Tuesday, November 4, 2014

New Space Opera, but Don't Throw Out the Old

Peter F. Hamilton first explored the Void, an area at the center of the galaxy that defies typical laws of both physics and metaphysics, in his Dreaming Void trilogy. Hamilton's characters return to the Void in his new work, The Abyss Beyond Dreams, bringing with them a fresh perspective and a different range of ideas.

Nigel Sheldon, one of the founders of the technologically advanced human Commonwealth, is asked by the even more technologically advanced alien species, the Raiel, to infiltrate the Void to keep it from threatening the entire galaxy.

As far as anyone knows, nothing that enters the Void can leave it, though Nigel, equipped with massive enhancements to his human body and a few extra copies of psyche that he can load into computers or androids or clones of himself, hopes to find out otherwise.

But within the Void, most advanced technology fails (though for some reason a lot of Nigel's still works). For everyone else, the trade-off is that humans in the Void are capable of telekinesis and telepathy.

Nigel discovers Bienvenido, a second human-inhabited planet within the Void. Bienvenido has to deal not only with being trapped in the Void, but also with an off-planet threat, the Fallers. Fallers come to Bienvenido in the form of eggs which fall out of the sky and once on the ground psychically attract humans and other animals. Any living thing that touches and egg is "eggsumed" or drawn into it. The egg then creates a physical Faller replica of the eggsumed creature. Fallers generated from humans are indistinguishable from their human originals except by their cold emotions and their blue blood. They also feed on the flesh of humans.

With his technology limited, Nigel has to manipulate the citizens of Bienvenido in order to discover the origin of the Fallers, save Bienvenido, and eventually find a way out of the void.

The story has some derivative elements--the Fallers, for instance, seem a lot like body snatchers to me--and gets a little bogged down in theory behind some Marxist politics driving a revolution on the planet's surface. It also glosses over a few details that are covered more thoroughly in the Dreaming Void trilogy. While the novel could stand on its own and has some top-notch space opera moments, its intended audience seems to be those already familiar with the Void. I'd recommend starting with The Dreaming Void and its sequels, anyway, as they are the superior books.

The publisher provided me with a time-limited e-galley for the purposes of this review.

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