I love space opera No, I mean it, I really LOVE space opera!
And, for me at least, nobody owns this genre as totally as the British writer Peter F. Hamilton. He is the sun that small baby stars aspire to become.
Ok, enough of my panegyric praise of Mr. Hamilton as a whole. Lets delve into one of his works that really shows his talent. I could have choosen several stand-alone novels or series, and I probably will write about several of them at some time, but today we will talk about the Void Trilogy.
Consisting of the novels The Dreaming Void (2007), The Temporal Void (2008) and The Evolutionary Void (2010), the story takes us approximately 1500 years into the future. Humans are no longer confined to the restricted space on earth, we have explored and expanded large parts of the known universe and rejuvenation techniques have made us more or less immortal. We have even meet some aliens, The Raiel, and lo and behold, they are not trying to kill us at sight.
On this backdrop you would think that all is good and peachy wouldn’t you? Well, fortunately not, it would have been a very short series if that was the case.
The problem is that in the middle of the galaxy there exist some kind of enormous black hole, a void. This enormous part of space is believed by the Raiel to be in reality a kind of separated self-contained universe in it self. The Raiel have been studying and monitoring the void for millenia and have observed that it has periods where it expands, swallowing up anything in its way. And by anything I mean anything, whole solar systems have been gobbled up in the past.
The ever-watchful Raiel have of course tried to explore the void, but the ships sent were never seen again. Now they just watch and prepare and thousands of years have passed since the last void expansion.
Afraid that any sort of provocation may trigger a new expansion, the Raiel have forbidden all travel into the void, and though peaceful by nature, they will not hesitate to stop, by any means necessary, any attempts to enter it. But of course, humans being humans, some people decides to try anyway.
The whole ruckus starts when a human boy, Inigo, starts to dream about a world inside the void. The dreams centers about the life of a man called Edeard and they are somehow broadcasted mentally by Inigo, making them accessible to all of humankind. Soon a massive folk movement is formed, called The Living Dream and lead by Inigo, now known as The First Dreamer. The fellow goal of the millions that follow The Living Dream is to travel to this world inside the void, to make a new start and a new living there.
The series is a split story, following both Edeards story and the story of a multitude of persons and organizations back in out universe that strive to comprehend what is really happening and how to best deal with it.
In my opinion this is the series that the genre “Space Opera” was invented in preparation for. For one thing, its huge! We are talking three building bricks of books here, each over 600 pages. While this isn’t necessarily a god thing, in this case it is. The number of interesting characters with their own agendas, plots and sub-plots is staggering, and all of these persons are well defined, well described and with believable multidimensional personalities.
We follow everything from the political maneuvering of the movers and shakers of the Commonwealth to the love life of helpless Edeard in the void. Since humankind has more or less solved the pesky problem of mortality, the plots and plans of many of the main characters stretch centuries back in time and the distinction between good and evil often blur in such a time scope and persons you hated may suddenly become your favorites.
So is there any negative aspects of this trilogy? Well in a trilogy this big there is bound to be but I am hard pressed to find any that really matters. Hamilton is very fond of inventing new technical and scientific terms and some reviewers have pointed this out as a problem. I dont really see it as such, if you are going to describe our world and universe 1500 years in the future, you would have to come up with a way to describe the technological and science status of that time.
Another thing that some reviewers have complained about is that the parts taking place in Edeards world is not really SciFi but more fantasy. I guess that’s true but in my opinion that is not a minus but a plus!
So I highly recommend this series! One word of warning though, this is not a 10-minutes-before-you-go-to-sleep read. The number of characters, organisations, plots and intrigues demand a certain amount of commitment and concentration, especially at the start. But believe me, it is definitively worth it.