This October, a new addition to Peter F. Hamilton’s Commnwealth world is born: The Abyss Beyond Dreams. This fits somewhere in between the Commonwealth duology (which includes my favourite novel from any dimension, Pandora’s Star) and the Void trilogy and so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to read the one series of Peter F. Hamilton’s space opera I’ve not read. This isn’t something I say, or decided, lightly. I have actually been delaying the moment of reading the Void trilogy, I wanted to save them for some future in which I needed them. Hamilton’s books do me such good and having read and adored the Night’s Dawn trilogy this spring I was determined to savour the Last Trilogy next year. But all that was thrown out of the window when I heard about The Abyss Beyond Dreams, so, in other words, it’s all Hamilton’s fault.
I find reviewing Peter F. Hamilton a tall order. The plots of these brickbooks are intricate, immense, twisty and complex, matched only by the imagination and vision of their creator. Writing a brief synopsis of The Dreaming Void is particularly difficult because, with the other two books in the trilogy as yet unread, I’m still not completely sure what’s going on. But that doesn’t matter. Hamilton’s trilogies aren’t like most other trilogies I’ve read. They are actually one immense book that is chopped into three (or two, as in the case of Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained) and the reader cannot expect solutions in the first part. What he or she can expect, though, are wonders.
But to give it a go, the general gist is this: a thousand plus years after the close of Judas Unchained, the Commonwealth is still adjusting to the repercussions of the Starflyer War that devastated so many of its planets, leaving the rest stunned and, quite frankly, fortunate to survive. Humanity is now divided, in a manner of speaking, into three circles, with the most advanced inhabiting the central planets (or, as is more likely, they have been downloaded into some idyllic digital existence) and the less advanced, or the most independent or rebellious depending on how these things are viewed, living on the external planets. In the centre of it all is the Void, an expanse (not natural) that many view as an attainable heaven, especially those who follow the Living Dream, a religion that has at its heart the visions of a man, Inigo, which are believed to have originated from within the Void. Inigo has since vanished but his followers now want to follow his call and set out on a pilgrimage into the Void, to attain paradise. Unfortunately, much of the rest of the Galaxy believes that this will trigger a devouring event, during which the Void will consume planets and solar systems.
The Dreaming Void follows the efforts of some to embark on this pilgrimage as well as the even more determined efforts of others to prevent it. Familiar characters from the Commonwealth books pop up, including old favourites Qatux the Raiel, Paula and Justine, plus frequent references to Ozzie,who has left such a powerful imprint on this world. There are, though, lots of new characters, including a rather unpleasant piece of work Aaron who is seeking out Inigo, a newly-liberated divorcee Araminta, and, most prominently of all, Edeard, a figure who inhabits the Void and is the stuff of Inigo’s dreams.
Edeard’s story is less science fiction than fantasy. He inhabits a medieval world in which creatures can be fashioned and controlled by thought, and where honour and love wage war against felony and lies.
Unusually, in my personal experience of reading Peter F. Hamilton, The Dreaming Void took its time to draw me in. For the first 250 pages or so I floundered, distracted by the fantasy elements (I’m no fan of epic medieval fantasy – on the contrary) and by the seemingly irrelevant storylines, particularly that of Araminta. But I have faith in Hamilton and it was repaid. After a while, the Edeard elements of the story drew me in due to the outstanding character- and world-building of the author. I grew to care and I stopped skimming these sections. Likewise, the other strands in the novel began to take on life and spirit as the action moved towards the Void, like moths to a flame, and I became hugely intrigued by the mystery at its core and by the efforts of those on its edges to comprehend it, destroy it or love it.
The Dreaming Void does suffer from Hamilton’s unfortunate habit of labouring over the sex scenes. All of his novels would be the better without them but they’re always there and so I do my best to ignore them. They do his female characters no favours whatsoever (or the male ones for that matter).
The Dreaming Void sets up The Temporal Void, the next in the trilogy, perfectly, ending at such a thrilling point and promising two more books that will fill the hours with such pleasure. After the slow start, I read The Dreaming Void in just two days, not bad at all for such a brickbook (albeit a short one of only 800 pages). I am so excited to read The Abyss Beyond Dreams and I count my lucky stars that I have the Void trilogy to keep me company while I wait ever so impatiently.
Dan’s (Utterbiblio’s) The Void Trilogy Reread on Tor