Book Review : The Night’s Dawn cycle

Author : Peter f. Hamilton
Titles :

  1. The Reality Dysfunction , ISBN 0-330-34032-8
  2. The Neutronium Alchemist , ISBN 0-330-35143-5
  3. The Naked God , ISBN 0-330-35145-1

Pitch : The human race has mastered the Stardrive. New colonies are founded, and they all have to go through the expansion protocol : Establish themselves as self-supporting, and then start integrating with the federation through commerce. Two human cultures coexist and clash from time to time, the Adamists, who think themselves as “true” humans, relying solely on machines and basic human traits, and the Edenists, who mastered telepathy and bio-engineering. Apart from tensions between these two factions, the human race thrives in space. Because of a fortuitous accident involving an alien species, something has gone wrong : the dead are back from the grave and they seem to be almighty. And they want everybody else as dead as they are so that they can “take us away from this universe”. Overwhelmed, outnumbered, outgunned, the living humans seem doomed. Through various individuals, cells and agencies, they start fighting back. Can they really beat death?

Now this is what I call space opera! The three books are thick (very thick) and filled with intertwined stories about the living battling the dead. Peter F. Hamilton writes his books as if he were an embedded journalist. His style is precise and non-committal. We don’t know if the events are good or bad, we don’t know where he leads us, we are just ensnared in his stories. I just couldn’t stop reading through the few thousands of pages of this cycle, wondering how this space captain will manage to pull his stunts, what these operatives from various intelligence agencies will be able to do so far out of their depths, and what the hell these dead souls want to do with the living.

This read is precise up to the point where it becomes gruesome, technical, or political. I hadn’t sensed such a deep involvement with a fantasy world from its author since “the Lord of the Rings”… Peter F. Hamilton writes just like he’s back from this possible future. We can feel that he believes in it and knows far more than we do about it. He just chooses to write a few stories taking place in it, but you can feel the background, you wonder what these stories the characters talk about are, since the action prevents them from dwelling on the matter.

I really think the comparison with Tolkien stands, even if the setup and the environments are very different. The world is huge and complex. The characters all have a life of their own. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes stories. We follow a handful of characters through their evolution towards that critical point in history where the actions of just one person can make everything fall down one road or another. And we gasp, we jump, we rant, we are completely taken by the narrative.

I really haven’t read many books like this. Although it’s a very long read, you’ll keep asking for more.


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