Bestselling author Peter F. Hamilton is best known for his doorstopper space opera yarns such as The Reality Disfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist, The Naked God, and other books heavy enough to be used as weapons.
Though he is not a prolific short fiction writer, Hamilton does come up with short stories from time to time. His first short story collection, A Second Chance at Eden, was released in 1998. And it's taken him this long to produce enough material for a second collection, Manhattan in Reverse.
All the short stories comprising this newest collection have appeared in various anthologies and magazines throughout the years. The only exception is "Manhattan in Reverse." This one was written specifically for this collection of short fiction.
A bit like Tad Williams, although he is renowned for huge novels, Peter F. Hamilton can nevertheless write very compelling works in short form. Sadly, the size of his novel-length projects prevents him from writing more than one short story per year. And that, only if he is lucky. Still, Manhattan in Reverse made for a very intriguing, thought-provoking, and entertaining reading experience.
Here's the blurb:
A collection of short stories from the master of space opera. Peter F. Hamilton takes us on a journey from a murder mystery in an alternative Oxford in the 1800s to a brand new story featuring Paula Mayo, Deputy Director of the Intersolar Commonwealth's Serious Crimes Directorate. Dealing with intricate themes and topical subjects, this top ten bestselling author is at the top of his game.
The first short story in this collection is "Watching Trees Grow." It's starts as a somewhat innocent murder mystery tale set in an alternative history Oxford in the 1800s, but grows far beyond that premise very quickly. It was quite interesting to see Hamilton's take on a setting in which the Roman Empire has never fallen. Following this investigation through the centuries as new technology made it possible to unveil new clues that brought the authorities closer to the murderer's identity was engrossing.
"Footvote" recounts the tale of Jannette and Colin, an estranged couple. A wormhole has been created to the planet New Suffolk. Jannette, a social and political activist, wants to prevent people from leaving Earth behind to start new lives beyond the wormhole. But little does she know that Colin plans to take their two children away so they can make a fresh start on this new planet.
"If at First. . ." recounts the tale of David Lanson of the Metropolitan Police. When he was handed the investigation for the Jenson case, nothing could prepare him for what was about to happen. Time travel and alternate realities are only just the beginning of a case that will change his life forever.
"The Forever Kitten" was written for Nature magazine. What so special about it is that it's less than a thousand words long. Yes, Peter F. Hamilton can do it! It's a thought-provoking short story of human rejuvenation with a surprising ending.
"Blessed by an Angel" is another intriguing piece. It's set in a world that wants no part of the contamination and corruption of the Higher civilization of the Central Commonwealth. Two ideologies clash and have repercussions on the lives of two innocent people.
In "The Demon Trap," detective Paula Mayo must uncover those responsible for the death of a party of young Dynasty members. A political movement pushing for Merioneth's Isolation is behind the assassinations. Yet nothing, not even that world's isolation, will prevent Paula Mayo from getting to the bottom of her investigation.
"Manhattan in Reverse" also feature Paula Mayo. After another successful case, the detective is asked to travel to the world of Menard, where indigeneous life has begun to attack settlers. No one can explain why the native creatures have suddenly become hostile. As an uncanny puzzle-solver, Admiral Wilson Kime asks her to find out what happened.
Though Peter F. Hamilton's long-form works have made him a bestselling author on both sides of the Atlantic, this collection demonstrates that he can also excel when working on a much smaller scale.