It’s the 21st century and global warming is here to stay, so forget the way your country used to look. And get used to the free market, too – the companies possess all the best hardware, and they’re calling the shots now.
In a world like this, a man open to any offers can make out just fine. A man like Greg Mandel for instance, who’s psi-boosted, wired into the latest sensory equipment, carrying state-of-the-art weaponry – and late of the English Army’s Mindstar Battalion.
As the cartels battle for control of a revolutionary new power source, and corporate greed outstrips national security, tension is mounting to boiling point – and Greg Mandel is about to face the ultimate test.
Mindstar Rising is Peter F Hamilton’s first published novel from back in 1993 and still on of my favourites of his. I’ve read this novel so many times I’ve lost count, but with each read I still enjoy the characters and world he has created. Despite the fact that the world history and main plot details now seem dated, I still found myself enthralled in a great sci-fi detective story.
The setting of Mindstar Rising is England in the mid 21st century, specifically the areas around Rutland and Peterborough. This may not sound that exciting, but with the rise in sea levels all of the land east of Peterborough is now under a metre or two of water and the temperatures now echo those of the Mediterranean. The rise in sea level has caused a mass exodus of the low lying lands and the cities are now crowded. Add to this that the country has been under a hard left political dictatorship for the past ten years and you can start to imagine the state of the country.
While these all affect the landscape of England and the world we’re introduced to, it’s all a very well executed backdrop to the story Hamilton is telling. With the fall of the People’s Socialist Party, the country is getting back on its feet and Event Horizon, a private corporation run by one Philip Evans, is returning to England after years smuggling technology across the borders to the people in need. Now in the strong position of creating jobs and a technological industry that will rival the best in the world, Event Horizon has a very bright future ahead. It’s not until a sophisticated spoiler operation is run against it that we get into the nitty gritty of the story and meet the full cast of characters that take us along for the ride.
Greg Mandel is the main character in Mindstar Rising, a telepath who can vaguely read minds enough to see when someone is lying. He’s an ex-soldier from the disbanded Mindstar Brigade, a company of officers each with their own psychic abilities gained through the implantation of a gland in their brain. Greg is scraping by after being left in the cold while the PSP ruled and as such has no sympathy for them. I like Greg, he’s such an enjoyable character to read because he just doesn’t mess around and is able to talk to people and assess the situation quickly and effectively. This is a good thing as we follow him for the majority of the novel while his investigations for Event Horizon start turning up some interesting things.
Event Horizon is run by Philip Evans and his granddaughter, Julia Evans, two characters that take after each other perfectly with their unstoppable goals for the company. Philip Evans is an ill old man, but Julia is young and bubbly and has more than the expected knowledge and drive for someone her age. While Philip is instantly recognisable as an old school business man who has a wealth of experience, Julia is more of a grey area as we’re never too sure, at least at the start, how she will deal with situations. They both make for a formidable team, especially with their chief of security Morgan Walshaw at their side.
There are a few characters that I really did enjoy from Greg’s past, but Gabriel Thompson is by far the most interesting. With a psychic ability that lets her see the future it instantly made me suspicious that Hamilton was overdoing it and making things too easy for our protagonists, although when we’re introduced to her we see what this ability has on her and allows us to more fully appreciate the situation of the Mindstar veterans. Suffice to say that Gabriel is an asset to the story, but Hamilton manages to stop short of over-using her and getting all the problems solved.
While the motives for the attacks against Event Horizon are never that clear, especially as more and more information comes to light, Hamilton manages to deliver a very well paced story that gives us good amounts of action and worldbuilding while delivering and well plotted and focused novel. I still enjoy Mindstar Rising after many re-reads and if you can look past the dated political and geographical set up then you’ll find yourself a great near-future investigative sci-fi tale. Highly recommended.