Sunday, June 26, 2011

The reality dysfunction – Part I: Emergence

Peter F. Hamilton
MacMillan, 1996 (my copy is from Warner Books, 1997)
Size: Long (my copy has 588 pages)
Theme: Futuristic space opera
Narrative: third-person
Main character: Joshua Calvert
Recommended minimum age: Young Adult
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

This is the first book of what is commonly known as the Night Dawn trilogy from Hamilton dealing with the Reality Dysfunction universe. The story start in The Reality Dysfunction, continues in The Neutronium Alchemist and ends in The Naked God. Each of these three novels has 2 volumes (thus, depending on the edition, the series may be comprised of three or six books). You should be aware that this will likely be one of the most compelling stories, in one of the most detailed universes, you have ever read. In my opinion, it is entirely at par with classics such as Foundation and Dune, with the added advantage of having a few more decades of scientific developments to draw upon. I cannot imagine a sci-fi fan who will not be enticed by this story. After having read the first book, I immediately picked up the second, and continued so until I had finished the entire series.

The depth of the plot is considerable (my copy has 588 pages with a small font size), so you will be entertained for quite some time. This lends a truly epic nature to the universe created by Hamilton. You will likely remember the story and characters for years to come. As could be expected, in a story this broad, there are tens of characters that will come into play at different times, many locations where plot develops, and a plethora of little pieces of information that enrich the story. However, this does not create havoc to the reader, as there are two dozen or so key characters, and a dozen or so key locations, that help you quickly establish a coherent view of the entire plot. The characters are well explored and all major characters are memorable.

Note that there is gore and explicit sex throughout the series, although always deriving from the plot.
In this first book we are introduced to the Confederation and the different races that coexist in the universe (two of which human). Adamists are the traditional human, some of which have undergone physical modifications, such as mercenaries with special warfare implants. Another faction are Edenists and their voidhawks, who live in space habitats, communicate through affinity, and use biotechnology (bitek). There are also the mysterious Kiint, massive non-humanoid creatures who have extremely more advanced technology but share only limited bits with humanity.

The story could be said to revolve around Joshua Calvert, a young, intuitive, and exceptionally lucky ship captain, who is unwittingly involved in the unfolding galactic events. Joshua is one of the many people who scavenge the ruins of the Laymil civilization, a spacefaring race extinct millennia ago due to something they had encountered. Another pivotal element is Quinn Dexter, an evil youngster and a satanic worshiper. As he is placed in a settlement in Lalonde, a recent human colony, he sets up a sect and begins to conduct rituals. However, one of those rituals will rupture the frontiers of reality and force the Confederation to force the most dangerous threat it has ever encountered. In the jungles of Lalonde begins the ultimate trial; will humanity survive it?

Spoilers (warning: the following text contains information that may hamper/ruin how much you enjoy the book):

Unaware of the possession phenomena, Joshua transports Quinn Dexter from Lalonde to Norfolk, from where Dexter will start his plans to conquer the universe. As Joshua sets up a trading business with a nobleman in Norfolk, he also becomes involved with one of the nobleman’s daughters, Louise Kavanagh, who will play a key role in subsequent books. In Lalonde, special forces of the confederation encounter the possessed, who are starting to expand and secure territory.

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