12 April, 2010

Peter F. Hamilton: The Kind of Space Opera or Soap Opera?

Having just finished, in very short succession, both Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained and I can't decide if I absolutely love Peter F. Hamilton or if his prose is better suited to small screen mid-afternoon romances. There is certainly enough sex in his novels to qualify him for the second, more dubious honor.

 Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained were so engrossing and so filled with vivid detail that I couldn't help, one frantic run to the bookstore later, finish both books the same week. And these are both big books. Thanks for the recommendation Mark!

So, here is my dilemma. Mr. Hamilton's writing is solid, his characters just pop, and his back-story is flawless. To top it all off, he manages to make his action scenes feel like 3D blockbuster movies. Then again, it all gets a little repetitive and, sometimes, he seems to get a little bogged down in the details. A layer cake with too many layers if you will. Regardless. Given the few sparse facts I just gave you, I need help deciding whether Peter is a dorito or a pringle, a memorable pro or a cheap thriller.

I obviously know that there is a middle-ground, that he doesn't have to be one or the other. And yet, the whole thing rides the razor's edge between cheesy and epic - sometimes even explicitly playing with that very tension. Do you know what I'm talking about here or am I not making any sense? Robert Jordan or Terry Brooks?

To be fair, the Void trilogy that follows these two books is much more polished and dignified. Weird that a book can be dignified right, but its the best I can describe it. Most definitely, the relative absence of sex plays into that.

So, laying all this out has actually been very helpful. An internal monologue if you will that has helped me reach the following conclusion. Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained are two very good, very active books that are a strong example of a diligent imagination and sustained eloquence. Even so, they are early examples of Peter's talent and so should be appreciated in the overall framework of his oeuvre. QED

There we go, problem solved. Oh, and as a consequence I highly recommend both books. Space opera on a truly grand scale that will titillate the hard sci-fi fan with its ideas and execution. Also, the sheer number of characters a la Jordan will make the books an instant win for any epic fantasy fans... because you guys like lots of characters right?


Bryce L. said...

I really need to read Hamilton. The Void trilogy sounds really cool.

bloggeratf said...

It is Brice. Like I said, highly recommended, sex and all.

I just realized I made a typo in the title of the post... kind = king. Thanks Blake Charlton...

Anonymous said...

Alec - great to hear you loved them, very pleased at that :) Pandora's Star is my favourite PFH book and I've read it countless times, never once finding it tiring :)

It's definitely huge scale Space Opera though, even if it does border on soap opera at times.

You should really check out Fallen Dragon - a stand alone, which helps! I'm re-reading it again at the moment, 6th time I think. Also check out the Night's Dawn trilogy, Peter first venture into Space Opera and his biggest undertaking yet. Well worth the effort!

bloggeratf said...

Mark, that is a lot of rereads! I see where you are coming from though. He is sort of the Jordan of SF. I will get into those books once my TRB pile gets back to a reasonable size. Hamilton's books are just so big...

Anonymous said...

It is a fair few re-reads! I tend to pick his work up again when I need to read somethign I know I'll enjoy - plus it never seems to get old and even though I know the outcome I just love the storytelling :)

And yes, they are rather large!