Sunday, April 29, 2012

Review: The Night's Dawn Trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton (spoilers)

The Reality Dysfunction 1225p
The Neutronium Alchemist 1290p
The Naked God 1267p

Books are in a trade paperback form, in other words they are huge and massively heavy.  I couldn't bring myself to buy The Naked God in paper form, read it on a Nook instead.  Lugging those giant books to and from work and wrestling on the train isn't fun.

Before I read this mammoth trilogy, I read the Commonwealth Saga (Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained) and the Void Trilogy (The Dreaming Void, The Temporal Void, The Evolutionary Void). I was well aware of Mr Hamilton's habit of having huge casts of characters and ridiculous numbers of plot threads to follow.  I am bad at remembering names, have a pretty wretched memory for plot lines, so this really wouldn't seem like a good author for me.  That said, I really enjoyed the Commonwealth Saga.  It took me a while to get engaged, but it was a page-turner that I loved to the end.  I wish I could say the same for Night's Dawn.  Spoilers ahead, I'm sure.

Remember I said likely spoilers ahead!

I had high hopes for the Night's Dawn trilogy, I was on a major Peter F Hamilton kick having read the Commonwealth Saga and Void Trilogy straight in a row.  I think I read a book or two before starting Night's Dawn - Thirteen by Richard K. Morgan comes to mind, maybe re-reading A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge.  Maybe something else.  Anyway!  I knew it would take some time to get into The Reality Dysfunction, and it delivered on that count.  Since I'm not writing this directly after reading it, I'm going to be short on details.  My brain likes to store things I'll use but things like movies, books, non-essential information gets flushed out quickly.

The universe building in this was great.  It may take 3800 pages to build, but it's fleshed out on a huge scale.  When I was thumbing through the timeline recently (with the real news of asteroid capture on the horizon, I wanted to see when they said it happened in the Night's Dawn timeline - we're ahead of schedule woohoo! :), I realized that the Adamist and Edenist cultures being isolated to this series was hard to fathom.  It almost felt like this was just an established culture out there in the world, but no.  I guess after living with it via book form for so many pages, it felt truly ingrained into life.

Characters are not usually a strong point in science fiction, and I do believe that most books I really love - it's due to being able to connect in a deep way with a character.  I'm easy to win over, so I feel it's usually a pretty low mark if I don't care about the characters in a book.  I was attached to say Paula Myo, Justine Burnelli and of course Gore Burnelli from his other series.  I liked Joshua in Night's Dawn, but he was way too perfect of a hero.  He could do everything, and he was awesome at it.  It's satisfying to a reader, but in a cheap sugar-high kind of way.  It gets to a point of come on now, really?!  There was a lot of time dedicated to a lot of characters along the way.  A lot of them I didn't care about, some I couldn't stand and was dying to get to a new plot thread.

This maybe was just a lack of editing, but it felt like some plot threads that were so incredibly long, didn't ever really come together in the end.  The whole Valisk situation wore me out.  I struggled to get through The Naked God (third and final book), get us back to Joshua and some action we care about for crying out loud!

There were some interesting questions with the primary conflict of the possessed in the books.  I wasn't too thrilled that this was going to be the focus of the books, and the bringing back historical figures bit felt a little cheesy if I'm honest.  Over time though, it opened up some issues that seemed relevant.  Just don't ask me what they are now, I can't recall.  But I do remember slightly warming up to the focus of conflict arising from the possessed. :)

The ending of the series - well I did some reading up on this after the fact to see what other people thought.  There is a bit of controversy, I don't think it was Deus Ex Machina either but I totally get why people call it that.  It felt.. maybe cheap, hollow, too perfect of a solution from our too perfect of a hero.  It wrapped up with a bow quite quickly and I was left feeling a bit let down after I invested so much time into reading these books.

This is a pretty spotty report on the books, but I guess in the end I want to say - I wouldn't recommend it.  The Commonwealth Saga is a much better implementation of the giant cast of characters+convoluted plot threads+universe building.  Lots of good and interesting ideas, but just too darned long and tedious at times.

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