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on 25 October 2011
I've been a Peter F Hamilton fan for a long time, in fact the reason I read sci-fi nowadays is because of Pandora's Star. The last collection of short stories by Peter F Hamilton was A Second Chance at Eden released way back in the late 90's, but it was a collection of Confederation exclusive stories based on his Night's Dawn universe. On hearing about this new collection I was rather excited, hoping to see all of the stories that he's written since then. Aside from one glaring omission this is a pretty decent collection and worthy of a place on the shelf of any Hamilton fan.

Watching Trees Grow
Starting off with the longest offering in the collection, Watching Trees Grow was initially published back in 2000 by PS Publishing as a limited edition, though it was later re-published in the Futures anthology from Gollancz.

As an alternate history tale, this story looks at a world where the Roman Empire never fell and the grand families continued to prosper. With the planet in a golden age of sorts it has allowed technology to advance quicker than in our world, with the starting point of the story in the early 1800's comparable to the mid to late 19th century. By selective breeding in the `Sport of Emperors', life spans of the grand families are now measured in centuries rather than decades of the Shorts.

At its heart Watching Trees Grow is the story of Edward Bucahanan Raleigh's continued investigation into the death of one of his family members at university. Told through his eyes from the night of the murder in 1832 through to the transcendence of the human race to pure energy, Watching Trees Grow is an interesting look at big events during that world's future, all wrapped around the one question: who killed Justin Ascham Raleigh?

Footvote is another story originally published by PS Publishing, this one in their first issue of Postscripts, a long-running magazine/anthology. Pan Macmillan are also releasing this one separately as an electronic short story.

Anyway, Footvote is a simple story based on the premise that one man has opened a wormhole to a new planet, New Suffolk, and nobody knows how he's done it. He's set specific conditions on who can travel through the wormhole and settle this new world (these are amusing little tidbits throughout the story), but has given a strict time-frame of two years before he will close the wormhole forever. Footvote focuses on one family, Janette and her two children on the one hand and her ex-husband Colin and his new girlfriend on the other, each with opposing views to the wormhole and its creator.

It's a nice little story, perhaps one of my favourites in the collection due to its subject matter, and its nice to see something set in the near-future. The world Peter has created here could be the basis for an expansion into a full novel, or maybe another short story - I for one would like to see more of New Suffolk and how it's progressed...

If At First...
Here's a story that first saw the light of day in one of the anthologies from Solaris a few years back. It's a short one about a detective that finds himself chasing a suspect into a time machine that then sends his consciousness back to his 1968 body. It's an interesting tale, amusing in parts and easy to read with an ending nicely suited to the tale.

The Forever Kitten
Perhaps unbelievably, this tale is a mere thousand words that once again uses the subject matter of immortality/extended lifespans. Peter seems to have a thing for this and Forever Kitten is an interesting, though short, take that I think is rather successful given its limited word count.

Blessed by an Angel
This is the first of the three Commonwealth stories in this collection, and while the other two are Paula Myo stories, this one is a prequel of sorts to the Void trilogy. Looking at the events surrounding the conception of Inigo, one of the more central characters in the Void series, this introduces the `angel' of the title, a higher human that can use biononics to change gender from female to male while using this technology to allow the conception of a biononic child.

There's a good bit of detail here and anyone that has read the Void books will fully grasp all the details, though I'm not sure the same can be said if you're new to the universe. I like it as it adds depth to the character and essentially gives a more detailed account of what is only hinted at in the early Void books.

The Demon Trap
The Demon Trap was previously published in the Galactic Empires anthology, but that had limited release and not many would have read it before now. It's nice that it's finally got a wider readership as it is one of the best shorts Peter has written.

The Demon Trap sits nicely between Misspent Youth and Pandora's Star and features Paula Myo, the genetically engineered detective we've all come to know (if you've read the Commonwealth books that is!). With her birth planet the much-hated Huxley's Haven, a planet in the Commonwealth where each person is genetically designed prior to birth to do the job they are allocated, she is an investigator that cannot leave a case until it has finally been solved and justice delivered.

The story itself follows the events of one of the Commonwealth planets, Merioneth, wanting independence and all connections to the Commonwealth closed. This starts off with a terrorist group targeting and killing young dynasty family members in order to pressure CST into closing the wormhole connection. Suffice to say, they are successful in getting the Commonwealth to agree a date that does exactly this. The story goes from there, Paula determined to unravel the mystery behind the attacker and terrorist group.

There is not a lot to dislike in The Demon Trap. Paula is an excellent character and carries the story with ease. There are, however, plenty of references to Peter's previous works (particularly Misspent Youth) and knowing these little details will certainly add to the enjoyment. I can't see any problems for those that haven't read the Commonwealth novels as The Demon Trap is a nice little murder-mystery with added political dealings. One of the best in the collection for sure.

Manhattan in Reverse
The reason I was looking forward to this collection so much: a new story! Manhattan in Reverse is another Paula Myo story that takes place shortly after the end of the Starflyer War depicted in Pandora's Star/Judas Unchained. You don't need to have read those books to enjoy this story as it is completely stand alone with only a few references to the novels.

After convicting a war hero for crimes committed in his youth, Paula Myo needs something that will take her away from the attention she's getting, and Wilson Kime has just the ticket. On a relatively new colony world one of the non-sentient species is kicking up some trouble for the human inhabitants, trouble that could lead to genocide if something isn't done soon. Problem solving is what Paula is good at, and with the help of xeno-biologist Bernadino Paganuzzi that's exactly what she has to do.

I liked this story quite a bit, it was interesting and had a nice finish, but I wasn't really sure why Paula was the main character. Still, I did like the exploration of the Onid, why they were attacking the colonists and just how they could see what they really shouldn't be able to. It's a quick read that finishes nicely - not much more you can ask for!

Manhattan in Reverse does exactly what it says on the tin: it collects Hamilton's short stories in one book for those that have not tracked them down by other means. A new story is there for the fans who need a reason to buy it, and it is worth it.

The glaring omission I mentioned earlier is The Suspect Genome, the BSFA award-winning short story the features Greg Mandel, the psychic detective from Peter's early novels. To me it's one of the best short stories Peter has written and should have been included regardless of how it's aged since publication, and especially because it's very hard to track down. It was a poor decision to leave it out.

However, with stories like Watching Trees Grow, The Demon Trap and Manhattan in Reverse, Peter once again shows why he is regarded as one of the best science fiction writers of the past decade and how, when he puts his mind to it, he can write some excellent short fiction.
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Best-known for his immense doorstoppers, Peter F. Hamilton is also an experienced writer of SF short stories. Manhattan in Reverse is his second collection of short fiction, collecting together seven stories published over the last eleven years. Unlike his first collection, A Second Chance at Eden, where the stories were all set in the same universe, this time around the fiction is not linked by any theme or setting.

First up is Watching Trees Grow, previously a stand-alone novella published by PS Publishing. The novella is a riff on one of Hamilton's favourite subgenres, the SF mystery thriller, this time set in an alternate history where the pace of technological development was much faster than in real life and there are electric cars on the streets of Oxford in the early 19th Century. A murder takes place and one man becomes obsessed with tracking down the killer...even if it takes centuries. An effective and clever story, riffing on traditional SF tropes about extended lifespans, alternate timelines and technological development.

Footvote is a political satire, in which a politician opens a wormhole to another planet, allowing people to escape from early 21st Century Britain to make a fresh start, but will only allow a narrow definition of people through, resulting in social unrest. One family is torn apart in the resulting chaos. It's an interesting story about escaping responsibility for your actions, but suffers from having some quite dated references already (Gordon Brown as British PM etc). There is a nice line in humour, though, with the constitution for the new planet (which bans traffic wardens from emigrating) apparently designed with Daily Mail readers in mind.

If at First can be seen as a bit of a dry run for a certain storyline in The Evolutionary Void. In this story a police detective finds himself pursuing a criminal and is inadvertently sent back in time to an earlier point in his own timeline. Given the chance to 'start again', he uses his immense knowledge of future events (and future hit pop songs) to build himself a fortune, only to forget his original purpose. It's a funny time travel story with a bleak, but not entirely undeserved, conclusion.

The Forever Kitten feels like Hamilton setting himself an impossible challenge: writing a story in just 1,000 words (or 1/450th the length of The Naked God) for a magazine article. He pulls it off, with a frankly disturbing finale that could bear revisiting in a longer story or novel.

The book is rounded off by three stories set in his Commonwealth setting: Blessed by an Angel is scene-setting stuff for the Void Trilogy, establishing the tensions between the Higher and Advancer cultures and also providing family backstory for a major character from that series. The Demon Trap is the best story in the collection, pitting Paula Myo against an opponent who goes to immense lengths to avoid capture, but who in the end cannot escape responsibility for his actions. Manhattan in Reverse again features Myo, this time investigating an anomalous series of events on a frontier planet flooded with refugees from the Starflyer War. It's effective and entertaining - Myo is rapidly becoming Hamilton's signature character and is one of the better-realised female protagonists of recent SF - but the ending is a little too neat.

Overall, this is an effective and varied collection, with Hamilton revisiting some established themes (longevity, the notion of political responsibility and time travel) and, intriguingly, exploring some ideas that would later come to fruition in the Commonwealth and Void novels. If the collection has a problem, it's that it's way too short: Hamilton has a significant number of pre-2000, non-Confederation short stories that did not appear in A Second Chance at Eden and I was hoping they'd be included here (including - fascinatingly - two collaborations with Graham Joyce and a Greg Mandel novella). Instead we only get seven stories, resulting in a hardcover that is only 260 pages long. Sure, the content is what matters and these seven stories are all at least interesting, but the missing of the opportunity to make the collection more extensive and exhaustive is somewhat frustrating.

But based on what does make it in, Manhattan in Reverse (****) is a solid enough collection of readable, clever and thought-provoking stories from an author who is as comfortable with the short form as he is the half-million-word mega-novel.
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Peter Hamilton is probably my current favourite science fiction author with his Commonwealth/Void books being right up there in my top science fiction reads.

I met Peter Hamilton at a Question and Answer session and book signing a couple of years ago and I have to say that he really does come across as a genuinely really nice, down to earth almost humble guy. He signed a couple of my books for me too.

On to this book:

Peter Hamilton is best known for his doorstop sized 1000 page plus mega-novels, but as this collection proves, he can turn his hand pretty well to a short story too - even if some of these stories (with the notable exception of The Forever Kitten) are actually longer than most other short stories, but that is just the nature of the man.

This collection features seven stories:

Watching Trees Grow - 85 pages - A science fiction murder mystery spanning two hundred years. I really liked the alternate history in this book. It is much closer to what I as a child in the 1960s and early 70s hoped the future would look like than what it actually turned out to be. My favourite of this collection.

Footvote - 24 pages - A nice story based on a wormhole being opened to another planet but only those deemed worthy are allowed through. Some interesting political statements in this one.

If at First... - 10 pages - A different take on time travel with a nice little twist at the end, but still in my opinion the weakest story in the collection.

The Forever Kitten - (1000 words) - The shortest by far of this collection and a pretty decent immortality story with an ending that quite literally had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up! Very clever for such a short story.

Blessed by an Angel - 17 pages - The first of three stories set in the Commonwealth universe. This one fills in some really important background about one of the main characters in The Void trilogy and sets the scene to the conflicts between Highers and Advancers. If you have read the Void trilogy you can probably work out the meaning of the title.

The Demon Trap - 72 pages - The first of two Paula Myo stories. In this one, Paula really does show her true nature in that she just can't let a criminal get away with not being properly punished.

Manhatten in Reverse - 43 pages - The second Paula Myo story and a very different type of case for Paula to solve involving proto-sentient aliens. My second favourite read in this collection.

Overall: 5 stars - I bought this collection primarily for the Commonwealth stories, but actually enjoyed one of the others the most! Well worth reading
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on 21 December 2012
Science fiction is one of the most difficult genres to master, few do it well, certainly in the last half century.
There is plenty of science in these stories and plenty of fiction too, but no real depth. Reading Peter Hamilton's work is like surfing, you are skimming the surface of the story with the promise of so much more beneath, but never realized.
There is no doubt that the author has considerable imagination and technical knowledge but the story telling and plot development is sadly lacking.
The final two stories share the same lead character, and most of them a similar theme of law enforcement in the far distant future, with a little effort most of these stories could have been combined to make a novel and still left time for character and plot development.
Will I go on to read Hamilton's take on the full length novel? Maybe, I'll have to check out the reviews!
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on 9 January 2016
If you really admire solidly-grounded but utterly incredible adventure, Peter F. Hamilton is the go-to SF author par excellence.
His characters are the most sympathetic and memorable in the genre.
This is a perfect example of his ability, and a perfect introduction if you don't know him.
I don't know any other author who loves a 2-line barmaid just as much as the "hero".
If you have his paperbacks, you will come out of the 6 month read feeling you've somehow taken part in something extraordinary with some real people...not a self-conscious word in 18 inches of shelf space. No tricks, no gimmicks: just solid storytelling.
3D, 7.1, extended...if anyone tried to do a Lord Of The Rings film epic with one of his tales, it would make Game Of Thrones look like a brief precis.
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on 1 March 2014
A short story collection by one of the best science fiction writers on the planet sounds like a good bet to me. And it is. I have only read two of the stories continued herein and they were both great. FOOTVOTE is an interesting update on the day's political system complete with trademark Hamiltonisms. My second story (and favourite so far) is THE DEMON TRAP - an fascinating twist on the terrorist flavoured whodunit complete with 21st century relevancies. Needless to say this book is full of fascinating examples of Mr Hamilton's genius and a glimpses into some exciting futures. I will update this review when i can.

Highly recommended from me.

BFN Greggorio!!!!
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on 9 February 2013
The first is a detective story used as a "vehicle" for some way out SF concepts of human society in the future. The second is a comment upon England's government and social breakdown (in an alternative reality - this IS fiction after all) and a surprising "Way Out". The third is another detective story . .
I cant be bothered to scroll through my Kindle at only one page at a time to refresh my recollection for more comment upon the remaining stories - . Herein lies the advantage of a real book - I can jump through it so much more easily !!!!
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on 6 February 2012
Firstly, I should say that I am a fan, at least of Hamilton's space operas, less so the Mandel stories. I like the detail of the background descriptions, which admittedly make the novels long, but they are essential to understanding character motivations. I approached this book with some trepidation, which proved well-founded. The problem with those featuring Paula Myo is that you need to have read the books in which she features. In one, the ending is, I'm afraid, telegraphed well in advance; her talents are also barely used, which is slightly disappointing. The rest of the stories are only average in quality. Perhaps for completists only.
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on 13 May 2015
It can be difficult to give an accurate review of a collection of short stories, as it is inevitable that only some of the content will appeal to the any one reader. So, I’ll limit my comments, just to say that, as a big fan of Peter Hamilton, I enjoyed most of the stories produced here. One word of caution, though, is that you need to be familiar with the author’s other works to fully appreciate some of the tales. There’s nothing overly original here but nothing to disappoint either.
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on 26 August 2014
It's been a long while since I read any of Peter's books and decided on this set of short stories as I've not read them before - such a great choice and I'm so pleased I haven't read ANY of the Void Trilogy as that will be my next purchase.

Rounded, plausible characters in a beautifully described universe. A joy to read
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