Manhattan In Reverse

By Peter F. Hamilton

Rating: 4 stars

As the author himself admits in the introduction, he’s not the quickest writer of short stories, nor are the stories themselves particularly short, but the quality evident within these pages is not to be sniffed at. There are seven stories in total, three of them set in the Intersolar Commonwealth universe, two featuring Paula Myo, the detective and popular figure in other Hamilton books.

Of the non-Commonwealth stories, Watching Trees Grow is an alternative history starting in a steampunk London, with a murder, and following rapid development and longevity as the agent charged with solving the murder persists throughout the decades, and eventually centuries that it takes. Footvote is an alternative-present story, where a maverick opened a wormhole to another planet in 2010, setting the other end in England and offering transport out to his world, but only under his rules. This brings up themes that Hamilton raised in the Night’s Dawn series, of monoculture worlds, with only a certain ethnic or religious group being allowed to settle a world. If at First… is a fun time-travel story while The Forever Kitten is possibly the most poignant story in the collection, and it is certainly the shortest, coming it at under 1000 words.

The last three stories are set in the Commonwealth universe, the first, Blessed by an Angel being set several hundred years after the Starflyer war described in the Commonwealth Saga following the attempt by an agent of a society that favours high-technology and human-Biononic integration to infiltrate a society that has rejected that technology. The Demon Trap is a Paula Myo story set in the decades before the Starflyer war involving terrorism and politics while the title story, Manhattan in Reverse is set just after the Starflyer war and the discovery of a possibly sentient creature on a world that has already been colonised.

There’s a wide range of stories here, but the underlying theme seems to me to be how technology, particularly technology that we can possibly see coming down the line, will affect people, societies and crime. Recommended for fans of thoughtful space opera, not just fans of Peter F. Hamilton.

Book details

ISBN: 9780230750302
Publisher: MacMillan
Year of publication: 2011

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