Books

Short works

Books : reviews

Peter F. Hamilton.
Watching Trees Grow: + Ian McDonald, Tendeleo's Story.
Gollancz. 2000

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 6 July 2003

Peter Hamilton's SF detective novella is packaged back-to-back "Ace Double" style with a second novella by a different author that I am not reviewing.

Contents

Watching Trees Grow. 2000

It is 1832 in what is clearly an alternate universe, and a shocking murder has just been committed. There is not enough evidence to catch, let alone convict, the murderer. But the man in charge of the case is nothing if not dogged. And over the years technology improves, whittling down the number of suspects, until eventually, in a very different world, justice is done.

This is a lovely alternate world, and a lovely description of advancing science. It is not really a classic detective story, though, as we are not given the clues we need to solve the crime ourselves; we are just along for the ride. And I think the punishment finally meted out on the murderer is one of the most truely chilling I have ever seen suggested.

Peter F. Hamilton.
Fallen Dragon.
Pan. 2001

Peter F. Hamilton.
Manhattan in Reverse.
Pan. 2011

Contents

Watching Trees Grow. 2000

It is 1832 in what is clearly an alternate universe, and a shocking murder has just been committed. There is not enough evidence to catch, let alone convict, the murderer. But the man in charge of the case is nothing if not dogged. And over the years technology improves, whittling down the number of suspects, until eventually, in a very different world, justice is done.

This is a lovely alternate world, and a lovely description of advancing science. It is not really a classic detective story, though, as we are not given the clues we need to solve the crime ourselves; we are just along for the ride. And I think the punishment finally meted out on the murderer is one of the most truely chilling I have ever seen suggested.

Footvote. 2004
If at First.... 2007
The Forever Kitten. 2005
Blessed by an Angel. 2007
The Demon Trap. 2008
Manhattan in Reverse. 2011

Peter F. Hamilton.
Great North Road.
Pan. 2012

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 18 May 2014

When attending a Newcastle murder scene, Detective Sidney Hurst finds a dead North family clone. Yet none have been reported missing. And in 2122, twenty years ago, a North clone billionaire was horrifically murdered in the same manner on the tropical planet of St Libra. So, if the murderer is still at large, was Angela Tramelo wrongly convicted? She never wavered under interrogation, claiming she alone survived an alien attack.

Investigating this potential alien threat now becomes the Human Defence Agency’s top priority. St Libran bio-fuel is the lifeblood of Earth’s economy and must be secured. A vast expedition is mounted via the Newcastle gateway, and experts are dispatched to the planet – with Angela Tramelo, grudgingly released from prison. But the expedition is cut off deep within St Libra’s rainforests, and the murders begin. Angela insists it’s the alien, but her new colleagues aren’t sure. Did she see an alien, or does she have other reasons for being on St Libra?

This is part future police procedural, part Predator, part human colonisation via stargates, part genetic bio-mods, and part lots of other SFnal tropes. That’s a lot of parts: at 1087 pages, this could justly claim “I am large, I contain multitudes.

Newcastle is home to the North bioil corporation, and the Gateway to St. Libra, a planet with weird native vegetation, orbiting Sirius, where 60% of Earth’s bioil is manufactured. Detective Sid Hurst is called in to investigate an impossible murder: one of the famous and influential North clones has turned up dead in the Tyne, yet no North close is missing. The investigation seems linked to a similar murder on St. Libra 20 years earlier. Could mass murder Angela Tramelo actually be innocent? Was it really an alien? With humanity already under attack from the remorseless Zanthswarm, a possibility of second alien aggressor needs to be taken very seriously.

As the tale progresses, we learn how these events are connected, along with a lot of other backstory. There is a lot of frustrating police investigation, a lot of frustrating hacking through dense jungle, and a lot of frustrating politicking. This all leads to a somewhat slow read: although building up a dense and convincing back story, the first “wow” factor doesn’t occur until well over 500 pages in. Events then start growing and accelerating, to a massive conclusion.

Yet despite being heavy going in places (I really began to live Sid’s frustration with the taxi backtracking), this has lots of nice ideas, some well-developed, some under-developed. Elston’s religion, Sirius’ history, the frankly implausible evolutionary status of the biology of St Libra, could have done with more exploration. More? when the book is already over a kilo-page? Well, yes. Some of the less SFnal subplots (yes, Ian, I’m looking at you, among others) could have been sacrificed to exploring these issues. Or just sacrificed altogether.

However, this is minor quibbling. Even when the plot is progressing glacially, the background is interesting. The flashbacks, filing in Angela’s backstory, are carefully arranged to mislead. And when things do start moving, there’s plenty of action.

I particularly like the idea that even with almost global surveillance, the police simply don’t have the resources to track down any and every crime, and even when they get the resources, the sheer amount of data, noisy and corrupt in places, requires a massive amount of effort to process.

So, in the usual Hamilton way, lots of ideas woven together to produce a dense and believable future.

Peter F. Hamilton.
Misspent Youth.
Macmillan. 2002

Peter F. Hamilton.
Pandora's Star.
Pan. 2004

Peter F. Hamilton.
Judas Unchained.
Pan. 2005

Peter F. Hamilton.
The Dreaming Void.
Pan. 2007

Peter F. Hamilton.
The Temporal Void.
Del Rey. 2008

Peter F. Hamilton.
The Evolutionary Void.
Pan. 2010

Peter F. Hamilton.
The Abyss Beyond Dreams.
Pan. 2014

To save their civilization he must destroy it …

When images of a lost civilization are ‘dreamed’ by a prophet, Nigel Sheldon is asked to investigate. The dreams seem to be coming from the Void – a mysterious area of living space with hugely destructive capabilities.

Crash landing on an unknown planet within the Void, Nigel finds far more than he expected. Bienvenido: a world populated by the descendants of survivors from Commonwealth colony ships. For centuries they have been fighting a desperate battle against the Falters, a space-born predator artificially evolved to conquer worlds. Nigel sooo realizes that the Falters hold the key to the destruction of the Void itself. If only he can survive long enough to use it…

Peter F. Hamilton.
A Second Chance at Eden.
Pan. 1997

Contents

Sonnie's Edge. 1991
A Second Chance at Eden. 1997
New Days Old Times. 1997
Candy Buds. 1992
Deathday. 1991
The Lives and Loves of Tiarella Rosa. == Spare Capacity. 1993
Escape Route. 1997

Peter F. Hamilton.
The Confederation Handbook.
Macmillan. 2000

Peter F. Hamilton.
The Neutronium Alchemist.
Pan. 1997

Peter F. Hamilton.
The Naked God.
Macmillan. 1999

Peter F. Hamilton.
Mindstar Rising.
Pan. 1993

rating : 2 : great stuff
review : 21 July 1996

England is slowly recovering from global warming, the effects of which have been exacerbated by a Credit Crash, and a disastrous 10 year rule of the People's Socialist Party. Greg Mandel, a private detective with Psi-enhanced empathy, is called in to help the Event Horizon corporation -- run by Philip and Julia Evans -- which is being attacked by unknown hackers for unknown reasons. He solves one case -- sabotage of memox crystal fabrication on the Zanthus space station -- but it turns out to be just a small symptom of a bigger conspiracy to bring down the New Conservative government. Greg calls on a range of old friends (Gabriel, another Psi-enhanced, with precognitive powers; Royan, a genius hacker crippled by PSP thugs; Teddy, an old army buddy who now runs the Trinities, an anti-PSP street gang) to help him crack the case. No surprises who the real villain is.

All the action takes place around Peterborough, Cambridge, and Wisbech, which adds to the fun if you know the area.

A well drawn post-cataclysm-but-still-high-tech future. The consequences of all this on society has been thought out in some depth (the Fens have reflooded, Peterborough is the economic capital of the country), and is believably integrated into the story.

Peter F. Hamilton.
A Quantum Murder.
Pan. 1994

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 28 December 2000

It is two years after the events in Mindstar Rising. An eccentric scientist has been murdered, and Julia Evans discovers he was on Event Horizon's payroll. So she calls in Greg Mandel to help the local police. It's a classic "locked room" mystery -- only six people could possibly have done it, and Greg discovers each is innocent. But the more he looks into the case, the more motives he discovers, and he keeps getting odd psi-flashes about the lakes...

More great post-Warming England, geting slowly back on its feet, with a fascinating mixture of high and low tech, and loads of delicious little details. Some great sub-plots, and we get to meet many of our old friends from the previous book.

Peter F. Hamilton.
The Nano Flower.
Pan. 1995

rating : 2 : great stuff
review : 29 December 2000

It is 15 years after the events in A Quantum Murder. Julia Evans' husband disappeared eight months ago, his only contact with her the gift of an enigmatic flower. When analysed, the flower is found to have a genetic structure like nothing seen on earth. And somebody is offering to sell her a fantastic new technology. So Julia calls on her old friend Greg Mandel, to track down the person who delivered the flower. He agrees to help, for old time's sake. After all, it's just a simple tracking job, no difficulty, no danger...

Twists and counter-twists abound, as Greg tracks clues through the labyrinthine divisions that comprise Julia Evans' Event Horizon super-corporation, until all the various sub-plots converge for the grand finale in New London, an earth-orbiting asteroid. The plot is wonderfully put together, but again it is the rich details of the near-future world, its technologies and its politics, that make this series so fascinating and entertaining.

Peter F. Hamilton.
Lightstorm.
Dolphin. 1998