The Abyss Beyond Dreams
A Novel of the Commonwealth (Commonwealth: Chronicle of the Fallers)
Written by: Peter F. Hamilton
Published by: Del Rey
The Abyss Beyond Dreams – It is a return to his Commonwealth Universe, set in the time before the Void Trilogy, and will tell the story of Nigel Sheldon and what happened when he broke into the Void.
The Abyss Beyond Dreams
by Peter F. Hamilton
A GHOST OF FUTURES PAST.
When Laura Brandt is yanked from suspended animation, little does she suspect that her colonising expedition has been drawn into the Void — the mysterious, rotten unknown that lies at the core of the galaxy. The crew find their latent psychic abilities have come to the fore, but only at the expense of technology, which is fast failing even as the fleet, guided by an inscrutable Skylord, limps towards the nearest habitable planet. Given that an entire Raiel armada once disappeared into the Void, returning only in a dream of helplessness a million years later, whatever lies waiting there for Laura is surely just the beginning of a new nightmare…
Peter F. Hamilton is known for writing gargantuan novels, the sort that endure well beyond an e-reader’s battery life and which give visible texture to the new release shelves of local bookshops. At 674 pages, The Abyss Beyond Dreams is physically imposing; by today’s mind-set, almost difficult to commence reading. The prose is functional rather than finely crafted, but this is hardly unexpected from an author who once set down a 1.2 million word trilogy. Hamilton’s SF plays out on a grand scale (think Asimov’s Foundation series without the seeping damp of self-importance), and allows itself plenty of space through which to engage. The reader quickly becomes acclimatised, then intrigued and — within the first hundred pages — thoroughly engrossed. By the time the halfway point is reached and The Abyss Beyond Dreams lies wings asunder like a pulpit bible, the story’s momentum is nigh unstoppable.
The Abyss Beyond Dreams is set within Hamilton’s Commonwealth Universe, and along with The Night Without Stars (forthcoming) will constitute a duology entitled The Chronicle of the Fallers. Notwithstanding these connections, the novel is largely self-contained. Its first ‘book’ (there are six in total, individually titled within The Abyss Beyond Dreams) establishes everything of relevance about the Commonwealth, and most of the story takes place independently within the Void, a phenomenon that has its own physical laws, planetary society and indeed resident breed of invading body snatcher. The scientific and pseudo-scientific elements of the narrative — for instance, telepathy, telekinesis and time reversal — are not explored in their own right, but rather incorporated as faits accomplis, the futuristic parlance at first coming thick and fast and tagged with matter-of-fact exposition. Hamilton’s unselfconscious approach extends in this respect to his use of SOADs (Strangely Overt Acronym Definers), rather than the less clunky practice of leading with the Space Nomenclature In Full and thereafter giving readers a SNIF. His concepts, however, remain compelling in their implications, and by novel’s end Hamilton has not only explored his various premises but also brought closure to the story. Whatever comes next will be a new undertaking, not merely a continuation.
Apropos of his propensity for conceptualizing space opera (in the newer, non-pejorative estimation) on a Wagnerian scale, Hamilton tends to write from the viewpoints of several protagonists, starting with disparate threads and subsequently weaving them together to form an epic tapestry (and in this instance also a five by three metre desk, the enormity of which is difficult to justify, even within the Void). The six ‘books’ of The Abyss Beyond Dreamsare overlapping but non-sequential, and it is through their arrangement that Hamilton styles the artistic nuances of his grand vision: where others might grasp at the opportunity for dramatic irony or narrative prestidigitation,
Hamilton instead pursues degrees of experiential honesty and subtle but telling variations in perspective. The result is a classic piece of Golden Age SF, rescued from subsumption and adjusted for both economic and cultural inflation. For those who fall prey to nostalgia, Peter F. Hamilton’s latest must surely constitute (time and title running backwards) a dream beyond the abyss.
Reviewed by Jacob Edwards
SHOP -The Abyss Beyond Dreams:
A Novel of the Commonwealth