The Naked God Peter F Hamilton
(Macmillan, £20, 1174 pages, hardcover). October 1999. Cover by Jim Burns. (Published in two volumes in the US by Warner Aspect.)
Young Jay Hilton awakens in the middle of the night - the children's ward is being evacuated. Jay knows what is happening immediately. She is, after all, in mental contact with the alien Kiint. The evacuation can mean only one thing: the possessed are coming. Will the Kiint save her...?
Within a few pages (available elsewhere in infinity plus) we're back in the thick of it. In a mere 1200 pages Peter F Hamilton must answer the questions he set in The Reality Dysfunction and The Neutronium Alchemist, primarily:
And, riding over all of these questions, the meta-question: will Hamilton counter the inevitable disappointment of questions being answered? After all, SF is at its best when it asks the difficult questions and perhaps at its weakest when it answers them. Look at any great SF novel from 20, 40, 60 years ago and many of the questions are still valid, yet the answers can often just look silly. So volume three of an SF trilogy is often the weakest link.
Suffice to say that yes, Hamilton pulls it off.
A book like this barely needs reviewing: it's here, it's up to the standard the author has set himself and it neatly ties up the series. If you're not familiar with the Night's Dawn trilogy, you should read the reviews of the first two volumes and then start with The Reality Dysfunction; if you are familiar with it, you hardly need advising to buy this book.
The trilogy is high SF near to its peak: grand, interstellar space adventure crammed with ideas and action. Hamilton's prose style, perhaps, rarely rises above the functional, and this future history, for all its cosmopolitanism that is only superficially implied by the diversity of names, is a very English future, but who cares? The three books would make one hell of a back-to-back read. How long before Macmillan bring out the omnibus edition, I wonder?
One unanswered question does remain, however. The space habitat on the cover looks disturbingly like Sylvester the Cat looking for Tweetie Pie -- a subplot not even hinted at in the book. Why is this? I think we should be told.
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© Keith Brooke 8 January 2000