I wanted to like this. I did. And I liked parts of it a
lot, many of the ideas were fascinating, several of the characters I
really dug. But there were other issues that hampered my overall
enjoyment, and they can't be ignored.
On a small, barely
developed planet, some kind of ancient alien force is unleashed, taking
over some of the colonists. And this alien virus spreads, the chance
that it will disperse through the known worlds grows as well - and what
do these "sequestrated" humans want, anyway?
This is the core of
the story. This is the story that is being told. The other stories
around it are, well, interesting, but there are too many of them, and
it's distracting. We cut away from this emotional core of the book to
meander between the stars and be introduced to a myriad of characters,
many of whom I enjoyed, even though they were superfluous. One of my
favourite characters virtually disappeared from the last
third of the story.
The universe Hamilton creates is very
interesting, it is, and I enjoyed reading about it - but I'm pretty sure
that could have been condensed, instead of explored in exquisite
detail. It wasn't bad, per se, but in an 1100 page book, surely some of
it could have been put in more concisely?
This book doesn't know
where to put its focus, and so it has none. The story is interesting,
but doesn't feel like it's told in any planned manner. I like
meandering. People who read my reviews know I delight in a good
meander. But "good" is the keyword. This was sloppy.
I have two other quibbles. I know this is sounding like I hated the book, and I didn't. But I was disappointed.
I really hate cardboard irredeemably-evil characters. I think they're
lazy writing. Give me a more complex villain, and I'll read until the
cows come home. But when you have a character who is just a psychopath,
who just likes raping and torturing and killing, as far as I can
figure, the only purpose is to make the reader uncomfortable.
so you made me uncomfortable in the first 50 pages, Peter F. Hamilton.
Now what? Now what are you going to do with him for the next 1050 pages?
What stories do you have to tell with him, how can you possibly make
To put this in Song of Ice and Fire terms,
which was the comparison my husband came up with, I'm not interested in
reading the story of The Mountain. I am interested in reading the story
of The Hound. And Martin is smart enough to concentrate on the latter.
dwells on the cardboard psychopath, and it feels like ugliness for the
sake of ugliness, with little contribution to the story after the first
ugly scene. Of course, this villain dominates the first third of the
book, and then mostly disappears for the rest, to make a brief
recurrence about a hundred pages from the end. I'm sure he's still out
there, menacing the second book. I'm not sure I care.
me to issue two. Which is really two issues, but they both have to do
with sex and sexuality, so we'll call them one.
There is a lot
of sexual violence and sexual coercion in this book. There's a lot of
sex, period. I'm fine with all the consensual sex. But
the amount of rape, suggested rape, and coercing into sex through
physical, mental and emotional torture roiled my stomach and made me
wonder if I was going to make it through this book. Until the
cardboard psychopath disappeared, at least.
This leads to the
next problem - the treatment of queer characters. Unless I missed
something, the only characters who engage in homosexual activity are the
evil, evil Satanists. (I'm not kidding. Literal Satanists.) Many of the Satanists are bi, but the only time we hear about two guys having sex, it's
the evil guys.
This could have been fixed so easily, Peter F.
Hamilton. Sure, you had a fairly reasonable explanation about why the
Adamists still had taboos about homosexuality. (I guess, but still.)
They're heavily influenced by Christianity still, and bred out the gay
gene. I'll sort of give you that one, even though I don't like it.
what is your excuse for the Edenists? Here we have the opposing
culture, where they are sexually free, non-monogamous, no hang-ups,
plenty of sex...and every damn time, it's heterosexual sex. Every time.
we're left with a universe where the people who are natural and free
about sex are all heterosexual, and the only homosexual people are
I don't remember this kind of upsetting
view of sexuality in the other Peter F. Hamilton I've read, but once I
noticed that this was going on here, I was just waiting for a gay
Edenist character to be introduced, something to make this less icky.
So, in the end? There is some good space opera
here. The central issue of the novel is compelling and gripping, when he
can be bothered to get around to it. But the meandering feels
purposeless, and what it does accomplish could happen in half the pages.
And the cardboard main villain and issues with sexual violence and
homosexuality left a very bad taste in my mouth.
I'm not quite
sure I'm at the point where I'll say screw it to the next book in this
trilogy, but if I do pick it up, it'll be on a very short leash. I'm not
investing another 1000 pages in being disappointed like this.