By Jared Vaillancourt
What do you get when you mix fringe science, British humour, several fantastical characters and an immense plot of galactic reconciliation? Easily, enough, you get The Void series, by Peter F. Hamilton. The five book in this series – which goes from Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained, two books that actually occur a thousand years before The Dreaming Void, The Temporal Void and finally The Evolutionary Void, which execute events of potentially galactic Armageddon – chronicle the life stories of several characters across a massive empire known simply as the Commonwealth.
While transient players are different to each of the series’ eras, the main technologically immortal characters include Paula Myo, a genetically engineered super-cop whose determination and attention to detail has established her as the most efficient, ruthless and utterly effective justice junkie – ahem, Investigator – in the entire galaxy; Oscar Monroe, a freedom fighter turned special operative whose out-of-the-box thinking and devotion to the goodwill of humanity on both the macro and micro have saved the human race (spoiler alert) from annihilation at least twice; Gore Bernoulli, an old aristocrat whose political clout and never-say-die demeanour has pulled plans and tactics for the good guys practically out of the ether; and The Cat, a deranged psychopath whose only qualifications include practically genocidal killing sprees and overtly torturous murders motivated by little more than the desire to alleviate her boredom. And these are just the human players that help shape events.
The (unofficially named) Void series of course centres around what was once thought to be a black hole at the centre of the galaxy and what turns out to be an immense micro-universe known as – ready? Hang on tight – the Void. While the events of the first two books occur before humans have the knowledge of the Void’s existence, they set up the personalities and characterizations of the major players who will confront it. For inside the Void, a telepathic human allows those outside to witness a paradise unachievable in the galaxy and universe beyond the Void’s devilishly black boundary. But what is a paradise for those inside is a desperate hell for those outside – in order to power the heaven within, the boundary must expand and consume everything in its wake – stars, planets, civilizations, all those sorts of things. Of course, any rational species with organs even closely resembling a brain would want such a beat to be destroyed… but within the human Commonwealth, a religion has developed that grows eager to enter the Void…
Exciting summary aside, the books read like cloak-and-dagger adventure novels, as factions war within ANA (Advanced Neural Activities – it’d take too long to explain), agents attempt assassinations, and seemingly unimportant bystanders get caught up in the fray. Hamilton’s style is to soak the reader in action first and then provide some detail to give the white-knuckled masses a breather (as well as a look into the wonderfully alien and fantastic universe he’s imagined for our species’ future). The storytelling is gripping, with more twists and surprises than a polyester rope and when the different perspectives finally amalgamate, each book ends with such an explosion of either cliffhanging beauty or divine resolution that leaves the reader eager for more. Of course, each book is a bit long, each over a thousand pages and some even broken up into smaller acts to help the reader catch up on all the events, specialized jargon Hamilton has conjured out of pure necessity and the fantastical worlds that even now my imagination is struggling to conceive.
Cliches appear, unfortunately, but they turn out to be unique to the story of The Void series. People in the Commonwealth are smart, much smarter than the idiots making the same boring mistakes and humorous errors that befall modern entertainment and writing like obligatory check-marks on some invisible list. Subtle patterns emerge for those who read through the whole series that only the most engaged reader could decipher, so literally anyone reading through the entirety of The Void will pick up on them and almost squeal with delight when they come about full circle. The humour is witty and sublime, which is to be expected from a British author – I admit I had to stop reading at some points because the tears welling up in my laughter-squinted eyes prevented me from seeing the words clearly.
All in all, Peter F. Hamilton’s work is an under-appreciated gem that should be explored and marvelled by all those brave enough to taste real, honest science fiction. But be warned – he’s written many books, and after just one you’ll want them all.
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