Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review: The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F Hamilton

One of my favorite science fiction books of all time is Pandora's Star by Peter F Hamilton, with the sequel, Judas Unchained, a fairly close second. A duology within a group of books labeled The Commonwealth Saga, it's hard sci-fi that doesn't really try to forget about the human elements, and invites a lot of cool ideas that go along with the overall theme.

The companion books, the Void trilogy, I couldn't get into. It was less of what I liked in a hard sci-fi book, especially given what I loved about the two prior books, and more about some fairly out-there ideas and concepts that left me a little cold. It wasn't really Hamilton, it was me.

So what do you get when you get a new series of books with people and concepts from both Commonwealth tales? It's ultimately mixed.

There's a lot going on, and it's almost not really worth recapping in some senses. There are names and faces that readers of the old books will remember, but the tale is centered at least in part around Nigel, who we first met in Pandora's Star. He's been recruited to infiltrate The Void (first introduced in the Void trilogy, naturally) and what he learns there is more than what was initially bargained for.

I have to say that my memory of this book is quite shaded from where it ends as opposed to how it begins. I really disliked a lot of the setup, as it relied ultimately on a lot more Void information and setting than I really was looking for. Once we get some information on what's going on and how it's being addressed, however, it becomes a lot more clear and a lot more enjoyable. It's still a highly imperfect read, but it saves itself with the setup for the future.

I sometimes feel like Hamilton is trying to ape Heinlein in many regards, especially with issues of sexuality and Grand Ideas. I pretty much end up wishing he'd just do what works for me, which is why this is partially my problem, but this book is ultimately a little too convoluted for what I wanted to see from a science fiction book or from Hamilton. Meanwhile, you probably wouldn't reach for this book without having at least sampled his other Commonwealth books first, so you would have a good idea as to what you're getting into.

Overall, be cautious, but know what's coming.

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