Light Chaser

By Peter F. Hamilton

Rating: 4 stars

Amahle is a Light Chaser, the pilot of a starship that makes a long, slow circuit around human space, at nearly the speed of light, carrying trade and information between worlds, coming to each planet in her circuit roughly every thousand years. But a name keeps coming up again and again, and with it a conspiracy as deep and ancient as human spaceflight.

I’m guessing that the pace of this cracking belter of a space opera must come from Powell. This is sort the sort of idea that Hamilton would make a door-stop trilogy (at least) out of. Despite the brevity, we get a good thumbnail sketch of this interstellar human meta-civilisation, as Light Chasers are rare and many planets are stuck at different stages of civilisation, whether this is age of steam, feudalism, all the way up to post-scarcity. What Amahle uncovers leads her to wonder at why these various societies are as static as they are.

Amahle is engineered for longevity, and her relativistic travel basically puts her outside of all human societies, other than her peers (none of whom make an appearance here). Even by her relative standard, she’s probably hundreds (maybe thousands) of years old. From the point of view of the outside world, she’s timeless. And yet, even her enhanced human mind can’t hold that many memories, so she’s resigned to the old constantly making way for the new, losing more of herself with every planet she visits.

There’s also a mystical strand that runs through the story, with the idea of reincarnating souls and (literally!) star-crossed lovers destined to meet across many lifetimes, which is a bit weird but it fits.

I went through a Hamilton phase in my 20s, where I read everything I could get hold of (although I’ve not read anything by him in probably a decade now). I’ve not read as much Powell, but this is a neat fusion of the two, not really feeling like either but a solid third voice. It’s a very enjoyable light space opera that breezes through different human societies in pages, where it could have spent whole chapters (or even books) in them, racing towards its finale at breakneck speed. A lot of fun to read.

Book details

Publisher: Tordotcom
Year of publication: 2021

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

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

Fallen Dragon

By Peter F. Hamilton

Rating: 4 stars

In an ultra-capitalistic society, the dream of space travel is all but over, written off as economically not viable, except for “asset recovery” missions to already-established colonies that send in private corporate armies to try and get some return on investment for the shareholders.

This is one of my favourite Hamilton books, with its ultra-capitalistic societies proving an interesting backdrop and an interesting reason for continuing with space travel. The main character, an embittered sergeant in one of these corporate armies provides a sympathetic point of view and the hardware is pretty cool too.

Book details

ISBN: 9780330480062
Publisher: Pan MacMillan
Year of publication: 2001

Powered by WordPress