Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Neutronium Alchemist – Part I: Consolidation

Peter F. Hamilton
MacMillan, 1997 (my copy is from Warner Books, 1998)
Size: Long (my copy has 591 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 novel is number 2 out of 3 in the Night’s Dawn trilogy (book 3 of 6 in the two-volumes per novel edition). For a global description of the universe Hamilton created for this series you should refer to my review on the first book of the series (Reality Dysfunction – Part I). As I read through this novel, I was surprised to find that the story never failed to bring in new aspects and maintain excellent coherence to the previous books. It does help that Hamilton wrote them all in sequence, but it is often underappreciated. If you go through all books as I did, even minor plot holes can hamper the fun.

This novel introduces still some new characters, some which (most) readers will be familiar with, such as Al Capone. Whereas usually novels that resort to characters such as Al Capone end up as complete flukes, this one pulls it off very nicely, and Capone actually becomes one of the major characters throughout the rest of the series, setting up an organization of possessed that will rival the schemes of Dexter, although with completely different ambitions. Here, we learn much more about the possessed, including that not all of them are entirely evil, and more importantly, that other races have encountered this phenomena before in their history, some actually having survived it (the Kiint are one such case). As the possessed grow in number, power, and spread throughout the universe, small pockets of possessed start exhibiting group capabilities. This will give rise to some very interesting sub-plots later on.

Action is not over for Joshua Calvert, who is charged with pursuing Alkad Mzu and stopping her from using the Alchemist ultimate weapon to exert revenge on the Omuta world. Louise Kavanagh and her sister continue fleeing from the possessed, helped by an unexpected character.

Related work:
Note that you should read this book after the previous volume, “Reality Dysfunction - Part II: Expansion”. The Night Dawn’s trilogy starts in The Reality Dysfunction, continues in The Neutronium Alchemist and ends in The Naked God.

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

Toward the end of the book we witness Gerald Skibbow, one of the few returned from being possessed, who becomes encouraged by his recently deceased wife – now a possessed –to go after his daughter, who has been possessed by a particularly nasty persona. Alkad Mzu makes contact with an undercover group that wishes to help her get control of the long lost Alchemist weapon.

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