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on 24 March 2011
No spoilers here, but the plot itself is excellent, and has Hamilton's trademark 'big finish' - I've actually read this trilogy (Nights Dawn, of which this is the first book) a couple of times with a few years gap between and I still find it a great read.

This was actually my first Hamilton book (I've since read almost everything he's written). As other reviewers have said, I almost gave up at the start, the first few pages are a space battle and in my opinion (as someone who reds a LOT of sci-fi)it's very hard to read. BUT STICK WITH IT! The story that unfolds puts those first few pages into context and really every chapter kicks the plot up a notch.

There's some great concepts at play here, Hamilton explores two divergent attitudes of human development and portrays them both believably. He builds a good solid reality for his characters to exist in, and after that difficult first few pages I found it easy to get lost in the story (always the sign of a good book for me). There are some excellent characters, though overall I think his later novels (Pandora's Star/Judas Unchained/Void Trilogy) represent the best character work Hamilton has done, these characters are no less engaging for being a tiny bit less developed. I still think the Nights Dawn trilogy has some of his best Villains (and semi-villains) Hamilton has ever written, and that's where this novel really shines in my opinion, his construction of believable 'bad guys', that aren't just evil for no reason or sadistic for no reason, they all have motivation and purpose and personalities. The overall plot encompasses elements of faith, spirituality, science, religion, belief, technology and of course Hamilton's (seemingly) favourite topic of politics. It's also got really interesting "What If?" qualities that go a bit beyond any single sci-fi story I've otherwise encountered, which those who know the story will understand, but I don't want to go into without spoiling it for others.

There are actually a few plotlines going on here, which is why that first space battle is so difficult, it's actually the very, very, end of a plotline that's only ever vaguely mentioned in the rest of the book, but in Hamilton's way it gets folded back into the main plot at various points in quite a 'butterfly effect'. In strict terms it has nothing to do with the main plot at all, neither does most of the first half of the book, except that it all does and it all weaves back into everything else later on - Have Faith!

If you have read any Hamilton before, you will love this book. If you've not, then think of it like Baxter (but less bleak) mixed with Clarke, (but with better characters) and Niven, (for the scope of ideas and 'human' characters), and Banks (for his scope of political/human social structures and development). I have to say of all the authors I've read over the years, Hamilton is one of the very few that I would unquestioningly buy anything else he publishes, and that was largely built on the strength of this, the first of his books I read.
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on 17 October 2008
It's been said before, and it'll be said again - this book takes a LONG time to get going. You will be a good third of a way into it before the scene-setting starts to ease up in place of some action.

Unfortunately, when the action actually gets going, the "science" in "science fiction" is thrown away, and the book becomes "futuristic horror". Or even just plain old "horror, set in the future sometime".

Even so, despite my disappointment at the mis-categorisation of the book, and the plodding beginning, I stuck with it, and a decently strong storyline emerged. As with any book of this type, there are hundreds of characters to try to remember, and inevitably there is a large degree of chopping around to keep up with them all. Hamilton usually leaves us with a vauge sense of "oh, but I wanted to see what happened to them next!", which shows he has talent as a writer.

And then, surprisingly soon considering the size of the tome, you're at the end: And it just stops dead... you will need to buy the second and third parts to get any hint of closure. And there, unfortunately, is where it all unravels.

Building to a crescendo across three huge books (there's well over 1500 pages in the paperback editions, and that's a lot), the third book ends with one of the worst "deus ex machina" (i.e. "magic bullet") endings I've ever seen - ranking right up there with "The wicked witch raised her wand....... but then suddenly and inexplicably turned into a frog, and they all lived happily ever after."

Buy Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained (by the same author) instead - they are far better books.
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on 6 March 2011
The nights dawn trilogy is a masterpiece. It combines some of the best science fiction I have ever read with a brilliant character, great space ships and space battles, good sex scenes and a plot that will keep you reading late into the night. Peter F Hamilton is one of the greats, and ranks alongside Issac Asimov, Frank Herbert, and Iain M Banks. In many ways Peter Hamilton manages to combine some of the best traits for all of them, and while I wouldn't give every one of his books five stars, this trilogy is firmly my favorite. If you have already read this one make sure to follow up with the Commonwealth series and Fallen Dragon.

In response to criticisms by those who gave this book 1 star... A well written book or trilogy cannot possibly be too long. This trilogy is long, if you have the attention span of a monkey, then stick to Larry Niven. This trilogy had me completely addicted from start to finish. Yes it took me a while but in truth, that was part of epic nature of the story. Others point to specific details in the plot and characterization. When I read it I didn't really notice any issues. It reads well. Also, there are some who say this book is homophobic. It is NOT. The main evil character is twisted sure, but the way the other male characters respond to his advances gives the feel of a society accepting of homosexuality.

In summary, most critics of this brilliant and ground breaking trilogy haven't bothered to finish it or simply aren't sci-fi readers. If you love science fiction... READ THE NIGHTS DAWN trilogy!!!!
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on 20 September 2002
...So anyhow, 4/5. This is thrilling stuff, once you manage to get into it, which will take a while. The central horrific concept (which unlike some reviewers I won't spoil just now) is fantastically daring, the Adamist/Edenist conflict well thought out and realised, and the characters, while not perhaps as complex as those of Banks etc, are more than believable and suitably alluring/terrifying/comic even. The one complaint I feel is fairly valid is the ending- while the book as a nice conclusion for certain elements of the plot, it does feel (as does LOTR) more like the first part of a book rather than a distinct part of a trilogy. So, once I've finished the whole trilogy, I've no doubt that Night's Dawn as a whole will be worth 5, but I feel 4/5 for the first third of a book is still pretty special.
And for the prudes complaining about the (for me, both realistic and imaginative) sex scenes, don't be such an Adamist.
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on 22 January 2009
Just finished this. And was glad to finally do so. As has been said, the concept is strong, and the plot is constructed well (for which I've given 3 stars). However, the characterisation is unbelievably weak - instead of concentrating on and developing strong core characters Hamilton conjures up hundreds of cardboard cutouts who offer very little. By the time I was half way through the book whenever a new character was introduced I invariably bypassed the next page and a half or so where their backgrounds were described, as they would soon be dead or forgotten. I also quickly learnt to bypass the endless, endless sexual references (which together must amount to about 50 pages); the erotic equivalent to a young teenager's dreams. Shockingly bad. I also found the writing misogynistic (I doubt many female readers would be impressed with Hamilton's prose and characterisation). The dialogue is dire; full of gung-ho cliches, and Hamilton seems unsure of the nationalities/accents of his characters: they'll 'sound' invariably English one minute, then spout terrible Americanisms. And I challenge anyone not to laugh out loud when they reach the part where the plot is based on the 'English' plamet of Norfolk. Very funny.

However. I bought the sequels two days ago, because I really do want to know how the story develops. Whether I'll actually read them is another matter. I might skip through them like I did with much of this book.

So bottom line: Good ideas, strong plot(lines), effectively descriptive, but very weak characterisation, awful dialogue. Look past the latter negatives and you'll probably enjoy this.
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on 15 August 2016
Awarded 4, not 3 as originally intended for sheer originality if thought and breadth of vision.
Overall pretty impressive plot, carried off but with some tedious sections that easily would have borne editing and a near Jilly Cooperesque frequency of dull sex.
When he gets around to it, the space combat sections are very good stuff.
The central plot is original and great.
Keep a jar of pickle handy for the cheese at the end, though.
Good, but for me there is much better scifi out there.
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on 19 October 2016
This book left a very bad taste in my mouth, and it's tragic really because there are some awesome ideas in it. But I'm not masochistic enough to plow through 1200 pages of mostly drivel in order to mine the gems. So far, even though also terribly verbose, 'Void Trilogy' is this author's best work. Avoid this one like a plague.
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on 26 May 2012
I agree with the other reviews that state that the beginning of the book is slow starting, which might put some off and give up. However, I would strongly recommend that you persevere as it will be totally worth it! The trilogy, especially this specific novel, is quite possibly THE best piece of science fiction that I have read to date. (and I read a lot of science fiction!!) I got so caught up in the book itself that putting it down became a challenge on a continual basis. It really is amazing being so galaxy spanning and space opera. DON'T let the slow start put you off, read it for yourself and you'll soon have it overtake your life...well worth the money!!!
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on 14 February 2011
I nearly gave up on this book right at the beginning. Although it goes straight into the action, a space battle described in unfamiliar terms is quite tough to get your head around.
A little perseverance though leads to great reward. The multiple storylines are gradually woven together in a epic tale. This is an excellent example of exactly what a good sci-fi novel should be. Strange alien worlds, believable technological and genetic advances, a vast galactic battle of good and evil. The heroes are flawed but delightful, the villains are suitably despicable. There are nods to sci-fi tv and film in some places for the afficionado to uncover and delight in. My only gripe is that for some reason, the second part of the trilogy isn't available as a Kindle download. I've just finished it and now I have to wait until tomorrow (!) for the book to arrive. I'm not sure I can cope :-)
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on 22 June 2016
I found this book to be markedly inferior to other works by the authour like Great North Road and the Void Trilogy. It lacks coherence in the threads of the narrative and the characters are much less convincing than in the author's other works. I believe that the author has tried to include too many disparate strands into the storyline and this doesn't really work for me. I am now reading the second volume and find the same thing, though that is for a separate review. If I complete the trilogy, it will only be to see how it all ends rather than for any great enjoyment.
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