Top positive review
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This certainly lays down the gauntlet for other sci-fi writers.
on 5 October 2008
Hamilton continues his story of humanity in the 36th century, leading his cast of bio-engineered characters across vividly imagined worlds into impossible situations that even their advanced technology and knowledge cannot protect them from.
The book begins with the Commonwealth facing dual external threats from an invading alien fleet and an expansion of the mysterious sun-eating "Void". Internally various factions are becoming increasingly brazen in their struggle to to advance their belief systems and gain control of people who can communicate with those living in the Void. However, the bulk of this book concentrates on recounting Inigo's dreams of life in the Void, a fantasy tale following the adventures of Edeard and his friends as they struggle against the gangs of Makkathran.
As usual, Hamilton's skill with imaginative composition of the sci-fi elements is excellent. The fantasy element is also very good. The split between these two elements is good insofar as the Void storyline could stand on its own, but it does limit coverage of the rest of the characters (there are about ten squeezed into a third of the book).
There are occasionally small spoilers which foreshadow events in Edeard's storyline. In some ways these enhance the suspense, in others they spoil it a bit and make some of the twists less shocking. However, the twists were still enjoyable with various clues about the factions' agendas slowly woven together... to leave us waiting for the next book.
I was not expecting this to extend to a trilogy and I'm a bit puzzled (in a good way) about how he's going to find enough material for a same-sized third book. On the other hand, this does seem to take the story away from a worrying deus ex machina ending, which is good (the mysterious Commonwealth "deterrent fleet" is surely a nod to critics).
This is well done, and he has certainly taken criticism over certain elements to heart. Most of the main cast are well fleshed out, the author using our knowledge of them from Judas Unchained to avoid starting over. However, the imbalance in coverage hurts some of the secondary characters and some of them don't come across particularly well. I suspect the spot light will focus on them more in the next instalment.
Overall this is an enjoyable page-turner. Inventive, stylishly written, and even emotive (I still can't believe she did that to him!).