Friday, May 29, 2009

Peter F. Hamilton - The Dreaming Void

Peter F. Hamilton, The Dreaming Void, Part One of the Void Trilogy, Pan, 2007.

Spoiler warning!

This novel takes place in the Commonwealth universe, many years after the events of the Commonwealth Saga (Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained). While I assume the new trilogy can be read by those unfamiliar with the previous works, I think it is worth reading the Commonwealth Saga first, as some of the events are referenced, and some of the same characters appear here. I re-read this book as preparation for reading the next in the trilogy, The Temporal Void.

The Void is an artificial universe at the centre of the galaxy, created by an advanced society, and studied by various species for millions of years. It gradually consumes our universe, somewhat like a black hole. A researcher at the human observation base, Inigo, starts receiving dreams about life within the Void, and discovers that many years ago, humans somehow entered the Void and their ships crash landed on the planet Querencia. Inigo's dreams show a society where advanced technology doesn't exist, but the humans have developed telepathic and telekinetic skills. He follows the life of Edeard, who has strong skills and a clear vision of how the world should change. It is also hinted that Edeard dreams, perhaps about the Commonwealth universe beyond the Void.

Inigo spreads his dreams by means of the artificial telepathy most humans have adopted, the gaiafield, based on Silfen technology. This leads to the creation of a religious movement called the Living Dream, and its followers wish to enter the Void and live on Querencia. This raises fears among many humans and other species that such an attempt would cause the Void to start a "devourment phase" which could destroy the galaxy. The Living Dream is strengthened by the appearance on the gaiafield of new dreams coming from the Void, this time focusing on the Skylords, beings supposed to guide the souls of the dead to their equivalent of heaven. The Living Dream is trying to locate the Second Dreamer who is having these dreams, apparently unaware of their significance.

We follow Aaron, an agent trying to find Inigo, who disappeared from public life some time after the religion he founded became established. Aaron has had his memory edited so he can focus only on the task at hand, though sometimes he dreams of his past. He joins up in this search with Inigo's former lover, Corrie-Lyn, who doesn't trust him but realizes he can't be stopped.

Meanwhile, a physicist called Troblum, obsessed with the history of the Starflyer war (described in the Commonwealth Saga), is involved in developing some advanced technology and is manipulated by the various powers.

Another character is Araminta, who is setting up her housing refurbishment business and conducting a relationship with a Multiple man who has one consciousness spread among several bodies. The reader gradually realizes that Araminta has a larger role to play in the big story.

We also see the return of several familiar characters from the Commonwealth Saga, and follow the political scheming among the various human factions.

Hamilton is an expert at taking a big SF idea, then creating a vivid human setting around it. His characters and social settings are interesting, and the writing is very visual, with graphic descriptions of the scenery, action and details such as clothing. After investing such a lot of time in creating an imaginary world, it is easy to understand why the author likes to write big, multi-volume series, with many viewpoint characters. Presumably, readers also like to return to the familiar setting, which is why these books become best sellers. I have read all Hamilton's novels so far, and most of them maintain the same high standard, making them a worthwhile read.

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