Peter F. Hamilton – The Evolutionary Void

Impressive and mature are the first words I have for the Void Trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton after having completed the third novel The Evolutionary Void (2010). The first novels I read by him were those of the Night’s Dawn Trilogy. It showed potential, but the story contained weaknesses which grew worse as it progressed. It caused me to put Hamilton aside for a while. At the end of last year I decided to give him a try again and I was happy that his potential hadn’t weakened. I picked up the Commonwealth Saga (see my reviews of those novels), which showed considerable growth and a far more steady and solid story. There were still some weaknesses, but those could be considered minor. What Hamilton certainly showed was that he was able to tell an engaging and very accessible epic space opera story with sufficient complexity but still an enough straightforward story to keep the reader in line.

With his Void Trilogy Hamilton has grown even more. His style remains the same but his skills have become stronger. In the Commonwealth Saga the story depended more on violent action and dramatic events with an occasional info-dumping. With the Void Trilogy he has found more maturity. Although the aforementioned elements are still there, except for the info-dumping, it is of a lesser degree. The events are packed more tighter and the dramatic trigger is not required to give the story its emotional value. Like his previous works the story touches on several themes that drive the story. In The Evolutionary Void they become clearer without being forced upon the reader.

At the end of book two, The Temporal Void, I had no idea how the story would progress. It certainly was not predictable. The Evolutionary Void starts with a bang. The first 50 to 100 pages are impressively powerful with some early surprises. One will immediately be captivated and get pulled into the story again. Hamilton then returns to his normal pace but avoids scenes to be drawn out and keeps them tight and interesting. We live with each character, how different they may be, although there is not much character development. Of course this is not a coming of age story, most characters have lived a long time already and have already matured. It is the events and their actions that drive the story. It is with some regret that you reach the end, which happens a bit more suddenly and faster than expected. Hamilton does not let down but does not rise above himself either.

Although Hamilton provides many new ideas, overall his concepts have been explored already in different or similar directions. This is of course caused by the difficulty of creating something truly original in the way the future might evolve. I don’t read a lot of science fiction but I do have noticed that certain basic concepts are the same. I don’t mind that. Science fiction is a specific genre and the only way to distinguish oneself is to write a very good story, because that is what is sometimes problematic in science fiction.

With the Void Trilogy Hamilton has created a very strong and solid story which is epic in nature, as we explore strange places, meet different species and future society is complex but structured and simplified sufficiently for the reader to keep track. He explores some interesting new ideas within a familiar framework. This makes his SF very accessible for readers of varying experience and needs. These are not novels that will gain awards for ingenuity or breaking boundaries, but will be much loved by fans for telling a compelling story which does not seem so far away or alien. Highly recommended.

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