Top positive review
48 people found this helpful
on 6 October 2012
If "Game of Thrones" can be turned into a TV series then I think Peter Hamilton's latest novel should be turned into a show too. The Great Road North is an excellent story: imaginative, clever, and well paced; it blends sci-fi with crime, horror, doomed romance, and a bit of political/action thriller. I had been looking forward to this book since reading the plot summary several months ago and I was not disappointed. To me, a long-time fan, it seemed like he had gone through all his previous novels, cherry picked the best elements and weaved them all together.
Talking of weaving, one of the most enjoyable and challenging things about Hamilton is tying his story threads back together using the limited (but very deliberate) clues he writes in before the plot is revealed. I got a fair few, but some of them eluded me until about page 930... It's always fun trying to guess, but I don't think I'll ever be able to call him predictable.
Another thing I really enjoyed was the way he wrote against a believable background, speculating on where modern science and technology might take us and describing how people will live in the near future; think Michio Kaku but with verve, humour, and a lot of very British style. Of course with sci-fi it has to go a little bit further and we have seemingly implacable aliens, spaceships and strange planets. However, unlike the Void trilogy, it doesn't stray into fantasy; believability makes this story more accessible.
Of course Hamilton already has a great reputation for his story-telling skills, but I think that with Great North Road he has improved his writing style. Recent novels have had a large cast of characters, which often led to uneven coverage. In this novel he has concentrated on the key characters and they all come across strongly: Angela the tough girl with a mysterious background; Vance the zealous Human Defence Agency colonel; and Sid the cunning detective. The secondary characters like Ian, Saul and Rebka are also much more fleshed out than their counterparts in his other novels.
Some readers might find the length off-putting here, but if as an author you're going to conjure up an epic story then you might as write it out in full. Which takes me back to my first point: it's about time some of our best writers got their stories on screen, not just to dispel the myth that British sci-fi is all about histrionic blokes in police boxes and supermarionation puppets, but also to show that it can compete with the best of the stuff beaming across the Atlantic. It would be great if TV producers took notice of novels like this.
However, having praised it so thoroughly, there was one small problem with this book:- I don't see how he can top it. ;)