Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Dreaming Void by Peter F Hamilton

Set 1500 years after the last book in his Commonwealth Saga, we are well into the 35th century. Humanity has completed a circumnavigation of the galaxy which has revealed a surprising feature; the heart of our galaxy contains not a super massive black hole, but an immense artificial construct called the Void.

The void powers itself through the consumption of stars. Every so often the Void enters an expansion phase, gobbling up thousands of stars at once. This is something other races in the galaxy are keen to avoid.

One quirk of the void is that humans have somehow been able to enter. This is known only through the Dreamer, who goes missing at the beginning of this novel. The Dreamer was sharing the experiences of someone living in the Void, a strange experience, as it is almost a fantasy world existence. The dreams told throughout the book are in marked contrast to everything else.

As usual with a Hamilton book, the vision of the future is perfectly believable. This is quite a feat, to take us over a millennium past the previous events. Thanks to rejuvenations and a virtual existence, some of the characters from the previous books do appear. I won’t spoil things by saying who. For now.

Humanity’s progress has not remained still since the previous book (which it could never plausibly do). The purpose of some mysterious artefacts and species encountered in Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained, such as the High Angel, are now well known. Events of the war fought are in the past, but have left their mark. Planets targeted by the invasion detailed in those two books have still not recovered, but the search for the dead of over a millennium ago continues as the hope of re-life remains.

With a faction of humanity consumed with the idea of a pilgrimage to the Void, other species are concerned this will lead to a new expansion phase, and doom everyone. Things are also complicated with the appearance of a Second Dreamer, who gives a different insight into the Void.

Factions of ANA: Governance, the virtualised ruling body, compete with one another to realise their aims, either to aid or abet the planned pilgrimage, events move quickly to a deadlier phase.

Once again Peter Hamilton has given us an amazing yet believable view of a potential future. A very different yet still comprehensible human society, with characters whose flaws and virtues are all too familiar. In my somewhat hyperbolic view, Peter Hamilton is the leading science fiction author today.

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