Friday, June 5, 2009

Peter F. Hamilton - The Temporal Void

Peter F. Hamilton, The Temporal Void, Part Two of the Void Trilogy, Macmillan, 2008.

Spoiler warning!

This volume continues the story started in The Dreaming Void, set in the same universe as the Commonwealth Saga.

As the second volume of a trilogy, it has to advance the various strands of the story, add some tension and make the reader impatient for the conclusion. I think it achieves these aims quite well.

We continue to follow Araminta, who has to come to terms with being the Second Dreamer and avoid the various groups trying to kidnap her; Aaron and Corrie-Lyn find Inigo on a planet which is then attacked, and they manage to escape just before it gets destroyed; Justine manages to enter the Void but doesn't find Querenicia, since the events in Inigo's dreams happened long ago. An old threat is reawakened, but at this point seems to be containable. There are hints at the events of the next volume, which should include a meeting with another familiar character from the Commonwealth Saga.

The other narrative in the book, the story of Edeard, continues and develops, with the book's title finally explained as Edeard learns to mentally manipulate not only the matter of the universe, but also its temporal structure, so he can "rewind" time and change the sequence of events. This sort of trick always annoys me, but may reflect the nature of the Void as some sort of simulation. I hope this will be resolved to my satisfaction in the final volume.

Having read both volumes within a few days, I realized that the experience of reading Hamilton's work is one of comfortable familiarity. Readers who have read his previous novels will know how they are constructed: a few big sf ideas, surrounded by the stories of the various characters with familiar elements. There are always dangers and risks, but there is also the expectation of a mostly happy ending, often with some sort of deus ex machina solving the problems. In a way, Hamilton's works tend more towards what could be called science fantasy than science fiction, due to the "mystical" elements, even if they may be given some sort of scientific explanation. They provide a satisfying, though not always very challenging, read.

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