Commonwealth: Chronicles of the Fallers #1: The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, reviews The Abyss Beyond Dreams, the first novel in the Commonwealth: Chronicles of the Fallen Duology, written by the awesome science fiction writer, Peter F. Hamilton. This book is published by Del Ray Books.
“An excellent, imaginative novel that could well end up being one of the year’s best. Peter F. Hamilton has given us another winner.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
The year is 3326. Nigel Sheldon, one of the founders of the Commonwealth, receives a visit from the Raiel—self-appointed guardians of the Void, the enigmatic construct at the core of the galaxy that threatens the existence of all that lives. The Raiel convince Nigel to participate in a desperate scheme to infiltrate the Void.
Once inside, Nigel discovers that humans are not the only life-forms to have been sucked into the Void, where the laws of physics are subtly different and mental powers indistinguishable from magic are commonplace. The humans trapped there are afflicted by an alien species of biological mimics—the Fallers—that are intelligent but merciless killers.
Yet these same aliens may hold the key to destroying the threat of the Void forever—if Nigel can uncover their secrets. As the Fallers’ relentless attacks continue, and the fragile human society splinters into civil war, Nigel must uncover the secrets of the Fallers—before he is killed by the very people he has come to save.
Peter F. Hamilton is an author who I really should get around to reading more of. I was impressed by The Great North Road, which as a bumper-sized science fiction novel that, If I recall correctly, ended up on the Top 25 Novels of the year list in the year it came out, and when you consider that The Abyss Beyond Dreams is on track to do the same thing, it’s no wonder then why I’ve bumped the rest of Hamilton’s titles up my to-read list. With these two books he’s quickly established himself as a go-to author for epic science fiction, and that’s what helps make The Abyss Beyond Dreams an excellent addition to this year’s strong quality of releases.
First in a duology, The Abyss Beyond Dreams is an excellent look into this new landscape. With the vast pagecount (although this book is still shorter than The Great North Road, even at just over 600 pages) Hamilton wastes no time in getting stuck in, and as a result you get not only plenty of action but also world building. You really get a good understanding of the reality that Hamilton has created here, with a great imaginative idea that looks at the interior of the mysterious Void, which boasts subtly different laws of physics and mental powers could easily be described as magic. And to make matters worse, the humans who are trapped there aren’t the only species – an intelligent, ruthless species known as Fallers always pose a menacing threat to humanity. The Fallers have secrets though, and that’s what Nigel Sheldon, one of the Commonwealth’s founders, is determined to find out upon the infiltration of the void. However, Nigel also has to deal with the people who he has come to save, who it’s safe to say, aren’t that welcoming.
This book has to be my favourite science fiction novel of the year so far. It’s certainly up there with the likes of The Girl with All the Gifts by MR Carey and Robert Jackson Bennett’s epic The City of Stairs as a contender for book of the year and despite the fact that the large pagecount may put some people off, it’s really worth your time. Hamilton handles everything very well and establishes a great concept here that could be fascinating to return to in the sequel. You don’t have to be familiar with any other Commonwealth novels to understand what’s going on here, because I’m not, and it’s great to see that Hamilton has made the book accessible for all. The title is perfect for this book, with The Abyss Beyond Dreams being very appropriate for a book of epic proportions.
Split up into six separate “books”, The Abyss Beyond Dreams weaves a complicated epic that deals with multiple characters. Nigel Sheldon may be the only one mentioned on the blurb but you’ll encounter other players, Lieutenant Slvasta and many more besides. Hamilton handles them all very well indeed and it’s great to see that with everything going on, he gets plenty of character development done in a novel that could have fallen into the trap of being either all action or all world building. Safe to say, it’s none of those things – Hamilton does what only the best authors manage to accomplish and weave a compelling, engaging novel concerning all three elements.
If you’re already a fan of Peter F. Hamilton, then you’ll have probably already purchased this book. However, if you’re not, and looking for some good, epic science fiction, then you can’t go far wrong with this novel. In a year where most science fiction that you’ll read is young adult dystopian, it’s refreshing to read something that’s focused on a larger and more imaginative scale. As a result then, this book comes highly recommended, and expect it to be one of the year’s strongest releases, with very little put wrong.