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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.
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VINE VOICEon 18 April 2013
So how could I resist an SF novel with large chunks of it set in Newcastle 130 years from now, especially with a title like that?

(I should explain that I live in the City of Sunderland, a mere 12 miles south east of Newcastle. Both cities boast prominent football teams which are arch-rivals, particularly their fans and just last weekend Sunderland, the under-dogs, beat their rivals 3-0 away at Newcastle. As a result a few hundred Newcastle fans trashed their own city centre which gives you an idea of the mentality of the Newcastle United supporter. This has nothing to do with the review, I just wanted to mention it.

(On the other hand, the Great North Road refers to the A1 which starts down south and continues all the way up to Scotland. The Romans built the first one nearly two thousand years ago. In this novel, however, it also refers to a road that leads to another planet on which the rest of the novel takes place.)

You may have noted the page length of the novel. This does not include those pages devoted to the timeline prior to the start of the novel nor the list of key characters and their functions (e.g. detective). It's a very long book which took me only five days to finish.

As I don't do long reviews -I write reviews not criticism- it's very difficult to briefly summarise the plot. But I'll do my best.

It's triggered by the discovery of a body, one of a clone family of industrialists, who has been murdered in a unique way that was only seen once before and the woman found guilty of the early murders, which included another clone, is still in prison; also the clone can not be identified. A local detective is put in charge of the case and what is discovered prompts a military expedition to a colonised world, which provides vast quantities of bio-fuel, in search of a previously undiscovered deadly alien species and is accessed via the Newcastle gateway.

Woah! That's not bad even if I say so myself.

Of course it doesn't begin to even hint at the richness and complexity of this terrific piece of SF. There are so many things that Hamilton does so well.

His portrayal of the not quite near future is comprehensible and accessible. My view of the future is that it's not unlike the present only with twiddly bits. Not that many years ago I took my first look at Sunderland's new bus station from which is visible a new shopping complex and it looked like the future as seen from 1950's illustrations. And yet in between bus station and shopping centre were several buildings which have remained pretty much unchanged in nearly 60 years or more. The future, with twiddly bits. People still go to pubs and chat up women while every dust mote is a camera watching everything. Well, almost. Many car accidents are caused by drunks who won't let the car drive itself.

He doesn't lay it on with a trowel but global warming has given the north of England long winters full of blizzards and snow drifts and short hot summers.

The main foci of the novel are the detective and his team trying to solve the murder and identify the victim and the story of the woman, who was found guilty of the original murders and claimed it was an alien, who goes to the alien world with the military expedition. In one sense it's a mystery novel set in the future with both plot strands essentially being attempts to solve a mystery which ultimately has one solution.

Hamilton uses his flashbacks well, revealing only part of an incident which suggests one thing only to show something different when it is continued. Characters who appear to belong to different subplots are revealed to be closely connected. Sometimes they're even the same person.

Frankly I stand in awe of the author who juggles so many different things yet manages to bring them all together in what is finally revealed as a gloriously woven tapestry.

If you want a book to lose yourself in, this is it.
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on 11 September 2013
This is massive, complex science fiction novel with a variety of intertwined stories.  To keep up the reader needs to pay close attention to the plot.  Hey, it's another Peter F Hamilton novel!! 
Having said that, and it's true there are a large number of characters, but these can be whittled down to a more manageable handful, as a lot of them are just background plot fillers and don't have much characterisation.   The story itself revolves around four major plotlines, a cop in Newcastle investigating a strange murder, a mysterious woman released from prison, a shop owner on a colonised planet and an undercover agent from a biosphere orbiting Jupiter, and yes they all converge eventually.
There are all the usual Hamilton touches, such as technologically and biologically enhanced humans, Faster than light travel, distant colonised planets, coupled with fantastical descriptions, thrilling set pieces as well as constructing complex, sometimes mundane,  plotlines.
If you like your science fiction big, then Peter is your man, and I would recommend this novel, but put aside at least 6 weeks of your life.
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on 6 January 2013
A very enjoyable book which I read on my Kindle, accompanied by my iPhone so I could track the Newcastle action on Google maps. (Unfortunately, Google hasn't yet mapped St Libra, but I did enjoy the off-world North-East references). Not quite the technology employed in the book, but getting there!

Locating the Earth elements largely in Newcastle upon Tyne made it seem very real, not least because I'm from that neck of the woods, originally. I wonder what readers from elsewhere felt.

I have a few minor niggles. I attended Imperial College so the reference to one of the characters studying there, but spending longer in the gym than in lectures just didn't ring true. There just aren't that many hours in the day! I'm also not sure how an eco-system that has ceased to evolve could have evolved a response to an infrequent meteorological event, which seems to have happened just twice. And the technology, apart from that used for inter-planetary travel, seems to me to be no more than 50 years ahead, which is quite scary. Perhaps we can't imagine further ahead (apart from the engines and weapons, we're now living with the technology from Star Trek. Even teleportation is science fact). In addition, at one point there's mention of the A149 (which I believe is in Cromer) when it should probably have been the A194. Either that, or the cars were much faster than I imagined!

The editing cold have been slightly better. There were also occasions when clauses were presented as sentences and a comma is not a means of joining two sentences.

Nevertheless, I found this hugely enjoyable and very satisfying. (I've given this 5 stars, so that puts the niggles into perspective).

Read this book. You won't regret it.
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on 3 January 2013
Hamilton writes hard science fiction: believable, but mind-stretching leaps into the far future. By contrast, this book is a detective story. As I never read detective novels, I am a poor judge of how well it is done: however, it remains gripping and puzzling nearly to the end.

The story is set (mainly) in Newcastle, England, a city I know well, having lived close by for 27 years. Much use is made of place names, even though the story is set in 2143. Evidence that the writer has done his homewor,. The city is a detectives' paradise, as it is librally sprayed with a smart dust that records all it sees: or so we think. How then to explain the unseen murder of an unidentified member of an important family?

Much detective work ensues, and is in itself fairly gripping. But the story has another dimension, there is a suspicion that an alien is responsible. Cue switch to a planet opened up for explotation by a stellar gate, and which provides a vital source of bio fuel. And to make matters worse, random attacks by a planet-eating unknown threaten all of the human occupied planets.

The story stands or falls, however, as a detective story, and I am happy to report that it won over a non-fan. It keeps the tension going, has sympathetic characters that you root for, and some off-planet scenes that would make a great film. All in all a good buy, especially for the Kindle price of a few pounds.
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on 23 December 2012
I hadn't read a proper science fiction book for years and I have never read anything by this author before so I bought this with no expectations apart from wanting something different.

I love the way the book mixes the elements of science fiction with a gritty detective novel - the way that much of the action is set in Newcastle adds authenticity to the story. Does Hamilton come from that area? He manages to incorporate the regional accent and phrases which for me brought colour and life to the story.

The book is long and within all those pages are some real gems of ideas and details - the way everyone has a second bank account to stash the cash got by shady deals and second jobs, the process of housebuying in the future, the vehicles, police no-go areas and the politics of trying to juggle the needs and expectations of different interested parties when carrying out an investigation are just a few of the joys waiting to be discovered.

There are twists and turns aplenty and surprises along the way. It took me nearly a week to read it and when the Kindle was open I was completely absorbed.
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on 20 May 2014
Ok first of this book is enormous. Secondly it can get a bit heavy going in places. I feel some chapters in the book are not really necessary, there was a couple of section in the book about Saul, which overall didn't seem to have a place, unless i missed something. It is of course very well written and flows well. It also builds and builds and builds inexorably until it all just kicks off. Personally I am not convinced by detective stories that rely on too much hi tech, since you can't really work anything out yourself. Lastly if I ever read 'crap on it' ever again it be too soon. Ok so why 4 stars you ask. Because despite these gripes it is a cracking good story, very intriguing characters, good action...eventually and you are transported to three locations in glorious full hd. Clever stuff.
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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.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 May 2013
I confess this book was a challenge. There are a number of linked themes and you need to concentrate to keep track of the developing plot but this is okay - not all books need to be 'easy reads'. As another review suggests this would make a brilliant television mini series. The contrasting locations of Newcastle and the various different worlds works well as does the contrast between the police investigation, the military special forces and shiny spacecraft. The characters are well developed and the way the author pulls all the different treads of the story gradually together to a satisfying conclusion is impressive. It is difficult to be more precise without giving away the plot but I enjoyed spending time in the company of the characters and in science fiction it is refreshing to have a complete story in a single book. If you enjoy a story that you need to meet half way then I strongly recommend it.
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on 15 January 2013
I've been a great fan of Peter Hamilton's work ever since the Reality Dysfunction and the Great North Road didn't disappoint me. It starts off with a really good murder mystery and I enjoyed the chapters on the investigation. I was as puzzled as the cops as to how it was done or who did it. To begin with, I didn't like leaving the murder to follow the other side of the story set on a colonised planet used to grow bioil - the replacement for oil on earth. This side of the book was particularly difficult because we don't just follow the non-police characters in the 'present' day but we learn about their pasts because they are relevant to the continuing story.

One thing I would have liked was a list of characters. All of a sudden I'd come to a name and think "Who?" Then I'd have to batter my brain to remember who that was and some information about the person.

Overall, I really enjoyed the novel and I hope Peter Hamilton considers following up on the characters who travel away at the end - I can't be more specific without spoiling the story.
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