on 22 February 2009
As a suggestion it's probably best to read the three novels in the series back to back, or at least with minimal intermissions. The vast numbers of underdeveloped cut-and-paste characters tended to blend together after a while, and I spent a good proportion of this final novel trying to remember events in the previous instalment (read about a year previously) and who these individuals who appear with no introduction actually were.
Even more than before, The Naked God reads like a collection of a dozen or so sensibly-sized novels thrown up in the air and the chapters shuffled into random order. On the down side, that did leave me wishing that the author wouldn't keep switching away from a plotline as I was just getting into it, but on the other hand it did create an sense of anticipation and a desire to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next.
Anyway, having enjoyed the first two books I knew what to expect, but I soon discovered that it was starting to turn into a soap opera with each return to a familiar scenario giving me my momentary fix before hauling me off somewhere else without very much having occured. I also found myself becoming increasingly alarmed as the number of pages remaining started to shrink with no sign of an impending conclusion, or indeed any indication that the plot had any intention of wrapping up. So the fact that the ending was rushed was not a surprise - the fact that it was so implausible and unsatisfying undoubtedly was. As others have suggested, the author seemed to have tied himself in knots with no way to untangle the various strands of plot without using a big pair of scissors.
Anyway, despite the lingering disappointment, and despite the impression I may have given up to now, I did enjoy the majority of this book and definitely the series as a whole - I just wish the author hadn't let it slip so far out of his control.
on 26 May 2000
...right up until the very end, when the 'deus ex machina' conclusion (and it's too-neat tying up of loose ends) spoiled it all.
Which is a shame, because up 'til then this had been an almost faultless series -- right up there with Julian May's 'Many-coloured Land' saga as my all-time favourite sci-fi.
Still well worth reading the trilogy though.
on 4 January 2011
I assume, given that you are reading a review of the third volume of a trilogy, that you have already read the first two volumes (and that you at least quite liked volume 1). Which means you will know who Joshua Calvert and Quinn Dexter are. So I wonder if you'll agree with me that these two central characters significantly weaken the series? For me, Joshua is almost a caricature of a space opera hero - God's gift to women, a tad caddish but good at heart, a maverick and a brilliant pilot. While Dexter is just too bad to be "true" - a supervillain, dedicated to evil for its own sake and apparently impossible to defeat without some pretty jaw-dropping alien intervention.
Yet even with these serious flaws I found the overall series and this final volume addictive. I was interested in most of the interweaved plot lines (in so far as I could keep up with them - huge tales like this should not only have a Who's Who at the end but it should also be page referenced so you can remind yourself of what the characters were doing when they last appeared) and I was wondering, quite near the end, just how Hamilton was going to tie them all off. He does it cleverly, but bizarrely in such a giant book, he does it in a bit of a rush. Great fun anyway, and if you fit the description above you should definitely finish off the trilogy.
As well as being the final novel in the colossal Night's Dawn Trilogy, The Naked God is probably the single largest science fiction novel ever written (excluding Atlas Shrugged, depending on if you want to argue that as SF or not), coming in at an eye-watering 1,150 pages in length. In hardcover. That's 200 pages longer even than its two huge forebears, and it has to be said the flagging pace of the book probably owes a lot to that fact.
That said, The Naked God carries on the storylines left hanging at the end of The Neutronium Alchemist without interruption and, to use a rather lazy reviewing phrase, if you enjoyed the first two books I suspect you'll also enjoy the third. Numerous plot threads are in motion, and Hamilton deftly moves us between New California, Ombey, Valisk, Norfolk, Tranquillity, Earth, Trafalgar and other worlds with confidence and ease. However, he also has to time all his story threads to converge at the same point, which results in a number of middling problems contributing to the book's great length. Most notably, there's a discernible amount of filler in this book. Whilst it's great to finally get a detailed look at the ecologically devastated Earth with its population squeezed into immense domed cities, seeing Louise check into a hotel and get some neural nanonics does slow down the story at the exact moment it should really be gearing up for a thunderous climax. Instead, the story jumps around haphazardly, with an inordinate amount of chapters for the Valisk story given that very little happens in it but not much coverage at all of Joshua and Syrinx's mission, which should really be the dominant plot thread of the novel. Also, whilst an effective antagonist in the first two novels, Quinn Dexter's over-the-top villainy in this third volume does reduce him to a bit of a cartoon figure whom it is hard to take seriously. Hamilton should really not have given him the superpowers he did at the end of Book 2 (including virtual indestructibility), as they make his chapters somewhat tiresome. Indestructible characters, good or bad, make for dull reading.
Elsewhere, the book is as well-written as the rest of the trilogy has been, with a welcome strong return for the horror elements present in Book 1 but largely missing from the second book. There are also more big battles in space and on land, and a strong philosophical streak running through the book about the morality and application of warfare. Hamilton definitely seems to be having fun tweaking the noses of his American space opera counterparts, who all too readily resort to solving their problems with lasers and nukes, whilst he gets his characters to think their way out of their problems instead (although sometimes with the odd maser barrage as well, just to keep things colourful). There's also some nice ideas about consequences and choices and responsibility, although given the number of people moaning that the book and the ultimate solution to the reality dysfunction crisis doesn't involve a fusillade of antimatter explosions, perhaps this doesn't get across to the reader entirely successfully. Most notably, Hamilton has said the trilogy should have been called Joshua's Progress, as it is his (well-handled) character evolution and development which brings him to the point where a solution to the crisis can be found. Unfortunately, in The Naked God Joshua actually takes a bit of a back-seat to proceedings and is merely one among many, many POV characters, meaning his sudden importance to the plot in the final chapter is rather jarring.
There's some excellent characterisation in the book. As well as Joshua, characters like beleaguered General Ralph Hiltch and Louise also develop in interesting and unforeseen ways. As with the previous book it does feel like Dariat and the Valisk story are somewhat superfluous, with their actual contributions to the overall plot (the hellhawks in Book 2 and the melange - not the Dune kind - in Book 3) not really justifying the immense length of their narrative.
That brings us to the ending, which on one level is epic, cosmic and genuinely impressive. It is also rather too neat, and Hamilton is probably a little bit too exacting in detailing 'what happened next' to the characters, right down to a minor car thief arrested at the start of Book 2 (although that bit is quite funny). It isn't a totally perfect ending, and he does leave one huge 'plot bomb' waiting to explode which could be followed up on in future books, but in this age where slightly more ambiguous endings are all the rage Night's Dawn does feel like it dots all the 'i's and crosses all the 't's a little too pedantically. Also, whilst the ending isn't a deus ex machina at all, it is certainly brought about by a plot device, which some readers have found anti-climatic. I found it worked quite well.
The Naked God (****) is the weakest book in The Night's Dawn Trilogy, as conclusions often are, but it is still mostly well-written and characterised, with fun action sequences and an impressively thoughtful air to proceedings that will hopefully get the reader to think about some of the issues raised. The book is available now in the UK and USA.
on 25 October 1999
First, I have to say that the first two books in this trilogy are among the best books I have ever read.... Secondly, judged on its own merits, The Naked God is also a very competent work, on of the better SciFi novels of recent years. It's just when you compare the excellence of the first two with the seemingly hurried approach of the third that it seems lacking. I had some problems with number three... I didnt buy a lot of the ideas: anti memory seemed to be a little too convenient and underexplained. The resolution of the Al Capone saga was ... um... unresolved. The introduction of the new Xenocs (the Mosdva) was unnecessary. The final resolution was way too simple. Characters that were pivotal in the first two books became background (Alkad Mzu, Fletcher Christian). The possesed seemed hopelessly underpowered compared to the indesctructable superbeings of the first book. And for some reason, the whole "dark realm" part just left me feeling unsatisfied.
But having said that, for all its faults, I really enjoyed the Naked God. I liked the "what happened to tranquility?" revelation, I liked the Kiint details, I liked the humanising of the possesed. I kind of liked the final fate of the confederation, though it might have been brought about in a more "trying" fashion. The Mortenridge Liberation was handled superbly as were the earth sections.
Unlike most people seemingly, I liked the epic scope and countless numbers of characters and plotlines. The major fault I would say was the fact I got to page 1000 with no resolution in sight, then in the space of 100 pages the whole trilogy was wrapped up.
on 18 November 1999
Having enjoyed the first two parts of the trilogy a great deal, I came to the third part with great trepidation and excitement. I had had to put off the reading of it for a month because I had gone on holiday. On my return I picked it up from Waterstones in Brighton and started to read it on the train home. Hamilton has a significant talent for taking you out of yourself. I was instantly back in the universe I had enjoyed so much before. I finished the book in 11 days, which for me is an amazing pace (it took me a month to read the Neutronium Alchemist, and I could hardly put that down!)
Overall I think it is an amazingly good read, truly unputdownable, but as the novel progressed I did find myself increasingly disappointed. I thought the ending was too easy, too trite, with everything tied up too neatly, and too nicely. The homily about why people end up in the beyond made me cringe. I think it a shame, that the ending does come across as rushed. Tho' the ending wasn't inconsistent with what had gone on before I do get the impression that Hamilton could have gone on for another 1000 pages had he wanted to or had been contracted to. And that is where the other disppointment derives - the sense of relentlessness of plot. I love plot/story/narrative or whatever you want to call it, but by the end I was gasping for something more...
Anyway, I look forward to his next one with great anticipation nevertheless!
on 14 August 2013
Read the Great North Road and as people had said this was better worked through the trilogy. Overly long with a lot of superfluous characters.
About mid-way through as another tedious plot-line dragged on, i ended up reading it just to get to the end and get it over. i didn't really care any more and just wanted to get it over with. the real "deus ex" part was probably less the Sleeping God but Quinn's useful ability to become invisible - the latter part of the story on Earth relied heavily on there being no way to detect him and it was a clunky and never-justified plot device.
the deus ex machina ending had been trailed so early in the first book it came as no great suprise or sense of wonder. characters felt very two-dimensional - and lacked nuances "heroic" "plucky" "evil" "good" "weak" etc. so it was hard to have any real sense of engagement with the vast majority of them.
Half as many characters, half the length and twice as much effort to produce a good ending required.
on 9 November 2000
When I first saw the size of "The Reality Dysfunction" (part one of this trilogy (Night's Dawn)) I was a bit wary about buying such a large book by an author I didn't know. It turned out to be a great decision. I couldn't put the book down. Even with so many characters and different threads of stories, the book is easy to follow with a gripping stroyline. Enough of the minor stories came to an end to make it an excellent book but the cliff-hangers ensured I bought the next book, "The Neutronium Alchemist". Once again I was not let down. This too was a brilliant book. The plot thickened as it developed. The carefully thought out technologies of the future become intriguing parts of the book as opposed to just being extras. By the time I had finished I was desperate to read the final part of this 3600+ page trilogy. The Naked God excelled where the other books shone and it brought together all the plot elements that had been so carefully seeded during the first two books.
The science-fiction I typically read normally comes either under 'hard science-fiction' (such as Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, etc.) or very easy going such as the Aliens and Predator books. The Night's Dawn trilogy (and especially the Naked God) manages to settle very comfortably in the middle. There is enough action, romance and horror to keep the easy reader attached to the book whereas at the same time Peter F. Hamilton manages to make his invented technology sound so real and so natural to the people who use it (while at the same time not so alien that we can't understand it), the typically 'hard sci-fi' reader will find themselves submerged in a believable far future of mankind.
While in my own opinion, no one can come close to Isaac Asimov's ability to portray a 'History of the Future' in so many books, if anyone should try, Peter F. Hamilton should. He has the ending in this brilliant trilogy, he has some short stories in 'A Second Chance At Eden', now he needs to expand on the history of his universe which he has already outlined at the end of each book.
People have compared Peter F. Hamilton's work to that of Iain M. Banks. Banks' Culture novels are superb but have such amazing technologies in them that are thrown around and introduced only when needed, can confuse the book or offer quick ways out of difficult situations (just read about the bike in the non-culture novel 'Against a Dark Background' to see what I mean). Peter F. Hamilton introduces the technology in a similar way to how he introduces people. You get to know and understand the technology/person so when it does something, while unexpected, it is believable (in a sci-fi kind of way).
I have read the entire trilogy twice from beginning to end and still want to read it again. The only thing that is stopping me is I have to sleep sometime, don't I?
on 28 April 2000
The first books were tense and gripping, and seemingly simple solutions abandoned. This one, however, just slotted together too neatly. As a previous reviewer said, the society should have sorted itself out. But I think that Hamilton dug himself too deep a hole- it would have either made this book MUCH longer or made a fourth necessary.
However, the role-reversal that was seen was very enjoyable (despite what others say), with Ione, once almost infallible, reduced to watching the solution unfurl and the return of Powel Manani. Dariat and Tolton won the book for me though. Their desperate struggle, as well as those who used to be on Mortonridge and their helplessness, was beautifully written and conceieved.
on 23 November 1999
that probably puts me in the minority. i was so anxious to read The Naked God, i couldn't wait until it was released here in the States and ordered it directly from amazon.com.uk.
maybe i'm being naive. after the first two books, how could hamilton top himself? but, i felt there were a number of inconsistencies from the first two books (The Reality Dysfunction/The Neutronium Alchemist) which prevented me from enjoying this book fully.
for example, why did hamilton bring minor characters from the first books to the fore in this one? and, what happened to major characters like ione? she was relegated to a bit part as were others. and, what of bitek and affinity and edenism? the first books deeply explored the ideas in ways that brought real wonder to my mind. these truly original concepts also seemed relegated to bit parts, and hamilton did little to advance our understanding of them.
the possessed lost their ability to terrorize, not to mention their ability to withstand whatever the confederation could throw at them. unstoppable earlier, they seemed easily stopped here. and of all the billions of billions of lost souls, didn't anyone else find it a mighty coincidence that recently deceased souls took possession and ran into people they knew? almost like, "oh it's you again." you'd think some of those souls yearning for centuries might cut to the head of the line. finally, the whole capone thing just got tired. introducing capone was cute gimmick, but centering the better part of the final book around him was a bit much.
like others, the ending was just a little too neat for my taste. more like tolkienish fantasy than science fiction.
still, hamilton is as good a sci fi writer as there is today, and i'm looking forward to whatever he does in the future.