Voracious reader and DPhil candidate blogs about books and scholarly life.
Peter F. Hamilton
The Abyss Beyond Dreams
Ever since he announced the creation of a new series in 2011, Peter F. Hamilton’s massive new work has been eagerly anticipated by fans of his Commonwealth Saga and Void Trilogy. The Abyss Beyond Dreams is the first half of a two-part series called The Chronicle of the Fallers, which serves as a prequel to the Void Trilogy. The 640-page tome, released in October, is an ambitious and compelling combination of horror science fiction and political intrigue.
Nigel Sheldon, co-inventor of wormholes and one of the richest people in the Intersolar Commonwealth, receives a visit from a Raiel who asks him to enter the Void. The Raiel are an ancient galactic race that has set itself the task of guarding the borders of the mysterious Void that, instead of the previously theorised black hole, lies inside the centre of the Milky Way and at times expands to gobble up solar systems. Inside the Void, from which nobody has ever returned, humans live in a precarious balance on the planet Bienvenido, their lives at a constant risk through the presence of the man-eating Fallers, an alien species adept at mimicking and hypnotizing humans. Rather than ‘hard’ science fiction, Hamilton presents a story of SF interweaved with magic, as the normal laws of physics do not seem to apply in the Void, where telekinesis and telepathy form part of everyday life. Nigel sees a possibility for Bienvenido to escape the Void through the powers of the Fallers, but in order to put his plans into practice it turns out to be necessary to destabilize the entire political system of the planet.
Eminently readable as a standalone novel, The Abyss Beyond Dreams is ambitious without being excessively demanding on the reader’s part. The first chapter introduces readers to the Void in a manner that is compelling regardless of having previously encountered this intimidating place in the Void Trilogy. The fact that Nigel lands on Bienvenido and has to explain to people there that there is a massive Commonwealth outside the Void of course provides an excellent opportunity for the new reader to discover the background details of the series. However, readers who have not encountered Hamilton before and are willing to explore more of his work should seek out the Void Trilogy first for a better enjoyment of those books: Abyss contains spoilers as many of the problems, secrets and mysteries in the series are taken as resolved in this book and are therefore plainly described in the narrative.
Yet even considering the book as a separate work in itself, which with the sheer size it has is easy to do, it is impressive how the contents keep the reader on their toes. A reader familiar with basic astronomical concepts will enjoy the many applications of real astronomical facts and interpretations that have been interspersed throughout, scattered enough to give the reader a sense of scientific reality, and not so overwhelming that the demand for reality constrains the fantastic story. Alongside the science fiction, there is an intricately interweaved story of political power and unrest that is fascinating in itself, and all the more interesting through the inherent connections between the Fallers and the political system of Bienvenido. The story of Captain Slvasta, who lost his arm to the Fallers and got promoted so much that he was rendered incapable of further fighting them, would serve as a decent book in itself. Hamilton shows what science fiction at its prime can achieve: a full exploration of the human mind.
[N.B. I got this book via NetGalley, promising them an honest review.]