01/01/2011. Contributed by Eamonn Murphy
pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books. The Evolutionary Void (The Void Trilogy book 3) by Peter F. Hamilton. 694 page hardback. Price: $28.00 (US), $33.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-49657-7. pub: Pan Macmillan. 726 page hardback. Price: GBP 18.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-4050-8894-7.
check out websites: www.delreybooks.com and www.panmacmillan.com
‘The Evolutionary Void’ is the third gigantic tome in Peter F. Hamilton’s ‘Void Trilogy’, following on from ‘The Dreaming Void’ and ‘The Temporal Void’ and, frankly, if you haven’t read them there is no point in reading this one. You won’t know what’s going on. Even if you have read them it’s a bit complicated.
Living Dream is a religious movement that sends a pilgrimage to the Void, a self-contained universe at the centre of the galaxy where they believe they will find paradise if they can get through the barrier surrounding it aided by a Skylord, a cosmic super-entity with a rather child-like mind. Since excursions into the Void result in it expanding, destroying surrounding stars and a big one might result in the death of the entire Milky Way, most other people oppose Living Dream. However, the Accelerators, a human faction, are helping them because they are keen for humanity to go post-physical - give up their fleshy bodies and become pure mind. The Conservative human faction oppose this and are trying to stop the pilgrimage. So are many alien species.
In the far future, technology is extremely advanced and quite a few of the people are death on legs, equipped with sensors, instant communication, deadly weapons, enhanced physical abilities and so forth. Many of them are over a thousand years old and featured in Peter F. Hamilton’s ‘Commonwealth Saga’. A lot of the story harks back to that as well so if you want the complete experience there are 3366 pages to read in paperback. Enjoy.
The principle characters are: Inigo, The First Dreamer who dreamed of the life of Edeard, a great leader of the human civilisation in the Void and basically set up the Living Dream religion long ago hoping for salvation. Then he vanished, leaving his followers high and dry. Araminta, The Second Dreamer, discovered while pursuing her career as a property developer that she could speak to Skylords and so might lead Living Dream into the Void. She didn’t really want to but they chased her down. Gore Burnelli is the Third Dreamer and he sent his daughter Justine into the Void. Gore heads humanity’s Conservative faction, is very old indeed and reminded me greatly of Heinlein’s Lazarus Long, a sort of bossy know-it-all but with his heart in the right place. Gore has also organized another team to get into the Void ahead of the pilgrims and is also trying to get there himself by going post-physical using alien technology. The main enemy apart from Living Dream is Ilanthe who is Gore’s opposite number in the Accelerator faction. Also involved are Ozzie, an almost mythological super-genius who vanished centuries ago, the Cat, an evil sex kitten, and several top aliens. There’s a lot of action so to describe the plot would take about 726 pages, the length of the book. I won’t try.
Is it any good? Yes it is. Peter F. Hamilton writes like a cross between Heinlein and E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith. The characters are like Heinlein’s - competent, confident, active, determined go-getters. The technology is like ‘Doc’ Smith’s, full of unimaginable coruscating ray beams battering against amazing force fields in universe wobbling displays of vast energies unleashed. This is space opera on a gigantic scale and great if you like that sort of thing, which I do. Sometimes when my wrists are aching from holding the book open and I have to re-read a paragraph of baffling technology or complex plot harking back to some half-forgotten character who last appeared a hundred pages ago, I would like a bit less of it but it’s a big story and needs plenty of room. Certainly there is no padding.
It’s worth repeating that for anyone who hasn’t read the first two books in the trilogy buying this is a complete waste of time. Anyone who has read the others will want to buy ’The Evolutionary Void’ to see how it all ends. Well, it concludes satisfactorily but not brilliantly. In the second half of the book, plodding through it all got to be a bit of a chore, frankly. The prose does the job but it never prompts a smile or the pleasant glow sometimes evoked by a neat turn of phrase or an apt simile. I don’t think there’s a simile in the book. However, I admire Mister Hamilton’s great powers of invention, I admire his intricate plotting abilities and I certainly salute his industry. Overall, it’s a good book and I’m certainly glad that this writer and a few others are still doing space opera instead of dragons, dungeons, vampires, witches and zombies. More power to Peter F. Hamilton’s elbow and more power to your wrists if you buy the hardback edition. You’ll need it.
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