It’s nigh on impossible to write a review of the finale to a trilogy, especially when that third and vital book comprises the last 1250 pages in a magnus opus that would stretch, if its total number of pages were spread end to end, from here to the Moon at least. Peter F. Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy, completed at the end of the last century, is a masterpiece and it doesn’t take the reader the length of three books to realise that. It’s arguable that the divisions within it that split it into three are arbitrary, simply to save the reader the inconvenience of carrying around a volume as big as their car. None of the books is standalone and you’d be bonkers to read the third before the first. Therefore, this review is the third part of an ongoing review that has been posted here in bits over the last few months as I’ve devoured these three fabulous books – The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist and The Naked God. Talk of what happened in the previous two books is inevitable below.
The Naked God opens just as The Neutronium Alchemist ends with crisis assaulting the Confederation. The possessed have attacked more worlds, actually removing some of them from this dimension, while Quinn Dexter, surely evil incarnate, has made it to Earth, followed by Louise Kavanagh and her sister. Her one-time lover, the nominal hero of the trilogy, Joshua, is far away, searching for a solution in the wisdom and experience of distant civilisations and species. As you’d expect after reading the other two books, there is so much more going on than that, so many habitats, worlds and spaceships of stories, all filling these pages with life, drama, love, tragedy and adventure.
As mentioned at the top of this post, a review is a daunting task and so, instead, I thought I’d mention a few of the elements of The Naked God which made me love it so much. Firstly, I should say that I found the solution entirely satisfying. After nearly 4000 pages and three weeks of dedicated, obsessive reading that’s a relief. As for how it was solved, my lips are sealed.
I was surprised how much I liked some of the possessed. We’re suppose to like Fletcher Christian but there were others I warmed to, even Al Capone. His sense of self is so strong even when it’s based on such a falsehood. And he does know how to love. The possessed on Ombey, the focus of a major battle sequence in the novel, have their own saving graces. As with the previous novel, there is a strong sense of the horror of an afterlife in which there is nothing for souls to do but mourn their loss and cry out for life. It’s difficult to blame their hunger. This is shown most of all on the planet of Norfolk which has now been carried out of this dimension into another by the force of the red cloud that follows the possessed around like a conscience. The possessed are evolving. But what about the poor souls tortured into submission within their own bodies? In The Naked God we also see a fate that is even worse than this afterlife – the Mélange. Hamilton’s descriptions of this are incredibly powerful and it gave me nightmares.
But the state of humanity’s being is seen throughout these pages in the number of ghosts that haunt the worlds and habitats. Night’s Dawn is as much horror as science fiction and this is especially true of The Naked God.
We learn more of the Kiint and Tyrathca in The Naked God – the sections of the novel which feature the human child Jay Hilton with the Kiint juvenile continue to charm this reader at least, and now we see them on the Kiint homeworld, which is full of extra surprises, all beautifully described with that magical Hamilton touch.
Much of The Naked God follows Louise in her mission on Earth to destroy Quinn. This is the light versus darkness, good versus evil, that centres the story. Hamilton presents us with a memorable portrait of a future Earth, divided into zones, controlled by an all-seeing, ancient and anonymous ruling body. It’s vividly done and I especially enjoyed the scenes in the transformed London. There is something of the Gothic in this London and it increases as the novel goes on. Louise is a likeable character and she has grown during these three books, still loving Joshua but now his equal, or better, in so many ways. On the other hand, it’s difficult to imagine a character less likeable than Quinn. In The Naked God he outdoes even himself.
The Naked God is full of more wonders than I can possibly mention. The descriptions of cities, worlds and battles are completely absorbing as are the insights into the many relationships that colour the novel. As the narrative moves from character to character, habitat to habitat, each story does more than hold its own. There is less debate about the relative merits of Edenist or Adamist cultures, and we also see less of Capone, Fletcher, Syrinx and others. Even Joshua plays a smaller part. But what there is instead is a focus on pulling everything together, tying the almost countless threads, but not before the atmosphere and pace, the menace and horror, the mystery and awe have been taken to their limits. The Naked God is no shorter than its predecessors but it’s by no means a slow read. My only regret is that now it’s read the trilogy is over.