The Naked God Hardcover – Dec 31 2011
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About the Author
Peter F. Hamilton was born in Rutland, England in 1960. He began writing in 1987, and sold his first short story to Fear magazine in 1988. He has also been published in Interzone and the In Dreams and New Worlds anthologies, and several small press publications. His first novel was Mindstar Rising, published in 1993, and he has been steadily productive since then. Peter lives near Rutland Water with his wife and two children. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
But reading his books are a pure escape and time just flies. Hamilton also combines science fiction with fantasy and does both genres justice in his books. As you have already guessed I am a huge fan.
This is the third book of a trilogy called The Night's Dawn Trilogy" with the other books being "The Neutronium Alchemist" and "The Reality Dysfunction"
In this book we find possession has spread farther than anyone could have thought. Earth, Tranquility and some smaller planets have resisted so far.
Al Capone rules New California with an iron fist and a legion of possessed who are devoted to him at all cost.
Joshua Calvert seeks to find a solution to the possessed but even the Kiint who have defeated the possessed in the past are unwilling to divulge how they did it. A superior race in all regards they just want to observe and learn about other cultures, not interfere with their progression.
The Naked God is put forward as a method to deal with the possessed and rescue humanity. But what exactly is it, and more importantly, where is it as it was only hinted at in some old records
So we have Al Capone with his possessed legions waging war on Earth, Quinn Dexter seeking to rule the universe and prepare for the coming of the bringer of light as the main antagonists.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The reading of this thing took so long, and I invested so much time in it, it was almost like a small relationship: at first, NDT seemed like a good, meaty space opera, and captured my interest. Hamilton is an excellent writer, with some faults, but he's good enough to make you overlook them. The book began as a standard sf novel, taking pains to sound authoritative and scientifically accurate. But then it suddenly veered off into Stephen King territory, which totally threw me. I had bought all three volumes, was hundreds of pages in, and suddenly I'm reading a story about possession, ghosts, and human sacrifice, along with FTL travel and galactic empires. I opted to see it through, despite some grave (no pun intended) misgivings. I wanted to see how Hamilton managed to explain, in a scientific way, how the "beyond" (purgatory, to you and me) worked. So I kept going.
This is one of British writer Hamilton's first books, and it's very British. Planets have names like Norfolk, towns are named Durringham, people have names like Kingsley Prior. I can only imagine that, in his early work, Hamilton didn't imagine he'd have readers outside the Realm. (His later books aren't so provincial.) It's part of Hamilton's Point, I think, that despite 600 hundred years of scientific progress, mankind is still employing the same economic--and cultural--model. The events in the book make people question that their way of life by the end, and that's the Point. Problem is, it isn't until you reach page 3500 or so that you realize he's deliberately painted a picture of a future that still has people saying "jolly good!" and "fab." At first, I thought he was just being lazy or imaginative. But there is a Point. You've just got to hang in there to see that. So suspend your critical thinking when you read about "arcologies" (domed cities on Earth built in response to climatic and ecological disaster), a planet where it may as well be the Green and Pleasant Land of the 1800's, and everyone talks as though they were from the early 21st century.
Our main hero is Joshua Calvert, a Han Solo-type of guy who's hard not to like. I would like to see the story rewritten as Joshua's story. This would've made it much stronger as a story, for one thing. As it is, the story is told from so many points of view, it's impossible to keep them all straight. There's literally a cast of hundreds here. Many of these people are not very likable, either, nor worth spending time with. This story (and its Point) would benefit from a good, strong moral main character, and while Joshua does evolve and grow during the course of the novel, he's off-camera too much, and we don't really get inside his head enough. His "conversion", therefore, is a bit unconvincing. He starts out as young guy (early 20's) exploring space ruins to make a buck. His goal is to finance the refitting of his dead father's starship, the (what else?) 'Lady Macbeth'. He makes a big strike, the Lady Mac is quickly up and running, and suddenly, without training or experience, Joshua is the hottest pilot in the universe. (Okay, fine, it's a story and we know our demographic...) Girls fall all over our hero (again, the demographic), and he's not much more throughout the book than The Guy We All Wish We Were. Hamilton could've made him more than just a cavalier space jockey, and focused the story on him more. Things get interesting when he interacts with Ione, the human symbiont of a major habitat. The girl Hamilton focuses on, however is Louise, who comes from Planet England (Norfolk). She's a spoiled aristocratic brat and I didn't like her.
The one really interesting sf idea Hamilton describes is the cultural divide between the Edenists and the Adamists. (Where these terms come from, he never explains.) Edenists have adopted bitek, which is biological technology. Space habitats are grown from a seed, and are sentient. They are mated with a human in a symbiotic relationship. Edenist starships (called voidhawks) are similar. Edenists share a telepathic communications link with all other Edenists called affinity. The rest of humanity (the Adamists) reject bitek and affinity, though everyone has a nanotech interface installed which performs much the same function as affinity. Why the Adamists reject bitek is never explained (as far as I could tell, and I was looking), and this is weakness in the book.
Though Hamilton is a good writer, his pacing needs work. As I said, this book needs to be a lot shorter. But Hamilton doesn't seem to know how to abbreviate or summarize. Everything is shown in detail, in real time. Some heavy editing would have helped here. For example, every time a spacecraft begins or ends a flight, we are told how it deploys or retracts its "thermo dump panels." Every. Single. Time. The mechanics of things take on too much importance, overshadowing the story and the characters. Even battles are described in mechanistic detail, enumerating exactly how many of each type of weapon, how much force an explosion generated. Do we really need to know how many beds that barracks holds? And that the bathroom is communal? Massive detail and describing every event does not result in verisimilitude; it just makes for a long, drawn-out story.
The future seems so much like our present. Perhaps Hamilton was trying to make a point (i.e., humanity has stagnated), but it isn't until the last 100 pages that the reader is let in on the Point, and the reason for the stagnation. There is an awful lot of time spent on Norfolk, but the aristocratic society seems to be shown in, if anything, a favorable light. Louise slowly comes to learn how her idyllic life has been built upon the toiling backs of others, but Norfolk is not like most of the Confederation. Perhaps Hamilton thought it would make his point by being so extreme, but because I didn't know what his point was till the very end, it just seemed like he thought it was cool to have a world that was like jolly old England.
Though many reviewers seem to be unhappy with his ending, I thought it was consistent, though rather weak. Hamilton has a message to deliver, having to do with our evolution as a race, and how the fortunate and well-off have a responsibility to the less-fortunate. A rather liberal message, though a bit simplistic. I would have liked the story much better if Hamilton hadn't gone off the science-based rails. I don't like horror, for one thing, and this book spends a lot of time being a horror story. The metaphysics of possession were completely unconvincing to me, and I read through those sections just waiting for them to be over. No scientific basis for Hamilton's purgatory is ever offered, either. He seems to expect his readers to accept the possibility of souls, purgatory, and an afterlife (of the Frank Tipler Omega Point variety, but still). I'm guessing that, because it's "space opera" and not "hard sf," somehow it's okay to throw in metaphysical hogwash. Perhaps the marketing folks thought it would have more appeal with some horror thrown in. Didn't work for me. I would have enjoyed a more believable, realistic enemy or conflict. Instead Hamilton gives us a parody of Al Capone and a low-life cardboard cutout named Quinn Dexter running around zapping people with "energistic" beams of white fire. I nearly gave up on the book several times in disgust.
The book in a nutshell: The watershed event in our civilization comes 600 years from now when a freak event occurs (an alien species, by some arcane, unclear process, somehow opens a channel up, allowing souls in Purgatory to begin possessing living humans). Then, at the end, a nearly omnipotent entity gives Our Hero unlimited powers, and he puts all to rights in about five pages. So the beginning of the conflict and its resolution are both deus ex machina. Something miraculous happens which sets off a 4000-page chain of events, and we read about every single one of those events, in detail. Then, something miraculous happens once more, ending the conflict. In the end, it turns out that the pressure to change things comes about because people realize that souls are ending up in purgatory (the "beyond") because society hasn't given them a fair chance to develop their potential. Say what?
Conclusion: Hamilton writes like an engineer obsessed with how his machinery operates. At the detail level, it's all very interesting and convincing. It's when you look up from the nuts and bolts (and thermo dump panels) you realize the overall story is a flimsy construction. If you don't mind your science fiction mixed with second-rate horror/fantasy, with a dash of sophomoric social philosophy, then I'd say go for it. And be prepared for a long, slow ride.
The main problem for me is how cheap, fast, and rudely he ends this book and the trilogy. After reading 3400 pages, and tracking 4 or 5 main plot lines that you just KNOW are destined to all meet up in some amazing conclusion: they don't.
All the way along you have various heroes and heroines exhibiting courage, cleverness, and determination to win the 'little' battles in their plotline. You just KNOW somehow, by winning some of those battles that lesser folks would have surely lost, it will somehow contribute to winning the overall 'war'. They don't.
Halfway thru this last book in the trilogy, I started thinking: Whoa, he BETTER hurry up and start converging these plots! He's running out of pages to bring all of this together! When I was 3/4 thru and there was NO converging in sight, I started to get confused: What? Is there a 4th book that ties this all up? When I was 9/10 thru and STILL no converging, my heart was sinking. Then in the last 10 pages of the 3rd monster book of the trilogy, literally a miracle happens. Then a few paragraphs are written on each plotline, showing how all is well for the good guys, and how the bad guys all got their just desserts.
Bottom Line: I felt like the author just got tired of writing this series, and wrapped it up as fast as he possibly could.
That said, The Naked God carries on the storylines left hanging at the end of The Neutronium Alchemist without interruption and, to use a rather lazy reviewing phrase, if you enjoyed the first two books I suspect you'll also enjoy the third. Numerous plot threads are in motion, and Hamilton deftly moves us between New California, Ombey, Valisk, Norfolk, Tranquillity, Earth, Trafalgar and other worlds with confidence and ease. However, he also has to time all his story threads to converge at the same point, which results in a number of middling problems contributing to the book's great length. Most notably, there's a discernible amount of filler in this book. Whilst it's great to finally get a detailed look at the ecologically devastated Earth with its population squeezed into immense domed cities, seeing Louise check into a hotel and get some neural nanonics does slow down the story at the exact moment it should really be gearing up for a thunderous climax. Instead, the story jumps around haphazardly, with an inordinate amount of chapters for the Valisk story given that very little happens in it but not much coverage at all of Joshua and Syrinx's mission, which should really be the dominant plot thread of the novel. Also, whilst an effective antagonist in the first two novels, Quinn Dexter's over-the-top villainy in this third volume does reduce him to a bit of a cartoon figure whom it is hard to take seriously. Hamilton should really not have given him the superpowers he did at the end of Book 2 (including virtual indestructibility), as they make his chapters somewhat tiresome. Indestructible characters, good or bad, make for dull reading.
Elsewhere, the book is as well-written as the rest of the trilogy has been, with a welcome strong return for the horror elements present in Book 1 but largely missing from the second book. There are also more big battles in space and on land, and a strong philosophical streak running through the book about the morality and application of warfare. Hamilton definitely seems to be having fun tweaking the noses of his American space opera counterparts, who all too readily resort to solving their problems with lasers and nukes, whilst he gets his characters to think their way out of their problems instead (although sometimes with the odd maser barrage as well, just to keep things colourful). There's also some nice ideas about consequences and choices and responsibility, although given the number of people moaning that the book and the ultimate solution to the reality dysfunction crisis doesn't involve a fusillade of antimatter explosions, perhaps this doesn't get across to the reader entirely successfully. Most notably, Hamilton has said the trilogy should have been called Joshua's Progress, as it is his (well-handled) character evolution and development which brings him to the point where a solution to the crisis can be found. Unfortunately, in The Naked God Joshua actually takes a bit of a back-seat to proceedings and is merely one among many, many POV characters, meaning his sudden importance to the plot in the final chapter is rather jarring.
There's some excellent characterisation in the book. As well as Joshua, characters like beleaguered General Ralph Hiltch and Louise also develop in interesting and unforeseen ways. As with the previous book it does feel like Dariat and the Valisk story are somewhat superfluous, with their actual contributions to the overall plot (the hellhawks in Book 2 and the melange - not the Dune kind - in Book 3) not really justifying the immense length of their narrative.
That brings us to the ending, which on one level is epic, cosmic and genuinely impressive. It is also rather too neat, and Hamilton is probably a little bit too exacting in detailing 'what happened next' to the characters, right down to a minor car thief arrested at the start of Book 2 (although that bit is quite funny). It isn't a totally perfect ending, and he does leave one huge 'plot bomb' waiting to explode which could be followed up on in future books, but in this age where slightly more ambiguous endings are all the rage Night's Dawn does feel like it dots all the 'i's and crosses all the 't's a little too pedantically. Also, whilst the ending isn't a deus ex machina at all, it is certainly brought about by a plot device, which some readers have found anti-climatic. I found it worked quite well.
The Naked God (****) is the weakest book in The Night's Dawn Trilogy, as conclusions often are, but it is still mostly well-written and characterised, with fun action sequences and an impressively thoughtful air to proceedings that will hopefully get the reader to think about some of the issues raised. The book is available now in the UK and USA.