a human religious group to make pilgrimage into the mysterious void at the centre of our galaxy and the reactions of the various races and factions that populate the galaxy to this plan. Many believe that the pilgrimage could trigger a catastrophic enlargement of the void while others seek to exploit the movement for their own ends.

In typical Hamilton style the book paints a vivid picture of a universe populated with a varied collection of well drawn characters. Unfortunately the story is quite slow moving. I am over 700 pages in and not much has happened. It feels like the author is still setting the scene and introducing characters in advance of kicking off the story proper. Perhaps the pace will pick up in the next book of the trilogy but "Dreaming" lacks the immediate suck you in punch of Hamilton's previous sequence opening novels.

A noteworthy feature of the novel is the way Hamilton has linked it to the previous Commonwealth Saga. Over the intervening 1500 years technology, politics and exploration have completely changed the setting. To all intensive purposes Hamilton could be writing a completely unconnected saga. He has chosen however, to link them through subtle references to history and through the device of longevity. Several characters from the previous saga re-appear in the new book. Even this is not as strong a link as it could be because the passage of time and the adoption of various gene and psyche altering technologies has allowed these characters to change roles and even personalities.

I don't normally read authors' blogs. Perhaps discovering a real human behind the fantasy is too much like breaking the fourth wall. Peter Hamilton's blog however is well organised and not too verbose. If you like that sort of thing you can find it here.

EDIT: I have just finished "The Dreaming Void" and I am happy to report that the pace picks up substantially in the last 10% of the book. There is enough in those last few chapters to leave me very hopeful for the next book and Hamilton leaves several cliffhangers just to heighten the anticipation. The follow on ("The temporal Void") should be out in a year or so. Now If I can only manage to avoid noticing the hardback release....

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