Posts Tagged Science Fiction

Out of this World!

Just back from the British Library Sci-Fi exhibition, Out of this World (visited with a friend). Pretty good exploration of written sci-fi genres, history, etc.

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The Void Trilogy

The Evolutionary VoidThe Dreaming VoidThe Temporal Void

Where do you start when trying to describe Peter F. Hamilton’s science fiction?

His space operas are epic in scale, with many interlocking character stories, taking place across huge amounts of time and space, detailing lives lived with the benefits of high-technology and galaxy-destroying consequences for the protagonists.

The Void Trilogy is set over a thousand years on but within the same universe that hosted his previous ‘trilogy’; Misspent Youth, and the two books forming the Commonwealth Saga; Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained. Humanity has reached a pinnacle of technological development, death is no longer the final hurdle as humans can be reset into younger bodies, and some factions within humanity are looking to the next step; becoming post-physical, evolving, transcending.

The Void is the name bestowed upon what humans suspected was a huge black hole at the centre of the galaxy, but turns out to be an artificial universe, gradually expanding and devouring the human galaxy. The true nature of the Void soon reveals itself as a human, Inigo, claims to have dreamed of the naturally psychic civilisation living within the Void and shares those dreams via the gaiafield that allows humans to share experiences and feelings. The Dreamer becomes the centre of a galaxy-spanning Living Dream movement devoted to reaching and entering the Void and becoming one with the Void dwellers. But then it becomes known that the mass exodus may well trigger a rapid expansion of the Void that will devour the galaxy.

Within this story is also the story of a Void dweller, Edeard, told through Inigo’s dreams. Edeard’s own struggle to bring order and compassion to his world offer a compelling counterpoint to the story of humanity outside the Void.

In typical Hamilton fashion the story builds and builds, new story threads are uncovered, others are closed off or twisted back on themselves, old (from the previous Saga) and new characters cross paths, we find out some more of the background of the Commonwealth and more of the races that inhabit it. The background is incredibly detailed, and as with his other novels, you are thrust into the ultra high-tech world of the future from the very outset.

Weighing in at just over 2,000 pages (exceeding the previous trilogy of 1,800 pages) Hamilton has built an incredible story, a must for any fans of the newer strains of epic space opera we’ve been treated to in the last decades. Its not necessary to read the Commonwealth Saga beforehand although you’d be missing out on another epic tale and some of the richest background material.

I can’t wait to see what Peter F. Hamilton writes next 🙂

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Yellow Blue Tibia / New Model Army

I recently finished two Adam Roberts novels back-to-back. I’ve been a fan of Adam Roberts since his 2000 debut, Salt, I have always felt that his novels were markedly different to traditional science fiction, and from first to latest have not disappointed.

Yellow Blue TibiaThe first book, Yellow Blue Tibia, is more ‘alternative history’ than ‘Science Fiction’, starting in the post-war Soviet Union and then moving to the end of the Cold War era and Chernobyl.

Mr Roberts must have been channeling Philip K. Dick when he came up with the idea behind this story and then injected a large dose of humour, to give us a tale of UFOs, conspiracy theory, Russian stoicism, the questioning of reality, misleading of the public by the government, murder and even Scientologists, narrated by a world-weary, cynical protagonist with a glib attitude to life and others.

The quirky dialogue and often times bizarre turn of events often had me chuckling to myself as the story unfolded. The twists and turns of the story leave you not quite knowing if the UFOs / aliens are real, or human-fabricated. The dark and cynical humour finally gives way to an ending that itself is not particularly surprising, but gives the meaning behind the title and other elements of the story.

Overall, an interesting premise, and a great level of humour throughout. Well worth a read.

New Model ArmyThe second book, New Model Army, is an exploration of the use of technology to enable a “people’s democracy”, and how this would give rise to the technologically-empowered, democratically-directed, paramilitaries required to stop the ‘old order’ from re-asserting control; the titular New Model Armies (NMA).

Opening with an account of the battle of Basingstoke, where an NMA contracted by a Scottish Parliament seeking independence, routs a larger force of British Army regulars, we get a different look at modern combat and the effects on the human mind.

The story is one of the realisation and power of a ‘true democracy’ over the pseudo-democracy, and rigid hierarchy, of today, a nod to the ‘power to the people’ ideals of our pasts, yet a far cry from the ‘disorganised’ rallies of recent years as the NMAs use modern technology to the full; group comms, geo-tagging, wikis, crowd-sourced decision making, etc. to form a flexible, competent, fighting force.

New Model Army feels a little hurried towards the end, and I’m not sure if this is a function of the sub-300 pages and the easy reading style, or if this is intended by the author to reflect the narrator’s state of mind. I suppose that another reading will be required to really understand that for myself.

There are some interesting ideas here, building to a truly new idea of the future. Another book worth taking a look at 🙂

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