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. ;)
on 3 October 2013
I really liked the sound of this book, the story caught my attention. The first 200 pages are hard work and I nearly gave up, essentially it feels like the author takes a while to get into his stride. Also the naming of every vehicle and technology is pretty tedious and not necessary. All that being said the book delivers a very reasonable read. The story flows and the plot is good. I wish the editor had been more brutal in the beginning, would have made this a much better book. It's not a classic and doesn't deliver as much as Alastair Reynolds does, but it is probably worth the space on your bookshelf.
on 5 January 2014
This is a monumental book in lots of ways, not just its length (1087 pages) or its size (slightly larger than a house brick), but also in the story that he writes here.
It starts with a murder, and the body that is fished out of the river is a North, a family of genetic clones, and this corpse has had all the identity markers removed. There are five puncture marks on the chest, and the heart has been shredded. The last people to die this way did so 20 years ago, on the colony of St Libra, and the woman who was tried for the murders is still in prison. So begins the most sensitive, and politically charged investigation of Sidney Hurst's career.
With the new murder, the HDA decide that they need to go back to St Libra and fully investigate the claim by Angela that the murders were committed by an alien. She is pulled from prison and sent through the gateway, essentially a wormhole, with a crack team of legionnaires and back to St Libra to find this entity.
And so starts this epic story. It flips between Newcastle, and St Libra and you follow the ebb and flow of the characters in their successes and failures. The people on St Libra start to conclude that the plant they are on is a bioformed planet, and the alien is there as a guardian. St Libra`s sun suddenly red shifts, sending the planet into a mini ice age, and the alien starts to eliminate the legionnaires in the group. Meanwhile back on earth the investigation into the murder has become a lot more complex and charged, and it starts to look like the fall out between two corporations, and the police are playing catch up.
Apart from the fact that this is enormous, and took even me a while to read, I really enjoyed it. He has created a pair of believable worlds, alien contact and a murder mystery thrown in for good measure. It doesn't get five stars as there are parts that I felt were superfluous to the main story, and probably could have been removed.
Hamilton manages to keep the tech believable, there are e-i systems that people have fitted within their body and are permanently connected to the net. There are lots of smart dust and meshes that the police use to track and monitor citizens. The society is well constructed too.
Interesting book, but the plot is so obvious I figured it out easily.
The book is really really long, but it should not be. It is too full of waffle, we don't need three pages desribing the groups breakfast.
I don't care, it is irrelevant.
This theme re-occurs constantly throughout the book and is a case of vastly severe over padding.
I have liked the authors work and kept up with this hoping for a surprise ending or a cunning twist. There is not one.
I like the idea, but quite honestly it's not up to par at all.
Should you buy it?
Nope, unless a super keen fan and desiring to read 900 pages that could be told in 200
on 18 February 2013
Having just gone through a bit of an epic fantasy-reading marathon few months (completing all of Martins' Song of Ice & Fire books, and Feists' Riftwar Saga), I fancied a bit of a sci-fi renaissance...
Great North Road wasn't it sadly.
In fact, I suffered a phenomenon whereby the story and writing weren't bad enough to stop me reading, but neither was the pace or plot good enough to really allow me to enjoy the time I spent turning the pages.
It turned in to a bit of a slog-fest in all honesty!
At the same time as buying this, I also downloaded "Dune" on the recommendation of a friend... so I spent the last 1/3 of this book rushing through in anticipation that the much lauded "Dune" will be the sci-fi epic I am craving!
Overall, GNR is not a bad book - the Newcastle-based detective storyline is enjoyable, and the futurised version of Newcastle was nicely described, and much of the technology Hamilton introduces sounds feasible and evolved of today's tech. That said, some of the 'names' he makes up for things are ridiculous and I rolled my eyes a few times when he's banding around made-up-jargon in every sentence.
The St Libra-based plot is less progressive and less enjoyable - full of a cast of likely fodder who you quickly care less about.
Too many times when the plot does start progressing, Hamilton drops you back years to build the backstory of the character in focus - and frankly much of the time it felt unnecessary.
It would've been good if Hamilton focused 70% of the book on the Newcastle stuff, did 20% in St Libra and 10% of character history if he really wanted...
Overall: Worth a read if you can forgive the ramblings and have the time - not a bad story, just a *bit* too long. A bit like this review really ^_^
...Now; on to Dune!!
on 1 March 2015
I really enjoyed this book. I have been a fan of Hamilton's for some time and this book does not disappoint. It starts a little differently and the Uk refrences are jarring at times but its a refreshing change, one I ultimately embraced.
A great romp thats gathers pace as you get into it. The characters are likeable and the story molds around them well. Its a long book but as ever with the worlds that Peter creates the end comes to soon. You want to join them on their adventures, hopefully Peter will give us an opportunity.
For a novel that combines thriller and science-fiction tale in one, read Hamilton's The Great North Road. Blending a detective story based in Newcastle and a wild alien chase across the twenty-second century planetary colony of St Libra, it is an anxiety-packed page-turner. I found this novel more compact and coherent, indeed, than the absorbing but sometimes sprawling Void trilogy. Even at 1,000+ pages, this doorstopper does not waste a line. At the same time, it (almost) achieves the imaginative range that makes earlier Hamilton books such good reading.
Space colonisation has begun: not by spaceship, but through teleportation gateways. St Libra is one of the new worlds, mined for a bio-fuel it would cost too much to produce on Earth. And atop the highly lucrative trade sits Northumbrian Interstellar and the North family, a multi-generation crowd of over two hundred clones. But a North has been murdered in the streets of Newcastle. The circumstances, moreover, recall a mass-killing that occurred twenty years before on St Libra, and in which the main suspect, Angela Tramelo, blamed an unlikely humanoid alien. Angela is promptly freed, but this is only to pack her off on a massive scientific and military mission to comb the vast and unforgiving St Libra jungle for the predator. Meanwhile, humanity is, on its new worlds, under assault from the un-definable Zanth, stellar-scale swarms that are neither animal nor mineral, nor perhaps even composed of ordinary matter, yet sweep whole worlds before them. On the Great North Road, both the old road to Newcastle, where detective Sidney Hurst is leading his investigation, and on the St Libra jungle path taken by Angela Tramelo, come to hang the fate of many more as the novel builds towards its multi-stranded, and utterly unexpected, denouement.
This novel is well written and should confirm Hamilton as a major science-fiction writer. What I like about Hamilton's novels, moreover, is that they offer a progressive vision of technology, a sober but in many ways positive peek at the future. In a sense, they are a return to the heroic era of science fiction, and they stand far from the gloomy dystopias that have become fashionable today. Biological enhancements have become available to humans. They can interface mentally with computer networks. Manufacturing has been made easy. At the same time politics remain as fraught as they ever are, and economic relations. And, wink, wink, Newcastle is situated in the state of Grande Europe and uses eurofrancs for currency. I am sometimes weary of buying the latest book from a popular author before having seen any reviews. But The Great North Road should appeal both to fans and to Hamilton newcomers.
on 27 December 2014
What a story, what a mind this story has come from. Peter F Hamilton I just wish I had one percent of your creative juices. This book is a monster coming in at over 1100 pages. I read every page, so titles I start to skim pages when the story starts to wain, but this behemoth is brilliant beginning to end. I couldnt believe my luck the other day when more of Hamiltons' books were 99p each on the Kindle deals, the Void series. Cant wait to get stuck into these
on 6 April 2016
I originally bought this book three years ago and have just finished re-reading it. At 1000+ pages it takes two readings to fully absorb it, it has a huge range with multiple threads across two main worlds and a few subsidiary ones. I'm giving it a 5 star rating but it could easily lose 200 pages without losing any of the action or story.
What I really like about this book is that at its heart its a murder mystery but one that seamlessly integrates with the future technology and sci-fi setting. I also like the fact its not US focussed. While there are many explorations of a technological singularity, one based on man-machine integration, downloading of souls or the like, this book is based around a biological singularity where an entire world can build to a single consciousness.
The action takes place a couple of hundred years in the future but there is enough connection to now to make it seem real. Its a world where everything is privatised, including the Police but the normal worries still exist, school, work, promotion and money. Its close enough to now that you can relate to it immediately and the technology deployed is realistic.
The technology is just there, no twisted or detailed explanations to get in the way of the plot. It also takes a 'grown up' view of politics and relationships, which I find deeper, more nuanced and more enjoyable than the usual sci-fi pulp fiction that I read.
I won't call this literature but its a very well written, detailed and believable story, I've enjoyed it twice now.
on 28 November 2012
Firstly, I'll state I'm a big fan of Peter's work, his previous SF really is top of the game British SF in a style that is currently without equal.
So I eagerly started this book with high expectations of more of the same...
Sadly, I felt a little let down with this one Peter.
The detective part started well but seemed to tail off as the story went on. The alien world "bug hunt" was pretty dull and tedious, lacking pace and bite. Finally, at the end, the grand reveal was just a bit...meh.
I don't mind a long book but this definitely seemed to drag by, with each session I spent reading it not seeming to have advanced the story much and in the end I felt like it was more of an endurance challenge than reading a rewarding story. Its not a "hard read", its easy to digest but just too tedious.
I'm sure Peter will be back with something new soon(ish) though and once again I know I will be pouncing on it eagerly but please, two strikes and you're out with me...