on 23 March 2002
This anthology provides an excellent introduction to Hamilton if you have never read him before. In particular, since it is set in the "Night's Dawn" universe it is a good taster for anyone comtemplating reading the trilogy.
All the stories are good. Well written original plots with good characterisation and (usually) a satisfying twist in the tail.
"A Second Chance at Eden" is a sci-fi whodunnit posing an Asimov style problem: In a world where every action by every person is observed and recorded by an omnipresent computer, how do you commit the perfect murder? Unlike Hamilton's other whodunnit (Quantum Murder) the solution is suprising and unguessable.
"Candy Buds" reads like a future fairy tale until you come to the nasty twist at the end. And what more intriguing puzzle could there be than the abandoned alien space ship in "Escape Route"?
Hamilton demonstrates in this book that he is a worthy successor to the best of the "golden age" hard SF writers (clarke, asimov, heinlein etc)- no fantasy sorcerers or spells here. He combines new ideas and speculative technology with good characterisation typical of the best of contemporary writing.
In the mid-21st Century a brilliant geneticist named Wing-Tsit Chong creates the affinity gene. When spliced into human beings, it allows them to control bonded servitor animals with total accuracy. Humans fitted with the gene can also communicate with one another using the gene, which creates an effect similar to the old, mythical idea of telepathy. The affinity gene revolutionises science, and when combined with the growing industry of biological technology -bitek - it seems to promise a brighter, less technologically and materially-focused future for the human race. In 2090 the Jovian Sky Power Corporation begins mining helium-3 from the atmosphere of Jupiter and builds abitek space station, Eden, as a cheap alternative to a traditional but expensive hollowed-out asteroid habitat. Eden is given its own neural strata and its sentient mind can communicate with all of its inhabitants, and all of them with one another, forming the ultimateutopian society.
But change is hard for some to accept. The Reunified Christian Church is deeply concerned about the implications of bitek and affinity, for with the immediate reassurance of thousands of other human minds to any crisis or problem, people grow up better-adjusted and in less need of psychological reassurance. In short, they grow up with no need for faith in what cannot be seen or known. And that is a danger that no religion can ignore.
Spanning 530 years of history, the six short stories and the title novella that make up A Second Chance at Eden chronicle humanity's first faltering steps into space, the colonisation of other worlds and the huge schism along ideological and religious grounds that splits the human race in two, theAdamists and Edenists. The final story takes place thirty years before the events of Hamilton's vast and epic Night's Dawn Trilogy, and tells the story of the last voyage of the starship Lady MacBeth under Captain Marcus Calvert.
Peter F. Hamilton is best-known for his immense, brick-thick novels, themselves usually parts of trilogies or duologies of a truly epic and cosmic scale. However, he initially made his career in short stories, building up an impressive body of work in the six years prior to the publication of his first novel, Mindstar Rising, in 1993. Several of these stories were based around the fictional science of affinity, which he explored in different ways. After his popular story 'Candy Buds' was published he expanded the concept to novel-length, giving rise to the massive Night's Dawn story. In 1998 he revisited these early short stories, re-editing them to fit into the Confederation timeline a bit more neatly, and combined them with some new works to form this collection.
A Second Chance at Eden is excellent, showing Hamilton's skills are just as impressive, if indeed not moreso, when applied to the short form as to his mega-epics. The first story, 'Sonnie's Edge', shows the dark side of affinity as it is used for a rather unpleasant newbitek version of bear-baiting, with an absolute killer ending. The story's setting, Battersea in 2070, (with the vast domes of the London arcology we later see in The Naked God taking shape in the background) is vivid and impressive.
'A Second Chance at Eden' itself takes us to the Eden habitat in 2090. This murder-mystery novella is superb, showing the birth of the culture we will see in action close-up throughout the Night's Dawn Trilogy and examining the morality and ethics of the affinity technology when brought in sharp conflict with religious concerns. This is an intelligent story which, in the tradition of all good SF, brings complex ideas back back down to the human level.
'New Days, Old Times' is Hamilton's answer to why the colonies in the Confederation are ethnically-'streamed', instead of culturally integrated. We visit the planetNyvan (which plays a big role in the trilogy) and Hamilton's argument - that if different cultures, religions and societies are forced to live together on another world we will simply make the same mistakes all over again - is grimly persuasive. 'Candy Buds' is one of Hamilton's best-known short stories, set on Tropicana, the onlyAdamist world where bitek remains legal by the late 24th Century, where the richest man on the planet finds himself unusually touched by the plight of a young girl he was planning to exploit for her astonishing discovery. A dark story with a savagely clever ending.
'Deathday' is a superb slice of SF horror, as one of the last colonists ordered to leave the failed farming world of Jubarra pursues a destructive vendetta against a resident lifeform with destructive results. 'The Lives and Loves of Tiarella Rosa' is a curiously brutal and selfish kind of love story with a melancholic aspect, actually reminiscent of GRRM's 1970s SF work (such as 'A Song for Lya'). It's not quite as good as that due to a somewhat weird ending, but it's certainly a change of pace for Hamilton and works well for the most part.
'Escape Route' takes us to the last voyage of the Lady MacBeth under the captaincy of Joshua Calvert's father and explains exactly what happened to trash the ship so badly it was drydocked at Tranquillity for thirty years. This is an excellent SF story featuring some traditional tropes, such as the dubious passengers and an abandoned alien artifact in space, with a clever resolution. For fans of the trilogy, this story does fill in some gaps in thebackstory in an entertaining manner.
Overall, A Second Chance at Eden (****½) is an excellent collection of short SF. There are no really weak links and 'Sonnie's Edge', 'Deathday' and 'Escape Route' are all superb, whilst the title novella is nothing short of classic, showing the birth of a new human culture which is beyond normal human experience but in a manner that is convincing and even attractive: a sympathetic Singularity. Hamilton's handling of the religious element is also intelligent and interesting.
on 3 February 2004
There is not really a lot to add to what other reviewers have written - the stories are great and well written, (although perhaps not quite as well polished as Night's Dawn) and the characterisation is generally good: this is true of both those we might term heroes and those who could be villains, although in many places this becomes blurred. This is one of the best points, all the characters are human, with a mix of traits not just virtuously angelic or evilly demonic. Another good feature of this anthology, is that each story is truly distinct and individual. There are one or two links to the main work (Night's Dawn) but each story in Second Chance is written in slightly different styles and focuses on slightly different things, giving a full range between "Alien" at one extreme and "Caves of Steel" at the other.
on 28 April 2015
This collection of one novella and six short stories is truly extraordinary, wonderful and marvellous.
1. Sonnie's Edge - a short tale - clever, visceral, courageous, and tragic.
2. A Second Chance at Eden - novella - an achingly beautiful vision of who we might be, a return to the garden, full of life and joy and humanity and magic, presented and stitched together through a murder mystery. A triumph. A joy. Beautiful.
3. New Days Old Times - a rending of the fabric of good people's lives through old prejudices, a warning to us all to mature or suffer.
4. Candy Buds - a re-telling of Silas Marner, beautifully and powerfully rendered, full of life and magic.
5. Deathday - a story of agonising loss and revenge, of hatred which, as always, destroys both the hater and the hated.
6. The Lives and Loves of Tiarella Rosa - a wonderful tale of lives interwoven in the past and future, of redemption and love, seasoned with just a touch of the supernatural.
7. Escape Route - a straight sci-fi, space opera, cleverly constructed and a prequel in some ways to the Night's Dawn cast of characters.
In these stories, their variety and humanity, I am reminded of The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.
In my opinion, this is a masterpiece, Mr Hamilton's finest work to date.