Great North Road

By Peter F. Hamilton

Rating: 3 stars

In a future where wormholes connect the trans-stellar worlds, a clone from the very rich and powerful North family is murdered in Newcastle, although none have been reported missing. What is the connection to the planet of St. Libra, practically the personal fiefdom of the Norths, and the possible miscarriage of justice that left a young woman in prison for killing a whole branch of the same family twenty years ago?

I have mixed feelings about this book. Firstly, it’s too big, and could really have done with another pass by the editor. I mean, it’s obvious that Hamilton has really done his research on police methods, but he really didn’t have to put them all into the book.

There’s a lot of the cool tech that I’ve come to appreciate from Hamilton, as well as strong, kick-ass women. I wonder how much of himself has gone into it as well, as the two most likeable characters are middle-aged men worried about protecting their families.

One of the things that kept taking me out of the book was the descriptions of what appears to be an ultra-capitalist Britain (England?) of the 22nd century, with policing being outsourced, medicine and access to law all requiring insurance and a European superstate that is faceless and bureaucratic. It’s all a bit Tory wet-dream for my tastes and certainly not a Britain I would want to live in (although there’s no mention of Scotland, I like to think it voted for independence and is a happy wee state in the Scandinavian model of social democracy).

The character of Angela was probably the strongest in the book, and the slow drip-feeding of her back story was the most interesting, as we go from being unsure whether she’s telling the truth or just a very good liar, through discovering that she’s both, and later finding out how she got into that situation in the first place.

Worth a read, but you may want to skim a lot of the detail, particularly of the police investigation.

Book details

ISBN: 9780330521772
Publisher: Pan MacMillan
Year of publication: 2012

The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul (Dirk Gently, #2)

By Douglas Adams

Rating: 3 stars

Terminal two at Heathrow airport blows up and it gets put down to an act of god. But only Dirk Gently wonders which god. This was a very odd book. It started off laugh out loud funny, almost like a Hitchhikers’ book, but seemed to lose that as the story progressed. For a given definition of progression. Dirk’s story never really seemed to dovetail very well with that of Kate Schechter, the other POV character and I’m still not entirely clear what happened at the end. Dirk’s showdown with the Draycotts appears to happen off-screen and the whole thing just didn’t really appear to end very well. Despite this, it’s still an enjoyable novel with a lot of Adams’ trademark dry humour, particularly in the earlier sections of the book.

Book details

ISBN: 9780330309554
Publisher: Pan Books
Year of publication: 1988

The Lion of Comarre and Against the Fall of Night

By Arthur C. Clarke

Rating: 4 stars

This volume contains two of Clarke’s earlier short works: The Lion of Comarre and Against the Fall of Night. I mostly acquired it for the latter, as its expanded version, The City and the Stars is one of my favourite stories and I wanted to see how the original compared.

I wasn’t disappointed, either. The two stories are actually pretty similar, although obviously Night has less depth to it. Characters and broad plot outlines are pretty similar but City gives them more space to breathe and fills in details skimmed over in Night. Comparing the two, I think I prefer City, although this may be because it was the one that I encountered first, although I think that the larger word count does give the story more breadth and depth, particularly in the Seven Suns section.

I enjoyed The Lion of Comarre as well. The two stories were put together because they share similar themes, although Lion is set in the nearer future than Night, but also looks at a utopian society that may be stagnating and introduces change to it. I was quite amused by the opening sequence where Richard Payton’s father tries to talk him out of joining a lowly ‘engineering’ profession in favour of the arts. Its inversion of roles reminded me of Monty Python’s Nothern Playwright sketch and made me smile.

Book details

ISBN: 9780330266581
Publisher: Pan
Year of publication: 1968

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