Thursday, September 4, 2014

Great North Road

Peter F. Hamilton
Pan MacMillan, 2012 (my softcover copy was gracefully provided by MacMillan for review)
Size: Epic (my copy has 1087 pages)
Theme: Detective drama involving alien species
Narrative: third-person
Main character: Sidney Hurst, Angela Tramelo
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

The sci-fi mystery genre at its best... I start any book from Peter Hamilton with a very high (possibly unfair) expectation, having read so many great books from this British author. Those previous books were all space operas, in fact my favorite genre, so I was unsure if Hamilton would keep his storytelling style and level. But alas, the Great North Road does not disappoint. Hamilton gives us a detail-rich universe, combining aspects of traditional detective stories with futuristic space-faring adventures in alien worlds.

The main plot is based on the assassination of a member of the (vastly wealthy and unorthodox) North family. And while the level of sophistication and professionalism of the cover-up operation could in principle be attributed to corporate rivalries, similarities exist to a murder from 2 decades before, one which has such unbelievable circumstances that the single witness had been in jail ever since. Now, Angela Tramelo might actually be a key factor in the investigation, if they can get her to cooperate. Under the scrutinizing gaze of many around him, detective Sid Hurst will attempt to find the truth behind this complex – and potentially dangerous – situation. Meanwhile, events will unravel in a way that will forever change the human colony in St. Libra, and the migration of the human race through the known universe.

With a vast expanse of locations, characters, and events, the book slowly unveils layer upon layer of the plot, until a convincing conclusion that provides a complete vision of the complex web of interrelated narratives. As in previous novels, the narrative keeps switching between different story-lines (often also revisiting events in the past), through a large number of small chapters. This is very easy to follow and never gets boring. Several twists add to the depth of the story. The action is fast-paced. The main characters are very well explored. Reactions and attitudes are credible. Overall, this was extremely enjoyable to read, and I highly recommend it, both to newcomers to the genre as well as to sci-fi veterans.

*** Spoiler Alert ***
(Warning: the following text contains information that may hamper/ruin how much you enjoy the book):

The book has so much going on that it is difficult to select pertinent spoilers. As the plot moves along, it is confirmed that an alien sentience is responsible for the murders, both that of 20 years ago as well as the recent occurrence. The St. Libra expedition suffers high casualties, but in the end, the North family manages to agree on a peaceful solution with the alien sentience, which will allow humans to colonize other uninhabited worlds. Sid is promoted to the top echelon of the police hierarchy. Angela is found to have stolen from the North family in order to pay for a unique surgery that allowed her young baby girl to survive; in the end, they are finally reunited.

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