The term "space opera" has evolved over the decades. Originally it meant "hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn, spaceship yarn" (Wilson Tucker), but since then it has come to be (slightly) less pejorative, encompassing any sci-fi action story on an interplanetary or interstellar scale. The Reality Dysfunction
rests firmly in the space- opera camp with its intense starship combat, roguish space captains and raw frontier planets, but Peter Hamilton keeps the formula fresh and up-to-date with an infusion of "modern" science fiction technology. His universe is digitally and nanotechnologically savvy, which opens up plenty of possibilities for new perils and plot twists.
It is the late 26th century and humanity's thriving culture spans 200 planets. The usual squabbles and disagreements continue, but generally everyone gets along and lives well as humanity's outward expansion continues apace. On newly colonized Lalonde, though, a strange force emerges from the jungle, lobotomizing people and turning them into super-powered soldiers. At the same time, the story of Joshua Calvert emerges. He's the young captain of a trading ship, who innocently travels to Lalonde and becomes embroiled in the mysteries there. Both threads have plenty of action and exotic scenery. Peter Hamilton's descriptive prose, particularly in action sequences, is breathtaking (and scientifically accurate), creating a dramatic backdrop for a story where the stakes keep getting higher, the villains keep growing more evil and the heroes keep surviving--but only just. Space-opera fans will enjoy this deftly written and engaging novel. Those who feel they don't like the genre might give this example a try to see just how unhacky, ungrinding, sweet-smelling, and robust it can be. --Brooks Peck
In AD 2600 the human race is finally beginning to realize its full potential. Hundreds of colonized planets scattered across the galaxy host a multitude of prosperous and wildly diverse cultures. Genetic engineering has pushed evolution far beyond nature’s boundaries, defeating disease and producing extraordinary spaceborn creatures. Huge fleets of sentient trader starships thrive on the wealth created by the industrialization of entire star systems. And throughout inhabited space the Confederation Navy keeps the peace. A true golden age is within our grasp. But now something has gone catastrophically wrong. On a primitive colony planet a renegade criminal’s chance encounter with an utterly alien entity unleashes the most primal of all our fears. An extinct race which inhabited the galaxy aeons ago called it “The Reality Dysfunction”. It is the nightmare which has prowled beside us since the beginning of history. ‘Absolute vintage science-fiction. Hamilton puts British sci-fi back into interstellar overdrive’ The Times