Night Without Stars | Peter F. Hamilton | 2016 (UK: 22 September; US: 27 September) | Macmillan/Del Rey | 750p | Review copy | Buy the book
Night Without Stars concludes the two-part Commonwealth series Chronicle of the Fallers begun with The Abyss Beyond Dreams. Under no circumstances whatsoever would I recommend that you read one without the other. This review assumes that you’ve read – and most probably adored – The Abyss Beyond Dreams.
Thanks to Nigel Sheldon, the Commonwealth’s first great explorer (along with Ozzie) and a legend in his own interminable lifetime, Bienvenido has been expelled from the Void. But this was no peaceful event, the cost was great, and now the planet exists in a starless night, one of several planets in an isolated solar system. Each of these planets was expelled from the Void, each containing mysteries, secrets and outright horror, as one might expect from planets judged so troublesome that the Void could no longer tolerate their existence. Mother Laura Brandt had used Commonwealth technology to open up wormholes to these other planets, searching for possibilities of escape from this blackest night, but the failure was outstanding. And release from the Void had not meant an end to the Fallers – the Trees continue to orbit Bienvenido, releasing their parasitic eggs to the surface of the planet where they exist to replicate and consume their victims.
Bienvenido is not the planet it once was. It has become a police state, controlled by the PSR which despises the Commonwealth just as much as it hates the Fallers. The Elites, those who are born with the genetically modified improvements of the Commonwealth, are ostracised, treated as second-class citizens. But the PSR are in for a shock. The Elite have managed to infiltrate all levels of society but so too have the Fallers and now it is time for the greatest showdown of them all – the Faller Apocalypse will happen and mankind must unite if it is to have any chance to succeed. The stakes have never been so high. And when a small Commonwealth starship lands on the planet containing a tiny baby, its message of hope is undeniable – for some, that is, not for all.
My adoration of Peter F Hamilton’s novels has been well-recorded on this blog over the years and the original Commonwealth duology (not a fan of that word), Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained, hold a very special place in my heart, Pandora’s Star being my most favourite novel. You don’t need to have read these first, although if you do you’ll have the pleasure of meeting old friends (and beasts) once again, and you certainly don’t need to have read the Void trilogy either. These novels sort of independently co-exist in the same time frame as The Abyss Beyond Dreams and Night without Stars and don’t have a direct impact on their events. But these two novels together form a perfect addition to this most rich and generous of space opera universes, the Commonwealth. There are even shadows of the Night’s Dawn trilogy, which are so fantastic to spot.
Night Without Stars is a good length – about 800 pages (I read an ebook proof so length was hard to measure) – and it is so full of life that when I reached the end and thought back I could hardly believe how far this wonderful novel had carried me. There are such memorable characters, all trying to deal with the planet’s forced expulsion from the Void. When the novel begins, arguments and beliefs seem almost petty. When we reach the second half of the novel, nothing less than the survival of humanity on the planet is at stake. Laws and prejudices are far less relevant. But this is not an easy thing for some characters to accept.
This is a planet undergoing a most critical transformation. It desperately hurts. And when enemies have to work together it’s never going to be easy. But the darkness of this world and its brutal politics is offset by the charm of the scenes in which this baby is cared for. There is great humour and enormous empathy for the efforts of the surrogate father who had little choice about raising this infant but in doing so has found his destiny.
It is a joy to travel around Bienvenido, encountering its different communities, even its alien species. Although this is science fiction mostly (although not entirely) contained within one planet we’re not allowed to forget the strange universe in which Bienvenido now finds itself. Humans are not alone. And then there’s the Fallers of course – we see a little bit more of them in this novel, reminding me of the Night’s Dawn possessed.
Night without Stars is a tremendous novel. It is vast, ambitious and wondrous. Its main characters, male and female, are intriguing and constantly evolving. It has a complicated plot but the novel is so well-structured and it takes us in all sorts of fabulous directions. It completes and complements The Abyss Beyond Dreams perfectly. The Abyss took place within the Void and now we see life outside out it. Both are captivating and as a pair it is unmissable. I can only hope and hope that this is not the last time Peter F. Hamilton returns us to the Commonwealth. But, if it is, what a gift we have been given.
Great North Road
The Reality Dysfunction (Night’s Dawn 1)
The Neutronium Alchemist (Night’s Dawn 2)
The Naked God (Night’s Dawn 3)
The Dreaming Void (Void Trilogy 1)
The Abyss Beyond Dreams (Chronicle of the Fallers 1)