Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Abyss Beyond Dreams - A Review

The Abyss Beyond Dreams
Chronicle of the Fallers, Book One

When images of a lost civilisation are 'dreamed' by a self-proclaimed prophet of the age, Nigel Sheldon, inventor of wormhole technology and creator of the Commonwealth society is suspicious. Especially as the dreams seem to be coming from the Void - an area of living space monitored and controlled because of its hugely destructive capabilities. With it being the greatest threat to the known universe, Nigel is determined to find out if human life really does exist beyond its boundaries and if so, what the hell they're doing there.

But when he crash lands on a planet beyond the Void he didn't even know existed he finds so much more than he imagined. Bienvenido, a world populated from the survivors of Commonwealth colony ships which disappeared over three thousand years' ago. Since then they've been fighting an ever-increasingly desperate battle against a space-born predator invading their landscape. The Fallers looks innocuous to begin with and their lure is enticing to any that stray within their path - but they are by far the greatest threat to the continuance of humanity on this planet.

But Nigel soon realises that the Fallers also hold the key to something he'd never hoped to find - the destruction of the Void itself. If only he can survive long enough to work out how to use it...
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I began reading Peter F. Hamilton way back in mid-nineties when he was writing the near-future SF detective stories featuring Greg Mandel. To be honest I didn't really get his first foray into Space Opera - the Night's Dawn Trilogy - and I guess that's why it took me so long to return to his work. I did so last year and wow - I wish I'd come back sooner.

I can honestly say that his Commonwealth Saga (consisting of the Commonwealth Saga duology and the Void Trilogy) is at the top of the list of my all-time favourite Space Operas.

The Abyss Beyond Dreams is the first in a new duology set in the Commonwealth universe (squeee!). Nigel Sheldon returns (we didn't see him on the Void Trilogy), along with a Paula Mayo cameo, and is convinced by the alien Raiel to participate in a desperate scheme to infiltrate the Void.

Inside Nigel discovers that humans are not the only species to have been sucked into the Void's strange reality, where the laws of physics are subtly different and strength of mind equates to strong psychic abilities. These humans, survivors and descendants of a lost fleet of colony ships that left Commonwealth space 500 years before (quantum physics plays with the speed at which time inside the Void and time outside the Void move at different paces), are caught in a vicious war against the Fallers, a species of biological mimics trying to wipe them out, and their society begins to breakdown into civil war.

While this is a return to the Void we explored in the Void Trilogy - and if you have read it you know what happens - it is still full of twists and turns and revelations that are genuinely surprising. There is enough closure to end this volume with just enough of a hook to make you want the next book right now. 

The Abyss Beyond Dreams is a superb return to a universe that melds hard SF concepts with fantasy adventure.  Hamilton expands on the unanswered questions of previous books without rehashing old ground, and offers us a fully realised cast of characters, old and new, to be thrown into a thrilling plot of action and intrigue that is his hallmark. It is a gripping tale told by a skilled writer, one who raises the bar for both Space Operas and Epic Fantasy alike.

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