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The Evolutionary Void (with bonus short story If At First...) Mass Market Paperback – Oct 4 2011
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“Spiced with plenty of action and intrigue.”—San Jose Mercury News
“Satisfying and powerful . . . space opera doesn’t get much more epic than Peter F. Hamilton, something proven in spades in The Evolutionary Void.”—SFFWorld
“Dazzling with complex story lines, compelling characters, and universe-spanning drama.”—Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Peter F. Hamilton is the author of numerous novels, including The Temporal Void, The Dreaming Void, Judas Unchained, Pandora’s Star, Fallen Dragon, and the acclaimed epic Night’s Dawn trilogy (The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist, and The Naked God). He lives with his family in England.
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The Evolutionary Void picks up immediately where The Temporal Void left off with no break in pacing, continuing the story in an effective, confident fashion. The many plot threads that have been built up over the first two novels are now dealt with convincingly, some with immediate effect while others come to the fore in preparation for the grand finale. It's very difficult, in fact nigh on impossible, to find any fault with this aspect of The Evolutionary Void. It is clear from many references and clues laid down in Dreaming and Temporal that the Void trilogy has been intricately plotted and even has details that go all the way back to the Commonwealth Saga. This is rather unsurprising when you consider that many of the characters present here have their origins in the duology.
Some of the story lines that I was most anticipating delivered the goods. The Deterrence Fleet is hinted at many times and the revelation of what it is and the capabilities it has still manages to surprise. This can be said of many of the plot points in Evolutionary. For example, Araminta is the descendant of two Silfen friends and this is used during Temporal to show how she is able to share her dreams of the Skylord (albeit unknowingly) with the Living Dream movement. This heritage plays a fairly big role in Evolutionary and leads to some aspects that I just didn't see coming, despite how obvious they are when looking back.
The format of Evolutionary Void also follows a similar path to that of the previous books, with the Commonwealth elements mixed with Inigo's dreams of life in the Void. While The Dreaming Void was roughly a 60/40 split in favour of the Commonwealth sections and The Temporal Void was roughly 70/30 in favour of the Void sections, The Evolutionary Void switches right back to focus more on the issues in the Commonwealth and the Void aspects taking a back seat, leading to the split being in the region of 80/20 in favour of the Commonwealth. This really does work in its favour and allows Peter to do what he does best: epic space opera. To say that Peter is ambitious in his plotting would be an understatement, but past good form is present here in every way possible, from bringing together plot threads to concluding the story in a fantastic way.
Peter has developed all his characters throughout this series, with familiar faces from the Commonwealth Saga continually being developed nicely and new faces to the Void trilogy satisfying all aspects I could hope for. Each development that forms the story is conveyed convincingly through the characters, from Araminita taking the bull by the horns to the eventual discovery of Aaron's identity and past. Edeard's progress is perhaps the most controversial and seeing him change during his sections left me somewhat non-plussed. However, Peter does do an exceptional job at showing how extreme power can affect all while still managing to portray Edeard's life in a most realistic way. The eventual outcome is all the more satisfying for this exploration of his character and serves the story very well.
One of the main aspects I loved about Dreaming and Temporal was Edeard's story, a story that is both gripping and emotional. I mentioned briefly above about his character in Evolutionary so I won't go into more detail here, but what did surprise me is that the format of consecutive Dreams is not followed here. It turns out Inigo had a lot of Dreams of Edeard's life and all that is covered in the first two novels is only a small aspect of it. Instead of sticking to the known, Peter goes outside this pattern and does not tell us everything, but rather select and important times of his life that have the greatest effect on the plot and story. Yes, I would have liked to read them all, but quantity does not always mean quality, and it is the quality and overall story that makes this approach powerful and meaningful to The Evolutionary Void.
There were two particular questions that I had before starting The Evolutionary Void, one relating to Inigo's Last Dream and the other relating to just how effectively Peter could conclude this trilogy. While I wanted them to hit the right notes I was just that little bit sceptical that they may miss the mark, just not being able to convince myself to ignore those doubts, unfounded as they were.
Inigo's Last Dream is one of the most beautifully written and poetic pieces of writing I have ever read. Seeing it coming from Peter was one of the biggest surprises and most pleasant finds in Evolutionary. While fairly short, it conveys so much emotion and feeling that I had to put the book down after reading it simply to absorb what I had read. Stunning is one way to describe it, awe inspiring would be another, but without a doubt it is the highlight of the novel.
The conclusion of the trilogy was something I hoped would be a fitting end and able to silence previous critics of Peters work. Not only does it do this, it manages to bring aspects laid down throughout the trilogy together in an ending that is grand in scale and perfectly suited to what has been laid out in the trilogy as a whole.
If I had to put forward one quibble it would not be about this book, but rather the fact that the Commonwealth Saga, which consists of Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained and is set 1200 years prior to the Void Trilogy, really needs to be read to gain a full appreciation of this epic story. While both are fairly separate, the story they form as a whole makes the experience much more fulfilling. There are aspects present in the Void trilogy, particularly Evolutionary Void, that hark back to this previous saga. While I wouldn't say it's a compulsory read, you will get the most enjoyment if you take the time to get around to them first.
So, I think you can probably tell from the above that I really did love this book, thought the trilogy has been exceptional and would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat. It's intricately plotted and you'd be hard pressed to find another author who can pull off such a vision. For grand scale, epic space opera on a huge canvas it doesn't get much better than this. Highly, highly recommended.
The events take place in a society called the 'Commonwealth'. It's basically the whole of human civilization, which by this time consists of hundreds of words and trillions of human beings. There are also many alien civilizations to contend with. The two books before the Void Trilogy, 1200 years ago, deal with an anomaly witnessed by one of the outer worlds in the commonwealth and the resulting investigation and conflict with the new race of aliens called the 'Primes'. One thing that I should mention is that the universe does allow for relatively easy alien-to-human communications (aided by technology of course), and allows for FTL travel, which may be slightly annoying to traditional hard sci-fi fans.
The trilogy itself takes place 1200 years after that conflict, when humans have become one of the most dominant species in the galaxy and consist of many factions. The civilization is nominally democratic, but each of the factions vie for control, hoping to push the humanity in the direction they wish.
The maneuvering of the factions and their agents is essential, but the central theme of the books is The Void. The black hole in the middle of the milky way is actually something created billions of years ago by the First Lifes, and it's threatening to swallow the whole galaxy because some humans have formed a religion around what's inside, and want to feed it by making pilgrimage there, which will in essence cause it to expand and destroy the galaxy. As you can imagine, the rest of the galaxy wants to pass on that idea since it will result in their destruction. What's inside the Void, why it was created, why people want to go there, and how the galaxy and the races deal with that is what the book is about. The last book is probably the best of the lot - there is no sense of the author just milking the franchise. It is clear the book was designed as a trilogy from the beginning. The loose ends are tied up satisfactorily and you can see the story arc progressing very smoothly between the three novels.
The book is probably 60-40 in terms of events outside the Void with the events inside the void. The story is extremely character driven, and has a large cast of characters, whose backstories are fleshed out in enough details so that you actually care what happens to them, and their actions actually make sense considering their background and psyche. This is perhaps unique in hard-scifi, and Hamilton and Reynolds are probably unique in managing to pull that off. If you're a fan of scifi, you'll enjoy the story, but if you've never really read hard-scifi before or are intimidated, this is a fantastic series to start with. It's easy to get into, extremely fun, and highlights much of what is so great about the genre.
The biggest compliment I can give the series, and the last book in particular, is that despite me being a cynical scifi reader, the twists and revelations were completely logical and yet were utterly shocking and surprising. That is hard to pull off in hard-scifi, especially when you've read pretty much every novel that comes out in the genre. I was not exactly sure what to expect, but this book was the best in the series and was a fantastic read from the first page to the last. I planned to read it over the course of a week, but I finished it at 6AM the next morning after starting it the night before. I think that alone should tell you everything you need to know about the novel.
Also, the Edeard story, which started out as a sort of endearing "juvenile" story nested within the larger work, really devolved. It ended, not to give too much away, as a kind of adolescent wish fulfillment. Come to think of it, this is a bit of a recurring theme in Hamilton's work.
Finally, if you stuck it out this far hoping that Ozzie was going to turn into a major character, don't bother. Hamilton ruined his character in the final installment. It's a shame, because he was one of the few continuity pieces from the first trilogy.
So, anyway, despite some fun stretches, I'd classify this novel as a disappointment.