Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The Evolutionary Void

I've been reading The Void Trilogy since the start of January, expecting the three Science Fiction books to take me all year. Peter F Hamilton's books chronicle the life of Edeard, a young officer in a distant-future world who has strong mind-reading capabilities and is at first intent on wiping out corruption in his home city, but soon becomes an almost Jesus-like figure that people follow. Edeard's world exists inside The Void, an artificial galaxy. Inigo, a young man who lives in The Commonwealth- a star system outside of The Void, also develops a bit of a cult following when he realises his dreams are being transmitted through the 'giafield'- think intergalactic broadband- and these dreams convince their followers, known as The Living Dream, to plan a pilgrimage into The Void. This pilgrimage, it is expected, will create a hyper-massive expansion, which will cause The Void to devour planets in order to receive energy to sustain itself. The inhabitants of the nearby galaxy, the Raiel, have sworn to stop the expansion by any means necessary- they must go to war with The Living Dream.

By the third book, a young divorcee named Araminta has accepted that she is the second dreamer, and now her visions will encourage more people to make the pilgrimage. This means various factions want her dead.

Breathe in... breathe out. Still with me? Okay. As I started to read this third book, around the start of April, the weather was horrific. It snowed some time in that month, so I stayed in reading, but as summer belatedly meandered into northern England I found less time for books. When I did, I couldn't keep up with the plot and the science infused into the story was going over my head. But, to the book's credit, at least the science was there. The Temporal Void was more fantasy than sci-fi, and was hoping The Dreaming Void would realign to the genre it purports to be. It did.

To start, the people of Makkathran- the pre-industrial-revolution-style town inside The Void- start to latch on that banishing bandits into the wilderness outside their town only shifts the problem on, and Edeard finally introduces community service. Bravo. So the mentality of the characters in Makkathran start to develop themselves.

Hamilton's language, however, has remained static. Throughout the trilogy there's lengthy and largely unnecessary details about Edeard's fantasy-like sex life, and over-descriptive action sequences that abate the story's pace at times when it needs to move the quickest. 'Raw excitement accelerated his heart, sending hot blood pounding through his body.' Surely it was his heart rate, not his actual pulmonary muscle? Unless someone was flinging it across the room (which they weren't). And surely hot blood would have been pumping through his body already, otherwise there'd be a slight problem with the continuation of the plot: he'd be dead. Hamilton has a habit of describing something in one way, then depicting the same thing with other words. The extraneous descriptions do nothing to further illustrate the scene or move along the plot.

Another example: 'Marius had been fascinated by The Heart and the notions it sang of. There was really no other way of describing it.' Well, that isn't a description in the first place. But Hamilton then disproves his own suggestion on the same page, by describing it as 'vast' and 'aloof.' No wonder The Evolutionary Void is 700 pages. The credit crunch must really have been hammering Pan Macmillan in 2010, as nobody seemed to do any editing.

During yet ANOTHER sex scene, or at least leading up to one, a female character says, 'I learned about reflexes. Particularly the involuntary ones.' As opposed to what? Voluntary reflexes? Biotopics seem to suggest that voluntary and involuntary responses are separate, and that reflexes fall under 'involuntary,' which falls in line with what I remember from secondary school biology. Aviva health site backs this up: 'A reflex is an involuntary response to a stimulus.'

How can Britain's leading Science Fiction writer not know that distinction?

So, yeah, wads of science, if you can grasp that kind of thing, in and amongst the inaccuracies. A thoroughly ridiculous story but somewhat enjoyable, although hard work. I appear to have been reading this ridiculous book for SEVEN MONTHS. I'm all Sci-Fi'd out now. As the Monty Python team would say...

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