07 October, 2010

Review: The Evolutionary Void, by Peter F. Hamilton

The Evolutionary Void [US][UK], by Peter F. Hamilton, was one of my most anticipated releases in 2010. It is the conclusion of his Void trilogy and one of the best, if not the best space opera I have read this year. Few authors can compete with Peter when it comes to staging events on a galactic scale and in the Evolutionary Void Peter proves that fact once again.

Similar in heft to the recently released The Way of Kings, the novel is set in a far distant future where humanity spans the stars. At the galactic boundary, humans and aliens both observe the event horizon of an expanding micro-galaxy which is consuming space at terrifying speed. Far from being a natural occurrence, the micro-galaxy is the creation of a race long extinct. Inside, the laws of physics are suspended and thought is given physical form. Telekinesis, telepathy, and the ability to travel in time are staples of this micro galaxy.

Humanity is shepherded by a sentient artificial intelligence - ANA - which borders on the divine. As humans move past the physical stage of their existence, they are permitted to 'download' into ANA, where they are freed from their biological constraints. Within ANA, humans are divided into political parties. Some are fairly harmless, while others, such as the Advancers, seek to force humanity and ANA to evolve towards an entirely post-physical existence.

In terms of tone and texture, Peter's narrative is very much akin to that of Richard Morgan after stretching the canvas. Takeshi Kovacs would be right at home were his story to be a thread in Peter's world. The technology and general disposition of the human race, even the social issues raised by both authors, are, if not similar, then largely complimentary. The principal difference between the two is simply one of focus.

All in all, The Evolutionary Void was not as amazing as its two predecessors. It was good, it had all the right elements, but it also felt a bit rushed. My most pronounced complaint is that the ending was more of a dismissal than a resolution, clearly leaving Peter room to build another trilogy set after the Void. You can't resolve the fate of the galaxy in just three chapters Peter! Especially after such a tactful buildup, readers will be expecting a much more 'epic' final conclusion.

Generally speaking though, read the Void trilogy. I can't imagine any reader of this blog not, at the very least, seeing why it is a great series. From action to sex all the way through to awesomely advanced technology - which makes the sex even more interesting - the Void trilogy and Commonwealth Saga as a whole have it all. Recommended to the point where I would have to smack you a little if you thought you didn't need to read this. Enough said.

Reviewing the final book in a trilogy is never an easy task. My brief introduction is sure to spoiler a couple of chapters in the first two books, even after trying to be as vague as possible. All I can say is that the Void trilogy is highly recommended. You don't even have to rely on my word alone. Adam, the resident blogosphere expert on Hamilton's work, also had similar thoughts in his review of the Evolutionary Void.

Where to Start?

The task of catching readers up on The Dreaming Void and the Temporal Void for the purpose of this review is an impossibility. These are expansive volumes of some of the best space opera I have ever enjoyed. In fact, even starting with The Dreaming Void is probably not recommended. Readers are encouraged to acquaint themselves with Peter's characters in some of his earlier works in the Commonwealth Universe... starting with Pandora's Star.


Unknown said...

I have a lot of Hamilton's books on the shelf begging to be read but, I just haven't found the time to get into them yet. May have to move them up the pile.

Great review as always.

Jamie Gibbs said...

Oh damn, I've got the evolutionary void to read but I've not read any Hamilton before this. This may be a tough one to get through (I'll leave it till later on my reading pile)