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Peter F Hamilton is more recently known for his bestselling 'Night's Dawn' Trilogy, which combines the best of the sundered genres of science fiction (of course) and horror.
He is also known among his fans for releasing books that are ridiculously long - every single book in the trilogy weighs in at over 1000 pages, and sometimes considerably more than that. It's lucky that they're so good, or else we wouldn't have bothered.
Along with Night's Dawn, he's also written the 'Greg Mandel' series of novels about a mercenary/detective set in the 21st century (in the UK, no less!). I haven't read them, although I'm told they're not up to the high standard set by Night's Dawn.
recently attended an IRC chat with Peter, and the log is available here.
The Naked God:
(3rd novel in the Night's Dawn trilogy)
Click here to read the book's blurb
Click here to see the ultra-huge scan of the entire hardback book cover
Click here for the spoiler laden sections of the review. Read this is you've either:
a) Read the book already
b) Like having things spoiled for you
Click here to read the log of an IRC chat with PFH after he released The Naked God
The Naked God is possibly the one novel that I have read continuously for about 12 hours. It's that kind of novel.
However, unlike the enduring classics, every time I think about the book, it seems a little less special. You get the feeling that Hamilton was desperately trying to finish off the novel as quick as he could (I believe that he himself said that by the end of The Naked God, he was fed up with the trilogy. It's not the same thing, but still).
There's none of the 'newness' you get in the two previous novels. Rather than being a novel in its own right, the Naked God is dragged down by the previous events in Reality Dysfunction and Neutronium Alchemist. The 1200 pages count for nothing when you can see Hamilton frantically trying to wrap every single plot thread up in time for the end. Take, for example, the Joshua and Louise saga. You know perfectly well that they're going to get back together in the end (and if you didn't, well, now you know). And you think - hmm, how is Hamilton going to work that one out when he's still going out with Ione.
I was disappointed with the way Hamilton handled it. Ione abruptly breaks up with Joshua (albeit amicably, of course), and you're just *waiting* for when Joshua confesses his dying love of Louise. Which, surprise surprise, he does shortly afterwards.
Rushing too fast isn't Hamilton's only sin. Stretching things out is another. Which is pretty weird, as these things go. The whole sections where the possessed are trying to cope with life in the universes they transported themselves to through the red mist are overlong and pretty boring. Ditto for the Valisk section.
Also, there's the Mortonridge Liberation. Aside from the good bits featuring Sinon, the whole Liberation is a bit of an anticlimax. You feel cheated when you finally read about how it was resolved, especially when there was such an intense build-up to it during the second half of the Neutronium Alchemist.
I do have to mention that some sections of the book were very good, including the Earth sections, and other battle scenes.
Perhaps if Hamilton didn't spend so much time on the stretched out possessed sections, and instead used them for character development and the Joshua-Ione-Louise situation, the novel might have much better.
I am being very hard on the Naked God. I've only concentrated on the worse sections, but I can't help this because I've expected so much from the it - I expected that it would be as good, if not better, than the two previous novels in the trilogy. It still, for the most part, keeps the action going. There's still the cutting humour and wicked wit which you'll see from some new characters.
The Naked God is still a good book. You should definitely buy it if you've read the last two novels. But compared to the excellence of Reality Dysfunction and Neutronium Alchemist, you can't help but feel disappointed.
PS: Please check out all the commentary that's linked to on the left hand margin of this review. There's a lot of good material to be read (but remember the warning about spoilers!)
A Second Chance at Eden:
(Short story collection set in the Night's Dawn universe)
Click here to read the book's blurb
I actually wrote an extensive review of A Second Chance at Eden several months ago, except the damned computer went and crashed. Subsequently, I was in such a foul mood that I knew I wouldn't be able to write anything about this book again for quite a while.
The stories in this collection are set chronologically - in my opinion, probably not such a good idea. They're all self-contained, and none lead on from each other.
My main complaint is that I get the feeling most of the stories initially had nothing to do with the Night's Dawn universe, but Hamilton just went and changed a few names so he could advertise this collection as part of his successful series. To be fair, it's not such a bad thing, but you can't help but feel cheated somehow.
Take the first story, Sonnie's Edge, as an example. While it does feature the usual 'bitek' concept where organisms are telepathically bonded to humans to do their bidding, this idea crops up in almost all of Hamilton's stories, so it's nothing new. The bitek organisms in this case are set to fight each other in popular battles, with high stakes (obviously). There's a nice twist at the end of the tale, but Hamilton goes and screws it up slightly by confusing the reader with an unnecessary switch of perspective.
Possibly the best story in the collection is A Second Chance at Eden, a 180 page novella. One of Hamilton's best works, in my opinion it works very well. Unlike the books making up the Night's Dawn trilogy, there's little fighting and more discussion on the ethics of a new telepathic gene discovered, and bitek enslaved creatures. You have your typical world-weary detective on the trail of a murderer who has left surprisingly few clues, but Hamilton makes this stand apart as he weaves in the rich background of the story into the murder hunt.
Conflicting personalities and a plausible, near-term scenario make A Second Chance at Eden shine. I'd advise anyone who enjoyed the Night's Dawn trilogy to read this story.
New Days Old Times is a disappointing let-down from the heights of the novella. Particularly unmemorable, it's your obligatory tale about how human nature never changes and at heart, we're all going to hell. Boring.
I remember enjoying Candy Buds hugely when I first read it, so there must have been something there. On a second (and third) reading, I wasn't as impressed although it's still a great story. Again, the concept of bitek creeps in, but in a different guise. Someone is producing 'memory buds' that when eaten can make someone retain memories of experiences that they never had - and these experiences can be pretty amazing. Actually, you can read the blurb if you really want to know about the story.
Still, the style in which Candy Buds was written is completely unlike any of Hamilton's other stories. It's almost as the story was being told by a dispassionate, even uninterested, omniscient third party. Interesting stuff.
At less than 20 pages in length, Deathday was thankfully short. I didn't enjoy this story at all and I can't even remember what it was about. Some guff to do with an obsessed bloke going mad while hunting after aliens.
The Lives and Loves of Tiarella Rosa is at least up to the standard of the novellla, and as such, it's a damned good read. It's a very enjoyable read all the way through, and pretty intriguing. Possibly the only 'feel-good' story in the whole collection.
Escape Route is undoubtedly the story that fans of the Night's Dawn series will enjoy the most - after all, it features the father of Joshua Calvert (the hero of Night's Dawn), Marcus Calvert, along with his ship, the Lady Macbeth. It was a good read the first time round, but... I don't know, it lacks a certain spark. Don't get me wrong, it's a good solid story, but it isn't as good as the novella or The Lives and Loves...
On the whole, it's a collection worth buying, even if you haven't read any of the Night's Dawn trilogy. I can't say how it compares to Hamilton's other series, the Greg Mandel stories, but it holds up well on its own and there are some good, well-rounded stories within. If there'd been more stories up to the standard of the novella, I'd give it four gold stars, but barring that, it's merely a very good read, not an excellent one.