Macmillan | 2018 (6 September) | 532p | Review copy | Buy the book
A crashed alien spaceship, emitting a beacon signal, has been located on the distant planet of Nkya, a world with no life. Nkya might be many light years from Earth but the investigative team should need no more than forty-eight hours to reach it, thanks to portal technology which has made travel to and between stars a reality. Humanity is now settled widely across the Galaxy on planets in various stages of terraforming, helped along by the technology of the Olyix, an alien civilisation whose arkship Salvation of Life is now anchored a lightyear from Earth for a lengthy pause on its journey to the end of the universe.
The Nkya investigative team of five specialists is not a happy one. Some knew others from before and can only wonder why they have been placed together – for there is hatred here, suspicion and fear. But there is more for them to dread than they might think. One of their number is believed to be a hostile alien. It is imperative that they are not allowed to discover the secrets of the crashed spaceship. It is only by getting to know each other that the truth might be revealed and so they tell each other stories about their past, revealing their tangled histories.
On another world, far in the future, a small group of young people are being trained in the art of war. Their ultimate mission, their destiny, is to take on the greatest fight. Their task is to defeat the greatest enemy of humanity. But before they can do that they must grow and learn the skills that they will need if they have any hope of triumph at all. The odds could hardly be worse.
A new novel by the science fiction master Peter F. Hamilton is cause indeed for celebration and when a copy of Salvation arrived there could be no doubt that it would go straight to the top of my reading mountain. I love Hamilton’s books. Pandora’s Star is quite possibly my favourite novel, while his Night’s Dawn trilogy is my favourite series. I couldn’t wait to read Salvation – the start of a new trilogy in a whole new world – and it is nigh on perfect and sets up the next book in the series brilliantly.
The structure of Salvation works so well. Our eyes and ears on the unpleasant planet of Nkya is security officer Feriton Kayne. It’s through him that we observe the histories of our specialists, including those of Yuri Alster and Callum Hepburn, two men whose hatred for one another knows no bounds. So how are they supposed to work together now on this crucial mission? We will learn both sides of their extraordinary story. It’s through these narratives that we learn about this future world set about 200 years from now. The ability to divide and settle new planets has divided humanity. New religions and politics have developed. There are utopian societies, there are militaristic governments, there is secrecy and suspicion everywhere. The differences between genders might have been blurred but the age-old problems of being human are as apparent as ever. And the presence of the Olyix hasn’t helped even if these benign aliens have given people the technology to enhance and improve the lives of humans.
The stories we hear are so intriguing and immersive. I did wonder how I would settle to a long novel that shifts its narrative so often and so entirely but such is the power of Peter F. Hamilton’s storytelling that this didn’t become an issue. It reminded me in such a good way of the Night’s Dawn trilogy where we spend extended periods on one world and then must adjust to another. Likewise, in Pandora’s Star, Hamilton showed himself to be the master of the extended anecdote or aside. The universe we are given is huge and inviting, dangerous and exciting, warm and compassionate, hostile and alien. I love where we are taken. There are some absolutely fascinating ideas presented here, especially concerning portals. Imagine a house in which every room can be on a different continent, a different planet, each with extraordinary views.
I was seduced by the chapters set in the far distant future. There is a scene here that took my breath away and left me in tears. These people are so different from us, their bodies altered, their concerns and aspirations changed, and yet they feel the same fears, the same desolation. The descriptions of their planet are so compelling. It all feels so real and yet so extraordinary. And the mood of foreboding and menace is so intense.
It does take a while to become familiar with the main characters because there are quite a few of them and there is a fair bit of moving backwards and forwards in time and across places. But the reader’s attention is rewarded many times over. I liked these people. The changing perspectives means that our feelings can change as we see the bad and the good in the same person. It makes the story so rich but also extremely exciting as we are given murder mysteries, love stories, mythologies, science fiction – how I loved our tour of the Olyix starship – and the main story, which only slowly emerges, is utterly compelling and mysterious. I am desperate to know how it will be continued.
Salvation might be part one of a trilogy but it is an enormous achievement in its own right. I loved every page. As usual with Peter F. Hamilton, his books can never be long enough for me. I read it slowly, savouring all of its many directions and flavours, always finding myself back on course after following one of its many divergent trails. This is science fiction at its best and knowing that there are more Salvation books to come makes me very happy indeed.
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)
Night Without Stars (Chronicle of the Fallers 2)
I couldn’t be more delighted to post my review as part of the blog tour, and on publication day, too! For other stops on the tour, please take a look at the poster below.