Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Great North Road by Peter F Hamilton

Okay this is the point I really get into Peter F Hamilton.  It's another whopper - well over a thousand pages if you're unwise enough to read a print copy - but this time it's a standalone novel.  No encyclopedic backstory I'm missing out on, and a proper, satisfying ending, instead of a rushed set up for part two.

Even better - it's largely set in Newcastle 2142.  And you'll be glad to know the clubbers are still wearing t-shirts and miniskirts, despite climate change turning the winters sub-arctic.  This half of the story's a very nicely done police procedural, not unlike The Demon Trap.  A member of the ultra-powerful North family's been murdered but no-one knows exactly who.  That's the problem with clones - they tend to be a bit samey.  The second problem with the investigation is it appears to be the same killer of another North clone twenty years ago and eight and a half life years away.   And they already caught that killer - a young woman called Angela who's been rotting in prison for the past two decades, with some unconvincing story about an alien killing machine.

Now that's giving very little away, because there's so much great stuff going on in this book.  The female badass is a very well worn sci-fi trope, but the character of Angela Tramelo is in a different league to most, both as a woman and a heroine.  I also loved the police stuff in Newcastle - well drawn officers using advanced but limited technology to solve an almost impossible case, while also dealing with office politics and their personal lives.

Then you've got the second major setting - the jungle planet of St Libra in the Sirius system, which is connected via the North family wormhole to Newcastle.  A military expedition is sent there and, of course, things go wrong, but in a really unexpected and interesting way.

The North family are also brilliant.  Three branches of the clan - one based in Newcastle, the other on St Libra and the third doing god knows what in a space station off Jupiter.

And finally you've got the Xanth - some mysterious out of control and unstoppable hyperspace nanovirus which everyone's terrified of.

Amazingly Peter F pulls it all together and pulls it off.  Maybe not everyone will like the ending, but it's proper science fiction and I loved it.

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