Review | The Evolutionary Void by Peter F Hamilton (Del Rey/Macmillan)

Title: The Evolutionary Void
Author: Peter F Hamilton
Publisher: Pan Macmillan (UK), Del Rey (US)
Format: Hardback
Pages: 736 (UK), 704 (US)
Release Date: 10th September 2010 (UK), 24th August 2010 (US)

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Peter F Hamilton's startling perspectives on tomorrow's technological and cultural trends span vast tracts of space and time; his stories are as compelling as they are epic in scope, and yet they are always grounded in characters - human, alien and other - who, for all their strangeness, still touch our hearts and fire our imaginations. Now, in The Evolutionary Void, Hamilton concludes the highly acclaimed Commonwealth saga that has unfolded in The Dreaming Void and The Temporal Void.Having finally mastered his astonishing psychic abilities and how to harness the power of the city itself, Edeard is dismayed to find that life in Makkathran is as challenging and dangerous as ever. No matter what he does, there always seem to be threats to quash and unrest to settle. Although he knows he can eventually rid the city of corruption and anarchy, he is coming to understand that he himself will have to pay a terrible price for Makkathran's peace and liberty.

Inspired by their shared vision of Edeard's story, millions of Living Dream pilgrims embark on their gigantic, ultradrive ships, heading towards a new and perfectible life within the Void that lies at the centre of the galaxy. Their arrival will trigger a super-massive expansion of the Void which will devour everything in its path - ultimately the galaxy itself - and, for those of the Greater Commonwealth who would stop the pilgrimage, time is running out.

On the run from planet to planet, pursued by every Commonwealth faction, Second Dreamer Araminta realizes she can no longer flee her destiny and chooses a course of action that will not only confound Living Dream but also will transform her in a way no one could have expected.

Unable to deliver the Second Dreamer to the Commonwealth's ruthless field operative, the legendary Paula Myo, a desperate Oscar Monroe brings together a team of players who may just be able to stop Living Dream's pilgrimage. Unfortunately his plan includes the genius recluse Ozzie, who has no intention of embarking on any kind of mission to save the galaxy - besides, Ozzie is not quite the man he used to be... if he is a man at all.

The Accelerator faction, intent on supporting the pilgrimage so that it can gain access to the technology behind the Void, finally activates its mysterious swarm with disastrous political and military consequences for the Commonwealth. This leaves the Delivery Man, a one-time faction agent with devastating firepower at his disposal, teamed up with an unlikely ally as he frantically tries to limit the damage. Together with his new partner he travels to an alien world which has abandoned evolution in favour of fate, hoping to find a solution.

Then there is Gore Burnelli, one of the oldest, most influential humans left from the pre-Commonwealth era who claims to know much more than he is letting on and perhaps knows just enough to save the galaxy - if he can outwit Ilanthe, the driving force behind the Accelerator faction. But Ilanthe has the Cat on her side, and that can only mean big trouble for anyone who gets in her way.

The Evolutionary Void will leave no reader in doubt as to why Peter F Hamilton is Britain's number one bestselling SF Novelist.
Here it is, the book I've been waiting nearly two years for: The Evolutionary Void. The conclusion to the Void Trilogy, started with The Dreaming Void and followed up by The Temporal Void, is by far my most anticipated book of the year and the series is making very strong noises to be my favourite finished series ever. So, with expectations that simply couldn't get any higher, does The Evolutionary Void meet these? Simple answer: Hell yeah!

The Evolutionary Void picks up immediately where The Temporal Void left off with no break in pacing, continuing the story in an effective, confident fashion. The many plot threads that have been built up over the first two novels are now dealt with convincingly, some with immediate effect while others come to the fore in preparation for the grand finale. It's very difficult, in fact nigh on impossible, to find any fault with this aspect of The Evolutionary Void. It is clear from many references and clues laid down in Dreaming and Temporal that the Void trilogy has been intricately plotted and even has details that go all the way back to the Commonwealth Saga. This is rather unsurprising when you consider that many of the characters present here have their origins in the duology.

Some of the story lines that I was most anticipating delivered the goods. The Deterrence Fleet is hinted at many times and the revelation of what it is and the capabilities it has still manages to surprise. This can be said of many of the plot points in Evolutionary. For example, Araminta is the descendant of two Silfen friends and this is used during Temporal to show how she is able to share her dreams of the Skylord (albeit unknowingly) with the Living Dream movement. This heritage plays a fairly big role in Evolutionary and leads to some aspects that I just didn't see coming, despite how obvious they are when looking back.

The format of Evolutionary Void also follows a similar path to that of the previous books, with the Commonwealth elements mixed with Inigo's dreams of life in the Void. While The Dreaming Void was roughly a 60/40 split in favour of the Commonwealth sections and The Temporal Void was roughly 70/30 in favour of the Void sections, The Evolutionary Void switches right back to focus more on the issues in the Commonwealth and the Void aspects taking a back seat, leading to the split being in the region of 80/20 in favour of the Commonwealth. This really does work in its favour and allows Peter to do what he does best: epic space opera. To say that Peter is ambitious in his plotting would be an understatement, but past good form is present here in every way possible, from bringing together plot threads to concluding the story in a fantastic way.

Peter has developed all his characters throughout this series, with familiar faces from the Commonwealth Saga continually being developed nicely and new faces to the Void trilogy satisfying all aspects I could hope for. Each development that forms the story is conveyed convincingly through the characters, from Araminita taking the bull by the horns to the eventual discovery of Aaron's identity and past. Edeard's progress is perhaps the most controversial and seeing him change during his sections left me somewhat non-plussed. However, Peter does do an exceptional job at showing how extreme power can affect all while still managing to portray Edeard's life in a most realistic way. The eventual outcome is all the more satisfying for this exploration of his character and serves the story very well.

One of the main aspects I loved about Dreaming and Temporal was Edeard's story, a story that is both gripping and emotional. I mentioned briefly above about his character in Evolutionary so I won't go into more detail here, but what did surprise me is that the format of consecutive Dreams is not followed here. It turns out Inigo had a lot of Dreams of Edeard's life and all that is covered in the first two novels is only a small aspect of it. Instead of sticking to the known, Peter goes outside this pattern and does not tell us everything, but rather select and important times of his life that have the greatest effect on the plot and story. Yes, I would have liked to read them all, but quantity does not always mean quality, and it is the quality and overall story that makes this approach powerful and meaningful to The Evolutionary Void.

There were two particular questions that I had before starting The Evolutionary Void, one relating to Inigo's Last Dream and the other relating to just how effectively Peter could conclude this trilogy. While I wanted them to hit the right notes I was just that little bit sceptical that they may miss the mark, just not being able to convince myself to ignore those doubts, unfounded as they were.

Inigo's Last Dream is one of the most beautifully written and poetic pieces of writing I have ever read. Seeing it coming from Peter was one of the biggest surprises and most pleasant finds in Evolutionary. While fairly short, it conveys so much emotion and feeling that I had to put the book down after reading it simply to absorb what I had read. Stunning is one way to describe it, awe inspiring would be another, but without a doubt it is the highlight of the novel.

The conclusion of the trilogy was something I hoped would be a fitting end and able to silence previous critics of Peters work. Not only does it do this, it manages to bring aspects laid down throughout the trilogy together in an ending that is grand in scale and perfectly suited to what has been laid out in the trilogy as a whole.

If I had to put forward one quibble it would not be about this book, but rather the fact that the Commonwealth Saga, which consists of Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained and is set 1200 years prior to the Void Trilogy, really needs to be read to gain a full appreciation of this epic story. While both are fairly separate, the story they form as a whole makes the experience much more fulfilling. There are aspects present in the Void trilogy, particularly Evolutionary Void, that hark back to this previous saga. While I wouldn't say it's a compulsory read, you will get the most enjoyment if you take the time to get around to them first.

So, I think you can probably tell from the above that I really did love this book, thought the trilogy has been exceptional and would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat. It's intricately plotted and you'd be hard pressed to find another author who can pull off such a vision. For grand scale, epic space opera on a huge canvas it doesn't get much better than this. Highly, highly recommended.

KP  – (2 July 2010 at 14:07)  

I have been waiting for this one to come out so I could read the whole trilogy in one go. Big fan of Peter's other books so I am sure this will be a treat. Great review, just bolsters my need to get this as soon as it hits the shelves

Liviu  – (2 July 2010 at 16:03)  

Could not agree more with the review!
I will have my review in late August for publication date, but I strongly endorse Mark's rec of going through all previous 4 books if possible before reading this since this one just elevates the whole 5 book sequence

Alec  – (2 July 2010 at 17:02)  

I hate you, I hate you, I hate you...

I'm not even going to read your review because I don't want a single spoiler-not even an inkling of a clue. Next to ToM, this is my #2 most highly anticipated book of the year.

Dandelion  – (2 July 2010 at 19:33)  

My hair is standing up on my scalp. Your review makes it that much harder to wait! I guess its time to re-reread Dreaming and Temporal in anticipation!

Mad Professah  – (8 July 2010 at 04:34)  

I'm not gonna read the review either. I'm just glad I bought the book on pre-release on ;)

The_egyptian_god  – (12 July 2010 at 18:17)  

lol i almost read it but i decided againsed it lol. i cant wait i already started reading it from the dreaming void again i remeber when i readt the dreaming and temporal void and found out that this book was not coming out for 2 years! lol i was so upset but i loved it so much i read the comonweath saga cus i haddent yet and loved it, and i am almost done with the nights dawn trilogy i am just starting naked god and it is awsome!

Anonymous –   – (12 August 2010 at 21:49)  

Ahhh .... had to give up as did not want to read any more as its too good.

I so want this book>>>> saw it on ebay today but its pre orders only!

Still on a high from last years Temporal book and cant wait to read evolutionary.

Yours Louis

Mike  – (17 June 2011 at 20:00)  

I read the first book in this series, and I had difficultly getting into it. Not sure why, as I do love Hamilton's work.

Since it is such a glowing review, I will give the first book a second chance. Who knows, maybe it was just timing. :)

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