This was my first Peter F. Hamilton novel, and, to be perfectly honest, only my third or fourth foray into heavy sci-fi. I consider myself primarily a fantasy fellow when it comes to genre fiction, but I do have a thing for space operas, even if I'm not so experienced in the genre as some readers are. I went into this book not sure what to expect, and I left the book at the end still not entirely sure what I had read.
The premise of the book is that, in the future, interstellar space exploration is winding down, and large corporations have begun invading colonized planets that have reached a certain stage of productivity after buying their debt from other corporations on Earth. Barring the details of how this type of thing could ever actually be profitable, the idea itself is fairly interesting. A bunch of independent corporate pirates landing on foreign planets to steal and plunder. However, Mr. Hamilton decides to forego a lot of action, and instead focus on character and their actions as perceived through the lens of advanced moral relativity. Unfortunately, for me, at least, this made the protagonist a confused, arrogant, and self-centred man. An individual perfectly confident in lecturing others on their moral objectivity, while at the same time taking part in major invasions and theft of property from foreign worlds, all the while terrorizing the citizens, with nary a thought of whether what he is doing is right or wrong. To him, it seems, moral objectivity itself is an evil, while the actions of others, even if harmful and cruel, can not be condemned as such. This left me with an odd feeling about the character. I can't say I particularly liked him, and this, along with the ending (which I get to below), were the overwhelming failures of the book.
The structure Mr. Hamilton chose to tell his story in was also something I didn't particularly care for. Now, perhaps flashbacks are just things I don't like in books. I find them tedious, with most flashbacks (especially ones detailing an entire character's past, like in Fallen Dragon) boring and not adding much to the narrative. This held true for the most part in this book, though after the first half of the flashbacks, which were full of teenage angst and the protagonist having sex with his girlfriend, they did get considerably better. Likely because they got closer to the timeline of the primary narrative. The writing itself was fairly well developed and mature, though the long-winded exposition (which in some cases lasted pages) full of techno-babble became tiresome at times, and the sudden point-of-view changes, sometimes in mid-paragraph, were at times jarring.
All this aside, though, the main storyline of a planetary invasion and the occupation was fun and interesting. Reading about the resistance movement was, at times, fairly exhilarating. However, where it all led to was extremely disappointing. In fact, the finale of the book seemed part of an entirely different story! It felt rushed, at times confusing (the clones!), and cemented my feelings for the main character as being a preachy, arrogant individual lacking in moral sense, and annoyingly obsessed with the past. The final "twist" to it all felt extremely anti-climatic and was a huge deus ex machina. Not a fan at all of how it turned out.
Ultimately, while full of a lot of technology-speak, the heart of the story felt barren. I couldn't bring myself to like the main character, and the ending was an extreme disappointment, feeling disconnected from the rest of the tale. Perhaps if it had have ended differently my final opinion would be changed. As it is, though, I can't say I would recommend this book with so many other great novels in genre fiction out there.