October 20, 2014 by mmileti
For those of you who have never heard of Peter F. Hamilton, he is a giant within the science fiction genre, and specialist in space operas in particular. In The Abyss Beyond Dreams Hamilton returns to the Commonwealth and the universe of his acclaimed Void Trilogy with the first installment of Chronicle of the Fallers, a new two-part series. Abyss is perfect both for fans of Hamilton’s work and for new readers; the events of this novel expand on the story and setting of the Void Trilogy, but Hamilton gives enough background to make the story easy to follow for readers that are new to the Commonwealth. This impressive novel lives up to Hamilton’s reputation and gives the reader all they could ever want in a science fiction story and more: an alien landscape with magic-like properties, a fascinating and engaging plot, wonderful characterization, plenty of adventure, a dash of politics, and a story on an epic scale.
The story takes place in the year 3326, where interplanetary travel is possible and the Commonwealth reigns. In the center of the galaxy is the Void, a place once thought to be a black hole, where the laws of physics do not always apply and magic-like mental powers are commonplace. The story follows Nigel Sheldon, one of the famous founders of the Commonwealth. When he is visited by the the Raiel, the self-appointed guardians of the Void, they convince him to journey into the Void to search for the existence of a colony of vessels that were pulled into the alien landscape and lost. But when Nigel discovers that humans are not the only life-forms to have been sucked into the Void, he realizes he must discover the secrets of the murderous alien Fallers in order to find a way to destroy the threat of the Void to the Commonwealth forever. But the fragile human society is soon forced into civil war by the relentless attacks of the Fallers, and Nigel is suddenly in danger of being killed by the very people he has come to save.
I was impressed with this novel’s seamless blend of space opera, fantasy, and horror. It is a story that will appeal to a wide audience because of its amalgamation of many different story elements, rich and detailed world building, and shocking plot twists that will guarantee the reader will want to devour the next installment in the series as soon as it is released. Hamilton also does a wonderful job of tying together several different plot lines and characters despite the fact that these different POVs and situations are spread far apart in the story progression. When Hamilton does come back to a specific plot element or character, it is often to give the reader an explanation that suddenly opens up his understanding of the story in a major way. He makes sure to give the reader plenty of “Oh wow!” and “That’s why that happened!” moments that are the mark of a truly engrossing story.
Though this novel will be most likely be more enjoyable to the readers who have already read the Void trilogy and are familiar with the Commonwealth, Hamilton writes in a way that makes The Abyss Beyond Dreams accessible and enjoyable to new readers as well. If you do enjoy this novel, I would definitely recommend reading the rest of Hamilton’s Commonwealth novels in order to gain a greater understanding of the world building and nuances behind this story. There is some debate on whether or not this novel can be read as a standalone, and though I found that Hamilton gave plenty of background for new readers, if you do have trouble with this book I recommend giving the Void Trilogy a try. Hamilton is a really fantastic writer who has perfected the space opera into an art form, and any fan of science fiction would be terribly missing out by not giving his work a try.
My rating: 8/10
I received a copy of this novel from Netgalley and the publisher in return for an honest review.