Book Review 2010 #20: The Dreaming Void

Next up, the start of Peter F Hamilton’s latest big fat series.

The 36th century is a good time to be a human.
No, really. Wormhole technology and rapid technological advancement has made humans a pretty big player on the galactic stage. Sure, there are post-singularity beings floating about here and there, and a few species which do things that we humans don’t understand, and some pugnacious species as well. Still, its been 1200 years since a threat capable of taking on the whole of the human race has emerged.
But when a retired and missing dream-fueled religious prophet’s followers decide to conduct a pilgrimage toward the mysterious center of the galaxy, where one of those powerful alien races have been keeping a vigil over a threat capable of devouring everything and everyone, the quiet peace that the human race is bound to end. Just what IS the Void in the center of the Galaxy, and what do the dreams suggesting that it is inhabited–by humans, mean? And what does it mean that an uncrowned successor to that prophet is now broadcasting more dreams of that strange realm? And with new fractures and fissures in the increasing divergent branches of humanity, how can the Commonwealth possibly coordinate a response this time?
It looks like Interesting Times are in store for the Human Race once more…
The Dreaming Void is set 1200 years after Peter F Hamilton’s Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained. Set in a universe where anti-aging technology, combined with wormhole technology has led to a Commonwealth of worlds and cultures, Hamilton has extrapolated the already amazing universe depicted in those previous two novels and brought new and extended concepts, ideas and characters to his rich tapestry.
Even better, Hamilton has improved as a writer. Readers who have read the Pandora’s Star duology, or the Reality Dysfunction trilogy knows that he writes sprawling, brawling large scale novels with lots of characters and word counts that push 1000 pages. The Dreaming Void clocked in just under 600 pages.
We meet plenty of new characters, as well as some old favorites who have survived all this time. Even in a conservative society such as the Commonwealth does not allow people to remain static over such time scales and Hamilton’s increasingly deft characterization makes the evolution of the characters over that time believable.
It’s Edeard’s story, though, that is the real innovation in Hamilton’s writing. An intensely personal story that could be considered magic (or at least psionics) in a quasi-medieval setting inside the Void, his story is intriguing and interesting–and very unlike anything I have read in a Hamilton novel before. I was pleasantly surprised.
That said, the standard virtues of a Hamilton novel are in full force here. Aside from Edeard’s story, back in the main universe readers will encounter amazing technology, strange aliens, a variety of characters and settings, a wide scale view of an entire culture as the narrative proceeds apace. Hamilton writes some of the best Space Opera in the business and those talents are in full force in this book.
Hamilton has significantly and visibly improved as a writer with this series, and I look forward to picking up and reading the Temporal Void, the next book in this trilogy.
A final note: Do you need to have read Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained to read this book? I think, actually, that they provide value-added goodness but are not strictly necessary. I think a practiced SF reader can start here and be perfectly happy and follow what is happening and why with minimum problems.
The Dreaming Void (The Void Trilogy)