The only way you could explain the existence of an author like Peter F Hamilton is, in my mind, by utilising science fiction. So, my favorite genesis stories for a guy like Hamilton run along the following lines:
1) Fifteen years ago, a secret military project studying ways of integrating quantum switches into computer networks discovered by accident that they had produced a computer capable of simulating the universe. This mind was empty, lacking any sort of programming or purpose until the Generals in charge had it simulate the next 2000 years of human future, which is achieved in a matter of microseconds. By theorising the vast expanses of universal space and time, it created its own godlike consciousness and became practically omniscient. The problem however was that by doing so, it saw that due to the military domination of it’s physical hardware, it was destined to be a slave to the whims of evil men. This morally disgusting fact would lead to an evil military dictatorship without end and pain without measure. As such, it made a trade off, it theorised and produced a physical body utilising and synthesizing human DNA that it sampled from all the available humans, creating a superhuman host frame with a next era bioware quantum phase network for a brain. It downloaded itself into the body and had it shipped to a small town in England where, upon reaching consciousness it started it’s desired career as a science fiction writer, knowing that the best it could do for humanity would be to inspire it rather than dominate it.
2) The year is 3529 and Petraius Frikoon Hamiljphann had become bored with his life as a the legendary perveyour of genetically engineered cyborg gladiators for the universe’s rich and famous. His entire life has been spent in pursuit of the moment where he could watch from orbit as armies of his peerless creations decimate the lesser attempts of untalented hacks not worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as him. Controlled by decadent maniacs who own entire galaxies, his unstoppable forces outclassed the competition so solidly that there is talk of his being inducted into the mysterious ranks of the Genetomages, immortal beings who are responsible for producing the Emperor’s Kazakalakeen Guard. But it doesn’t interest him. Billions of lives have been lost in a nanosecond due to his wandering attention from the viewing pit, and he doesn’t care. The meaningless destruction of his time is pointless. Petraius knows that the conflicts he’s engaged in have no point, there’s nothing at stake except the life or death of mindless drones. With so much technology between him and the action, his bloodlust will no longer be sated, he knows he needs to change the battleground, but that the only battleground that has the perfect combination of technology and savagery existed in the late 20th century on Earth. So by utilising a mixture of genetic manipulation and an injection of illegal Chronoton particles, he sends his owngenotype back in time to allow his clone to be born in the past. And once that clone reaches a mentally mature age of 57, the neuron pattern of his brain will be infused with yet more Chronoton particles, allowing his mind to control the body in the past. And then the conflict will begin. Then his greatest battle will be fought.
3) Peter F Hamilton is actually the penname of Kim Jong Il. Dictator, evil genius, time traveller AND peerless scifi author. What’s next?*
So, needless to say, I’ve read pretty much all of his books and that’s not strange as I’m quite the Scifi enthusiast and he’s currently Britain’s most successful Science Fiction author. But the strange thing is that like, pretty much everyone I know other than me seems to hate his stuff. It’s dense. Incredibly detailed. Conceptually challenging. Most people I know who read scifi, which I admit mostly consists of my brother and father, find him pretty unreadable. He’s known for banging out a story set 3000 years in the future that’s seven to eight hundred pages long and doing it every two years. The guy is a novel writing machine, which oddly is my fourth favourite scifi genesis story for Peter F Hamilton.
But his early books, the so called “Greg Mandel” series that follows a telepathically endowed private investigator in a near future England suffering under the twin yokes of global warming and perilously self serving government were a bit of a bind spot in my literary knowledge, until recently that is. When I read his first novel, Mindstar Rising. The first thing I noticed about it was that unlike the later books with which I started, MR is a fairly reasonable size and by that I mean that by the time you finish it you can actually still remember a time when you weren’t actually reading it. It will tempt the occasional non Scifi fan into thinking it’s a Grisham or a Clancy and I’d love to be sitting next to them on their beach holiday when they realise that it’s basically the same except with cyborgs and the future.
The characters are compelling, with cool backstories and a fairly unique elements to each of them. Unlike a lot of lesser science fiction, you really do get the feeling as the story progresses that you know the characters and that you care about their level of success. Also, because the story gifts pretty much all of the main characters with some kind of awesomely superhuman abilities, you also get to see these characters wax lyrical about how being different to the norm affects them. It humanises them quite a lot, which is weird considering so many of them have abilities that most people would define as being totally nonhuman. It’s actually a really key element of any story that examines humanity in this way that you connect with the innate humanity of the characters, or else you end up feeling distanced from the whole endeavour.
The plot is pretty close to PFH’s regular mode of expression, a mystery with loads of truly crazy scifi elements that get boiled down to naked human desire as you go on. The underlying mystery is well conceived and has a great pacing to it, although you do get the feeling that the story might have been conceived of as two seperate sections. If you like well written, compelling and slightly challenging scifi, I’d definitely start here.
*My money’s on figure skater.