on 17 February 1999
This is the sequel to "The Reality Dysfunction" and now I've read it I can say its just as good. The story jumps straight into the midst of the action, and grips you by the throat right from the first page. Best of all is the way the author builds on the personality of the characters, making them more real, with their own lives and backgrounds. You can see each of them develop and change throughout the story, giving it an extra dimension, making you really care about the characters themselves. There are new elements introduced into the storyline as well, none of which I'm going to discuss here - you'll have to find out about these yourself. All I can say is that together they make this book an excellent sequel to the first, adding to the story not "cashing in" on the success of the first as so many sequels do. My advice is Buy it!!
on 2 December 2015
Massive tome, flaws in the science cunningly concealed by Hamilton's multi-faceted canvas of the future universe seeded from Earth and good action sequences, although he sometimes gets lost in his own rhetoric - but at his best you do get caught up in it. The central concept is good. The idea of resurrecting Al Capone as the arch-villain is ludicrous but "suspension of disbelief" carries you along with it. The obverse of the coin is that he tries to include too many varied groups of characters and sub-plots and both thins out the dramatic tension and loses the various threads - there are sometimes gaps of 200 pages between the last and next time you meet certain characters - Louise and Gen Kavanagh and Fletcher from Norfolk, for example, although personally the loss of that particular sub-plot was no great affliction - but he could have cut it out completely and tightened up the book by focusing on the better parts of the story. Ditto various other diversions. Not a problem, maybe, if you are a quick reader. But most of us have other lives to fit in between reading. No reflection on the dramatic denouement but you did sometimes get the feeling of the whole thing was in danger of collapsing under its own weight into a black hole. The glossary of characters at the end was helpful although annoyingly missing certain characters you needed reminding of. There were also longueurs. Space opera does not equate to sprawling mass for its own sake. Neither does purple prose and obscure adjectives (feculent?) equate to good writing. The loose ends not tied up at the end were pretty obviously geared to hooking fans to buy the next tome. But other writers have managed this much more deftly - not by annoying you with loose ends in the present plot but getting you interested in how the characters develop in the future. So I may get round to reading the next tome but I'm in no great hurry.
on 13 May 2014
In the reality Dysfunction, Hamilton took three quarters of the book to really set the scene for his Confederation, even after the possessed emerged, a large part was still simply world building and setting up new characters surprisingly late in the story, but as I have stated in the review, it doesn't feel like a standalone book, more like a really long novel that has been hacked into chunks for the reader's ease (and if you think it is profiteering, just try to read a book that's nearly 4000 pages long, a book which you are guaranteed to cry whilst reading, for you will almost certainly drop it on your foot. Repeatedly). Now that the opening act is out of the way, the story can proceed with gusto. Characters whom we thought weren't relevant suddenly are thrown to the forefront of events as Louise and madeline flee the possessed forces overrunning Norfolk (don't worry folks, this is a planet, not Norfolk England, Or Virginia) with the help of a certain Fletcher Christian, Al Capone returns from the grave and decides to become the first interstellar emperor, Josh Calvert is sent to track down Alkad Mzu after her dramatic escape from Tranquility and stop her vendetta involving the use of a Star-killing bomb, syrinx struggles to overcome the damage the possessed did to her shattered mind, a previously minor character by the name of Ralph tries to stop the Possessed overrunning a heavily populated world, Gerald Skibbow struggles for sanity in a mental Hospital, Thrakar struggles for sanity on a pirate ship, conscientious possessed attempt to save children from themselves, disgraced intelligence agents try to find Mzu, scientists struggle to interrogate a captured possessed, Dariat continues his Vendetta against Rubra.... and more!
If you haven't read the first book, you will have no idea what is going on throughout this one, as the plot picks up seconds after the previous one ends (so a back to back reading is likely required. I took a months gap and was almost lost, thankfully I got the Final entry before I finished this one). Again Hamilton gives us a vast, sweeping view of his universe, although this tie round his writing seems to have improved slightly, as he clumps several plot lines together into chapters, which makes the story feel slightly more cohesive. A few brilliant speeches are also made, and he takes time and effort to explore the consequences of the possession and the confirmation of life after death. He also makes a very clear point of refusing to draw the conflict in simple black and white lines, Having possessed acting in favour of humanity despite the fact that is completely against their interests to do so, and people aiding the possessed, often gleefully. The Possessed and Normals have their own factions working against each other, and there are even a few mysterious, shadowy factions at play. The storyline is even more complex than the first, but it works extremely well, and is a very intelligent and gripping read, that unfortunately needs a notebook to keep track of all the plots.
on 17 February 2014
Far in the future Humans have spread, living on hundreds of worlds, inside millions of asteroids and even gargantuan, genetically engineered living, sentient bitek habitats. Travelling between them in starships or their living bitek counterparts the voidhawks and blackhawks.
Some people have even adapted themselves, able to interface with these habitats, ships and even each other using the affinity gene, at death they can upload themselves to the habitat creating a general consensus. Here all can interact, have their say and make decisions on every event around them. Some are even bonded directly to the habitats and ships. The Edenists.
Others use technology instead of genetics, Neural Nanonics hard-wired to the brain, creating the abitlity to interface directly with technology around them. The Adamists.
Some have refused all such "tampering" as against their religious orientations, living pastoral lives adhering to the teachings of their Gods.
Peacefully co-existing together....... almost.
When a member of a deviant devil worshipping cult on Earth is sentenced to a colony world to serve time as an indentured worker, He gains control of the other convicts and deceives the colonists, earning him enough freedom in order to practice his dark worship.
For billions of years it and it's kind have travelled the universe, logging all they encounter as, for them, knowing is everything.
A being of pure thought with no mass or size, yet an almost infinite "storage" capacity comes across one of these barbaric rituals, it perceives an unknown energy flow between victim and torturer, in an effort to KNOW what this energy is, it places itself in the flow and all HELL breaks loose!
The dead are somehow set free to possess the living!
The most depraved lunatics human history has to offer, released from a state of perpetual limbo, where all they have is the experience and memories they can tear from each other in the darkness. Now they are back and intend to stay here forever.
Along with them they bring the ability to change their physical form, manifest objects at will, disrupt electronics, shoot elemental fire at will and even distort the very fabric of space to their needs and desires.
Can the diverse human race defeat the dead?
Can they accept that death is not the end of existence?
Is this absence of everything all life has to offer at it's inevitable end?
Afterwards comes darkness and nothing......?
on 28 April 2013
Having gone through the first book in this series, I was very excited to be starting this second one. I still think that the first book (The reality dysfunction) is the best book I've ever had the pleasure of reading. This second book however is just as excellent in almost every way.
The story spreads out a bit more as more and more confederation worlds and outposts fall victim to the reality dysfunction. We meet a lot of new characters and some new story arcs develop.
The first few chapters of the book really gets you gripped with the events on ombey. The story is brilliantly written, with tremendous edge of your seat action, drama and suspense. This may be a SciFi novel but the meshing together of many other genre elements such as horror and non stop action are brilliantly done.
The political aspects are also equally interesting as we see the different confederation colonies come together to try and establish a method to deal with the reality dysfunction.
The pursuit of MZU also plays a pivotal part to the story, as we learn more and more of her secret doomsday device and her intentions become clearer. We meet even more new characters and see even more new worlds as she makes her way towards her date with the alchemist.
The possessed also become a lot more organised, as a visionary, charismatic and bold new persona emerges to take command and create what he calls 'the organisation'.
Then there's also the adventures of syrinx. And Joshua Calvert. And off course there's the events on valisk. We also continue to follow the Norfolk girls in their adventure. The evil intent of Quin Dexter also becomes more clearer and dangerous.
The book is packed full of goodness established from the first book, as well as a lot of new and equally brilliant worlds, characters and story arcs.
The style of writing is again a pleasure to the eye, with on point story telling and a natural effortless pace throughout. I never got bored of this or the first book.
Overall this is another excellent title from Peter F. Hamilton. I can only highly recommend.
on 18 September 2013
There was a lot more to the Capone organisation/invasion and characters than I remember from the first time I read this book. It was great!
The human race are so unprepared for such a threat and are struggling to resist in any meaningful way. It's a terrible situation they find themselves in and many people are struggling to come to terms with 'the beyond.'
There's action, politics, lots of different points of view (the posessed and different factions within the human race, military/civilian) and a nice much more easy going story line with Louise and Genevieve as they try to make their way to Tranquility and Joshua, which I really enjoyed.
Dr. Alkad Mzu is causing a lot of trouble and lots of things happen within that particular slice of story line. I enjoyed learning about the 'plan' she had schemed 30 years ago and about the people who were involved at that time. It was also interesting reading about the survivors of the destruction of her world and the next generation who were not born on the planet and only knew about what happened 2nd hand.
Another great book by Peter F Hamilton. I enjoyed it very much.
If I was going to be picky I would say the first book Reality Dysfunction was slightly better. However both are 5 stars and brilliant books.
This really is a very solid piece of work from a master of the genre. Hamilton builds a great deal of momentum and tension in the first of the trilogy (The Reality Dysfunction) and then expands and entwines a myriad of plots in "The Neutronium Alchemist" in a manner that really defies description. To be harsh, it can be a little heavy going in places, but one of the strongest points about the entirety of the work is that Hamilton respects the intelligence of his readers. There are no contrived "if only..." moments, no point at which you will witness a character do anything recklessly stupid for the sake of a plot. Not at all. These are very real, flawed, vulnerable and believable characters all desperately clinging on to a roller-coaster that's way out of control.
This is the work of a master story-teller in action. No, it's not a light-weight book, it's a tome. But it will reward you with a wonderfully intricate, complex and beautifully realised story. Dark, cerebral, hard going in places, but worth it.
on 26 January 1999
Part two of the saga and the tension continues to mount. There is a sense of helpless inevitability as the Possessed continue to breach the gap between the dead and the living. How can any society withstand such an overwhelming attack on the preconception that death is final, let alone deal with a physical assault by the dead?
Peter Hamilton is a consummate writer. His skill lies in his ability to develop and maintain all his characters throughout a constantly twisting and ever more convoluted plot. Having said that, he does not succumb to the temptation of sacrificing the plot to further his characters development, thereby allowing the story to run its course without too many miracles or last minute rescues. On a number of occassions I found myself putting the book down because I did not want to find out what was going to happen - but not for long, I always had to return to the story.
He has also, in my opinion, created a very believable universal order. He has produced societies and technologies that are conceivably the product of our current society. The split between Adamists and Edenists echoes the sentiments of our current growing dilemma with genetics. He also bows to the inevitability of the super-corporation and the probable reality that, ultimately, money will motivate our colonization of the stars. He has kept away from the utopias or lawless free-for-alls of other galaxy-colonizing authors and has written about a culture that has left Earth from a variety of motivations and using different technologies. This diversity makes his universe that much more believable as it mirrors our own historic development.
He also steers clear of blinding the reader with too much futuristic mumbo-jumbo science. Where an explanation is clearly required the description is short and simple, using the minimum of jargon and leaving the reader with a belief that his inventions could be real. This is a useful skill for any science fiction author to develop as it leaves the reader with a sense of superiority accompanied by the thought that, "hey, I understand what he's talking about!".
It is difficult to talk about specifics without giving too much of the plot away, but we get to follow the continuing stories of those who survived The Reality Dysfunction, along with the introduction of some intriguing new characters and some really nasty surprises.
If you devoured the first book, you will have no trouble with the second. My only plea is that Peter Hamilton and his publishers don't leave us in suspense for too long and produce Book 3 as soon as possible.
on 5 February 2011
This improves a little on the previous instalment "The Reality Dysfunction", but still suffers from many of the same problems.
It is far, far longer than necessary (or desirable). There are too many characters and sub-plots that the narrative jumps between, seemingly at random. There is an excess of descriptive prose, of quite irrelevant details. The characters are fairly 2 dimensional. The pacing is poor - frequently, as the story becomes compelling, the narrative jumps to a different sub-plot and does not return for some time.
The reason this merits 3 stars is that there is still an intriguing, even epic, story in there somewhere; and the above faults are slightly less intrusive than in the first book. The dull parts are not generally as lengthy. The author even manages to maintain the interest for sustained periods on occasion. I did have to skim read large parts of the text, however, in order to make reading this an enjoyable experience.
on 1 April 2013
I read the first instalment of the trilogy and thought, interesting ideas and some good characters but did it really need to be 1200 pages long. But I kept going and, not surprisingly it had no real end so...on to the second instalment. I can understand why people like the writing and I felt compelled to continue, at least for a while. But why does PFH not have an editor. Someone to say ENOUGH. Too many parallel story lines, too many characters, loads of ideas that go no where...I could go on. Page 563 was where I gave up. Respect to anyone who had made it through all three books. Life is too short. And Al Capone back from the dead. Really? That's really the best you can do? Well no, actually it isn't, because Great North Road is a cracking read and one I would recommend highly. If you value your sanity and your time then this book and its counterparts are not for you.