Jamie Marriage is an Australian science fiction writer who lives Sydney. He has a keen interest in the cyberpunk genre and Japan.
The works of Peter F Hamilton are epic tomes, dense with plot and character, rife with intrigue and complex stories within stories, and among them The Abyss Beyond Dreams is easily one of the most fulfilling novels of the last year.
Building from his earlier works of the Commonwealth and Void sagas, Hamilton subverts convention by folding genres in this newest tale, wrapping space opera within a tale of survival within what could be considered Revolution 101.
Nigel Sheldon, thousand year old entrepreneur and part founder of the galaxy spanning Commonwealth, is approached by the mysterious guardians of the system-engulfing void to solve a quandary: how could the survivors of a fleet of ships, consumed by the void centuries prior, be living on within the blackness as a three millennia old civilization? And more importantly: how can the void be prevented from consuming any more of the galaxy within its abyssal pocket universe?
Within the void, civilization has prospered under the tyrannical rule of the long crashed colony fleet. In constant fear of the cannibalistic alien mimics, the Fallers, life is difficult for those trying to protect the human population of the void-stricken planet where advanced technology quickly falters and is replaced with powers of telepathy and telekinesis.
Narrative and character development stand strong in The Abyss Beyond Dreams, switching frequently between Nigel, ex-regimental officer Slvasta driven by thoughts of revenge and revolution against the creatures and bureaucracy that resulted in him losing an arm and friends to the Fallers, and the young and spirited Kysandra, rescued by Nigel just before she was sold to repay debts and gifted with knowledge of the outside universe.
Split into six books, each cataloguing a period within the chain of events originating with the first landing within the void, Hamilton has managed to avoid the sluggish pace that often accompanies novels of this length. Action fires at an often erratic pace, with periods of world building broken by sporadic intrigue and conflict, but never detracting from the story as a whole.
The Abyss Beyond Dreams is an inspired and complex web of a novel with each interaction guiding readers to possible conclusions before sudden revelations twist the story into further peaks and troughs. That being said, Hamilton has not simply relied on Deus Ex Machina to resolve his narrative; in fact, the characters themselves are often the impetus of sudden change. Readers not daunted by the size of the novel will find this a solid and satisfying read as Hamilton’s, often intense, writing style rewards the dedicated reader with plots-within-plots, and well developed characters.
The Abyss Beyond Dreams is a novel that went far beyond my expectations. Whether you’re a newcomer, or a dedicated Hamilton reader, this novel stands on its own story and will satisfy even the most critical science fiction fan.