3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Hamilton novel in name only,
This review is from: The Temporal Void (Hardcover)I think Hamilton is an awesome sci-fi writer for two reasons: 1) his ability to imagine future technologies and work out their social, political, and philosophical implications makes his books deep, exciting, and original; and 2) his ability to develop and interweave multiple story lines and characters makes his books rich and compelling. Sadly, a quintessential Hamilton novel The Temporal Void is not.
Here's how I imagine his concept meeting with his editor at Del Rey going before writing the Void trilogy:
Hamilton: I want to try writing a fantasy novel.
Editor: <long pause> Ah, Peter, you're a great sci-fi novelist, and people love your work. Why not stick to what you know?
Hamilton: But, I just finished reading Harry Potter, and....
Editor: Why not write a sequel to the Commonwealth Saga! Judas Unchained ' now that was great stuff.
Undeterred and unwilling to give up his dream of writing fantasy, the cunning Hamilton devises the Void trilogy, and what we are left with is a series of books that alternative every chapter between fantasy and sci-fi. Now, the sci-fi portions of the trilogy are well conceived and would be up to Hamilton's usual standard if he took the time to flush them out ' love it or hate it, Hamilton's style is such that he requires many words to develop his stories. However, the fantasy portion of this series is predictable and misfires badly.
First, the fantasy storyline lacks Hamilton's characteristic originality. It takes the form of a coming-of-age-story where a super-powerful apprentice loses everything and travels to the capital of his world where, through his aforementioned powers and incorruptible character, he changes society. Sound familiar? Also, I should mention that everyone in the fantasy world has psychic powers; however, this set up doesn't allow for the technological creativity and exploration of ideas Hamilton displays in his sci-fi work. Second, the fantasy storyline is told as a dream experienced through only one character's perspective. The result is that we don't see the blending of story lines and well-developed characters that is Hamilton's trademark. Instead, outside of the main protagonist (who is too squeaky clean to be interesting), the characters are two-dimensional because we never really enter their perspectives. For example, the chief villain is a master of the gangs who operates out of a brothel. Those of you who are familiar with Al Swearengen from Deadwood know how a well-developed character of this type can be the most compelling part of a story. Sadly, we gain no similar insights into Hamilton's villain. These factors combined with stilted dialogue and needlessly meandering narrative makes the fantasy storyline flop.
I am still waiting for the details of the fantasy storyline to become relevant to the sci-fi storyline, beyond the basic revelation that a character from the sci-fi world dreamt the fantasy one, leading to a nonsensical religious movement. Overall, I give the sci-fi portions 4 out of 5. The fantasy portions get 1 out of 5. And because in this book the fantasy portions are longer than the sci-fi ones, the overall work receives 2 out of 5.