Friday, 20 July 2012

Guest Review: 'Great North Road' (Peter F. Hamilton) reviewed by Steven Ellis

Steven Ellis is a regular blogger over at SFX, a good friend and the biggest fan of Peter F. Hamilton that I know. The ideal guy then (and I'm really glad he agreed) to do 'Great North Road' justice in review form. Read Steven's review and then go read all those blog he's posted :o)

I should start off by saying I’m a big fan of Peter F. Hamilton’s work; best to be honest up front and everything. I talked Graeme into letting me read the proof copy he was sent so I could read the book before its September release date. The price was this review. As I said; I’m a big Hamilton fan, I can remember picking up The Reality Dysfunction in W.H. Smith’s and being astounded at the giant brick of a book, to be honest I was always a little intimidated by the size. I finally took the plunge and ended up consuming the whole Night’s Dawn trilogy over the space of a month back in 1999 when I was stuck in a cast with a broken knee and nowhere to go. I’ve been a fan ever since. Hopefully this won’t colour my review.

Peter F. Hamilton’s latest novel, Great North Road, is a stand-alone story and is unconnected to any of his earlier books, so can be read in the confidence that you won’t need to be signing on to a multi-book epic and you don’t need to have read his earlier work to jump on. For people who haven’t dipped into the worlds of PFH it’s a great book to start with.

The book is set in 2143 and has two main threads; the first is pretty much a police procedural and concerns the hunt for a killer; high ranking member of the important North family is found murdered in Newcastle. The death links to another North murder committed years early, the jailed perpetrator of which has always professed her innocence and maintained that “Aliens did it.”
The second thread follows an expedition to a very strange, and little explored, colony world called St. Libra; the planet on which the original North murder was committed. The two plots are linked in various ways and by various characters which become more and more apparent as the story progresses and both the investigation and the expedition being to run into problems from within and without. The book also has flashbacks scattered throughout which reveal clues and character history that inform the current events as they unfold.

Hamilton is an old hat at complex world building and he’s on great form here. His depiction of the high tech future police procedures, the organisation and staging of the expedition and the various other aspects of the society he creates are brilliantly thought out. The nature and history of the North family is particularly interesting although I was reminded of Hamilton’s earlier Confederation universe at times. These interstellar societies all start to look the same after a while.

Character- wise the book has many interesting and engaging people; from weary Newcastle police officer Sid Hurst and his investigative team through to Angela Tramelo, who after her many years in prison is probably the most complex and layered of the protagonists in the book. The various members of the expedition and peripheral characters are all engaging and Hamilton manages to inject a decent amount of depth into even the smallest of background player. Hamilton has written more interesting characters in previous books but on the whole it’s a good ensemble cast who carry the story well.

As is pretty much guaranteed with Hamilton, the book is huge, clocking in at nearly 1100 pages. He always give good value for money in a book and if I had one issue to bring up about this and PFH’s writing in general it’s that he tells big engrossing and all encompassing tales but he’s often let down by his endings. Not that
Great North Road
has a bad ending; it’s just that the journey is so good and when it comes to an end it’s very difficult to do that journey justice. Great
North Road
has one of those 100 years later type epilogues and I found myself not wanting to see this but instead wanting to read and find out about the stories which may have occurred in those intervening years. I wanted the book to keep going. To keep telling me tales of these characters and worlds and that isn’t a bad thing, far form it, but alas, all good things must end. I wouldn’t however, not say no to a sequel to this book at some point.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, the book is a great read, full of interesting characters, great action wonderful tech and a very engaging central mystery and it rips along at a fair old pace. I heartily recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of space opera, future tech or anyone who just likes a damn good yarn.

Eight out of Ten

11 comments:

ediFanoB said...

I wanted to buy a copy even before I read your review.

I belong to the people who never read a Peter F. Hamilton book so far.

But that will change. Your review confirmed my resultion to buy and read it.

Of course your appreciation of Peter F. Hamilton shines htrough your review. But from my point of view you wrote an honest review.

David Barnes said...

Thanks for the review but Amazon says this is being released in Decemeber (day after Christmas). So really, get me excited and then make me wait 5 months? Thanks bunches!

Graeme Flory said...

David - I don't have the copy to hand anymore but I'm pretty sure the blurb on the back mentioned a September release. Honest mistake and all that (plus at least one other review of this book has gone out even earlier...) :o)

The Kat said...

Good review. Been looking forward to this for some time. Love the commonweath books, but he's been due a new universe for a while. People tend to forget Peter can write good stand alone novels. Fallen Dragon is one of my faviourte novels and the Mandel books are all very good with definitive starts and ends, (but the least said about misspent youth the better.)

The Kat said...

Very good review. Very jealous the reviewer has managed to read it already.

First truely stand-alone novel since Fallen Dragon which was one of his best in my opinion. Its easy to forget that Peter is as at home with one book stories as he is with the vast multi book story arcs he's more well known for.

Anonymous said...

Hey there, this is Steven, the reviewer of this book, I just wanted to address David's comment. The press release that accompanied the book I received says a September 27th release in the UK. I'm in the UK. I wrote a review for a UK release of a book for a friend based in the UK. The December 26th release date is for the US. Sorry about the confusion.

Anonymous said...

Love the books...but I've only read Nights Dawn Trilogy (a couple of times actually) and Last Chance at Eden. I struggled with the Void Trilogy, don't know why...and haven't read any others. This new book looks very very good and I love the review...cheers

Ellie said...

Oooh, new Peter F. Hamilton, shiny! Too bad I have to wait till December, but oh well. Maybe I'll order my copy from the UK.... :P

Anonymous said...

To the last Anon above, you've *got * to read Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained (one story in two parts). They're the best. I went absolutely gaga over that amazing story.

Takman said...

I too am excited by the new book. I read the trilogy when I was laid up in a Bangkok hospital for a month having been hit by the Tsunami in Phuket. I ordered the trilogy through Amazon as my copy of the Reality Dysfunction was swallowed up in the Indian Ocean :-)
The postage to Thailand was three times the cost of the books but worth every penny!

Anonymous said...

I thought it might be worth mentioning that fans of Peter F. Hamilton outside of the U.K. can get the book (from www.amazon.co.uk or ebay.co.uk among I'm sure many others) . . . for a price.

I just received my copy in the U.S., and I'll leave it to you to decide if I'm just an enthusiastic fan or nuts to pay international freight to get it. :)