A Perspective on Peter F. Hamilton

In a previous life, Peter F. Hamilton was a masonry expert and built formidable cathedrals in Europe throughout the middle ages.

Which brings up side-topic numero uno: I do not believe in reincarnation. Purely for mathematical reasons. If a life dies, subtracting one life from the total lives possible, and then inhabits another life, adding one life back into the total lives possible, then the sum population growth is always NONE. But, we know that’s not true, don’t we?

Back to our main subject: Peter F. Hamilton.

He began publishing science fiction in the early nineties with some short stories sold in the British market. Then he started releasing his Greg Mandel trilogy, a series of mysteries to be solved by a near-future psychic private investigator in a dystopian England. (I have read all of these and they are quite good.)

However, it was in 1996 that he electrified the world with his classic, “The Night’s Dawn Trilogy.”

I first picked up “The Reality Dysfunction — Part 1: Emergence” in the late nineties because I thought the cover artwork was cool! I still think that. Did you notice that “Part 1” bit back there? Yeah, originally this trilogy was published in the US as a six-part epic, breaking the three main novels in half. I don’t know what the marketing thoughts were: either make more money, or just cynicism that American audiences couldn’t handle a 1,300 page novel, so it needed to be split.

The full trilogy is now published as designed. They are “The Reality Dysfunction,” “The Neutronium Alchemist,” and “The Naked God.” Total word count estimated at 1.2 million!

Full disclosure: I have never been able to complete it. I don’t fault Mr. Hamilton for that. It’s all on me and my personal beliefs.

The plot is that humans expand into space with extraordinary tech. I really love those parts! At some point, someone accidentally opens a door to a void space full of immortal souls of humans who had died and now were psychotic due to their imprisonment in that void. They broke out and began to inhabit humans bodies and wreaking havoc everywhere. I don’t know if technology beats spirituality because I never got but halfway through the first volume.

Side Topic numero dos: I don’t believe in immortal souls. When we die, we simply cease to exist. I do believe in spirit beings. I hate demon possession, which is what this trilogy deals with. Anyway, I hate most of this subject. So, no wonder I didn’t finish it. I hear it’s quite good. Maybe I’ll be able to put aside my prejudices one day and give it another go.

Back to subject.

In 2004, he released “Pandora’s Star,” a novel placed in a new universe called the Commonwealth. I ate this book alive, and it screamed all the way down. The only thing that punked me a bit is he dropped the dreaded c-word-nuclear-bomb just once. But, the context of it is reasonably clear, and he hasn’t done it since, which gives me delight.

“Judas Unchained” was the sequel and OUTstanding! Followed by the “Void Trilogy” set in the same universe, but a blocked off section of it. His latest duology “The Abyss Beyond Dreams” and “The Night Without Stars” goes back and destroys this void, and ultimately saves planets full of beings.

I just finished it, and that is why you are getting this Perspective.

Parental Advisories:

Profanity: Yes. F-bombs are sprinkled around. Oddly, in his latest offering, “crud” and “crudding” takes most – though not all – of the f-bombs place.

Violence: Yes. Explosions, shootings, alien blue blood, etc. Nothing too grisly, and the author doesn’t glory in it.

Sex and Nudity: Yes. And this is what sets Mr. Hamilton off from the pack of SF/F writers. His characters actually enjoy intimacy and giving each other pleasure, so sex is rarely abusive or instinctual.

Side topic numero tres: between the “Void” Trilogy and this latest duology, Mr. Hamilton wrote a very good murder mystery in the near future in England that involved aliens and colonization of another planet and the dangers therein. This was a standalone novel titled “The Great North Road,” and I liked it a lot. Most people didn’t. Would you like to know why? Well, I’ll tell you anyway. It doesn’t have hardly any of Hamilton’s trademark sex scenes.

SF/F writers hate writing sex scenes for a number of reasons. First, they often view sex through the prism of evolution, and so usually write it as animal instinct instead of what it really is. Secondly, if they write it, their characters are flawed to the point that sex is merely scratching an itch because they are incapable of real intimacy. Third, writing sex scenes is HARD (sic, pun intended). Either go the intimacy route, or write porn, or ignore the subject completely. Hamilton goes the intimacy route and it works!

I know, it’s crazy, but people really like his books for the sex. There are other reasons to like them, though.

Mr. Hamilton is a courageous SF/F writer for many reasons. First of all, he never went to college, doesn’t know a lot about science, mostly shrugged at English classes in school, and just started writing! He doesn’t fit the mold of most SF/F writers. He is a born prodigy meant to write!

Secondly, his subject matter seems mostly to be the collision of spirituality with scientific exploration. Even the Void series and the latest duology have at their core a belief in the immortality of the human soul, clashing with humans trying to keep from getting annihilated through high-concept scientific means. At no time does he deride the spirituality; he simply shows it as an important presence. The fact that many humans have accepted “uploading” of their personalities into a network of similar beings that can be “downloaded” into a grown clone is basically stating a spiritual concept of the soul in scientific terms.

Thirdly, if you have read 600 pages of a Hamilton novel, be assured you are only about two-thirds of the way through. They are humongous volumes! They even invented a word for it when another author writes a “doorstop” or “brick” like these: they call it a Hamiltonian epic, named after you know who. Why so big? Three reasons: dozens of fully fleshed out characters; detailed descriptions of the physical environment; and an intricate plot that will take a while to unravel.

Would any of these be recommended for children? Not likely. Of course, every parent can read them and then decide for their kids. But, don’t discard everything Peter F. Hamilton writes. He is aware of the adult nature of his books, and has kids he would like to write for. So, since 2014 he has also been writing a children’s fantasy series called the “Book of the Realms.” Check those out; you might like them.

I have my personal favorite of Hamilton’s books, and it surprises most people because it is a standalone that just didn’t ripple the pond much. “The Fallen Dragon” encapsulates many of his ideas into one longish work that is complete within itself. Oddly enough, it closely resembles the “Night’s Dawn Trilogy,” the one I never finished.

I have one regret. I currently only own the latest duology in hardcover. In fact, here is a picture of my entire collection of the beloved Peter F. Hamilton’s work.

Jpeg

Pathetic, huh? Hey wait! What’s that thing on the left doing in there? Sorry, Mr. H! (Actually, the two seem to have a lot of respect for each other, so I doubt either one minds that gaff too much. It is actually my two current favorite SF/F authors. [Pssst. Don’t tell Mr. Hamilton I own lots more of that other guys novels. I was at least that smart.])

I wish my bookshelf was full of his books, but I just didn’t think of keeping them at the time.

Here’s why that might be important: “Night Without Stars” ends in such a fully satisfying manner that incorporates many of the characters from the Commonwealth Universe into its conclusion. I don’t know how much more of these Mr. Hamilton will write, but I got this sick feeling in my gut that we were saying goodbye to them all.

Sure wish I’d kept those volumes. There might be room on my bookcase, if — um, someone, er, might like to donate to the cause? Fixed income, and hardcovers are rare in the US. Mailing address available upon request. Hint, hint, know-what-I-mean?

Mr. Hamilton has been nominated for many awards, but only won two. A short story got the BSFA award in 2001, and in 2015 “The Great North Road” won a French award for best foreign SF novel (leave it to the French to award a sexless book, because to our romantic cousins sex likely only means it’s about nine PM on any given day, ho-hum).

Do I think he will win lots of awards? I don’t know, and am not even sure he cares about that. To me, he is such a pure writer that he’d probably rather be writing than attending ceremonies. Too, his whole purpose is the story. He’s not trying to make any political or sociological point of relevance about the human condition. He’s more interested in saying things fun than saying things conforming to someone else’s idea of “important.” I would rather like it if he got a lifetime achievement award somewhere down the road.

Awards or not, Peter F. Hamilton remains the UK’s biggest selling SF author, and his popularity in the USA is growing.

One final side topic for the road: He has a website with a blog, but his last entry there is dated mid-June of 2015. If you wish to interact with him, he seems to prefer Facebook.

So, because Mr. Hamilton writes bricks that include spirituality, he must have been a bricklayer (masonry) in his former life, building European Cathedrals!

See how my twisted mind works?

Mr. Hamilton, consider yourself perspectivized.

13 January 2017

VA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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