Sunday, 5 March 2017

A Guide to the Books of Peter F Hamilton

I have decided to periodically post a guide to individual authors, starting with some of my favourite authors. First up is Peter F Hamilton, a popular author of science fiction space operas.

About the Author

Peter F Hamilton is a British author, born in 1960 in Rutland, England's smallest county. He began writing in 1987, getting several short stories published before his first novel, Mindstar Rising, came out in 1993. Since then he has published many novels, all in the science fiction genre apart from a recent series of young adult fantasy novels. His novels are usually set across a vast galactic landscape, with space travel, aliens and lots of future technology. The science is plausible and consistent but without loads of detail - this isn't hard sci-fi. His books have a lot of similarities with fellow British authors Iain M Banks and Alastair Reynolds.

Peter F Hamilton's Books

His first three books were a near future science fiction detective series, featuring psychic PI Greg Mandel. Unlike the rest of his books, these are in some respects a bit dated now, but still really interesting, portraying an England recovering from years of an oppressive communist regime. The books are:

Mindstar Rising (1993)
A Quantum Murder (1994)
The Nano Flower (1995)

They are all mid-size books in the 300-400 page spectrum. In contrast to his later books...

Confederation Universe Books

After quite small scale, near future science fiction, Hamilton moved onto a far future series written on a huge scale, with his Night's Dawn Trilogy. The first book is also in my all time top 10 reads. It is set 600 years in the future, on a distant world where a group of settlers are literally hacking out a new colony from the virgin forest. Something happens out there however, that throws the whole galaxy into chaos and threatens the continued existence of the human race...

The Reality Dysfunction (1996)
The Neutronium Alchemist (1997)
The Naked God (1999)

There are also a couple of companion books:

A Second Chance at Eden (1998)- A book of short stories set in the Confederation universe.
The Confederation Handbook (2000) - A non fiction guide to the Confederation Universe, compiled from the author's notes.

Commonwealth Universe

After writing  The Night's Dawn Trilogy, the author decided to move on to a completely different, unrelated set of stories. Set in the universe of the 'Commonwealth' several hundred years in the future, faster than light travel may not have been invented, but instead there are wormholes linking hundreds of planets. Humans may fill the galaxy, but there are various alien races which humans co-exist with in the galaxy relatively peacefully. Rejuvenation and memory stores give near immortality, and life is good for many. Then a strange astronomical event is spotted in the night sky, further out than anyone has gone before, and the safe, cossetted world of the Commonwealth is suddenly under threat.

This series is made up of two duologies, a trilogy and a standalone novel. The best place to start is Misspent Youth if you want to (see below), or Pandora's Star. Don't try to read them out of order.

Misspent Youth (2002) - A slim volume, not like his other books. It isn't well regarded - and can be easily skipped - but does set up the universe of the Commonwealth, showing the beginnings of rejuvenation technology and examines some of the implications.

Pandora's Star (2004) -
Judas Unchained (2005)

The Dreaming Void (2007)
The Temporal Void (2008)
The Evolutionary Void (2010)

The Abyss Beyond Dreams (2014)
Night Without Stars (2016)

Other Books

A children's fantasy series, The Queen of Dreams, perfect for 9-11 year olds apparently:

The Secret Throne (2015)
The Hunting of the Princes (2016)
A Voyage Through Air (2017 - forthcoming)

Fallen Dragon (2001) - A standalone space opera adventure, in a similar style to his other books.

Great North Road (2012) - A spectacular single volume novel, it weighs in at nearly a 1000 pages, and is set in a completely separate universe to his other books, but there are many similarities in style and content.

Manhatten in Reverse (2011) - A book of short stories, including a titular novella.

He has also written a young adult sci-fi novel, Lightstorm, and several novellas: Watching Trees Grow, Family Matters and A Window Into Time.

Links

Official website - He occasionally writes blog posts, and it has information about his books. It is a bit out of date though.

The Unisphere - A decent fan site covering the author's works.

2016 interview - A short interview with the author

Facebook page - Peter F Hamilton's Facebook page. He posts on here regularly, so is probably the best place online to find latest news about the author and his books.

So that's it. Definitely worth checking out if you like space based science fiction on an epic scale. My recommendation for a starting point would be either The Reality Dysfunction or Pandora's Star. Or if you want a standalone novel that gives a good flavour of what his books are like, try Fallen Dragon or Great North Road.