As you know, although I own every single title Peter F. Hamilton has released over the years, other than the stand-alone novels I'm really far behind when it comes to his series. I've finally begun the Night's Dawn trilogy earlier this year and was planning on reading The Neutronium Alchemist when Salvation unexpectedly showed up in my mailbox. I was glad, for now I'd be able to read and review installments of a new Hamilton sequence as they are published.

Having only read The Reality Dysfunction, I can't really compare the opening chapter in the Salvation Sequence with the Night's Dawn, the Commenwealth, and the Void series. Yet as was the case with the Peter F. Hamilton books I've read thus far, it's obvious that Salvation is another space opera yarn of epic scope.

Here's the blurb:

Humanity's complex relationship with technology spirals out of control in this first book of an all-new trilogy from "the owner of the most powerful imagination in science fiction" (Ken Follett).

In 2204, humanity is expanding into the wider galaxy in leaps and bounds. A new technology of linked jump gates has rendered most forms of transporation--including starships--virtually obsolete. Every place on earth, every distant planet mankind has settled, is now merely a step away from any other. And all seems wonderful...until a crashed alien spaceship is found on a newly-located world 89 light years from Earth, harboring seventeen human victims. And of the high-powered team dispatched to investigate the mystery, one is an alien spy...

Bursting with tension and big ideas, this standalone series highlights the inventiveness of an author at the top of his game, as the interweaving story lines tell us not only how humanity arrived at this moment, but also the far-future consequences that spin off from it.

Hamilton is renowned for his worldbuilding, which is always vast in scope and vision. And Salvation is certainly no exception! By the beginning of the 23rd century, mankind has taken to the stars. Demonstration of quantum spatial entanglement engendered the creation of portals that now connect every place on Earth and every settled planet and asteroid out there. Solar powerwell portals dropped directly into the sun provide the vast amount of energy required to keep everything running. In 2144, as a number of planets are being terraformed, an alien starship approaching our solar system is detected. The extraterrestrial civilization is known as the Olyix and they travel in the arkship Salvation of Life to the End of the Universe to meet their god. The arkship requires enormous amounts of electricity to generate antimatter, so the Olyix begin to trade their superior biotechnology with humans in exchange for the energy they need to continue their endless pilgrimage across the galaxies. When a portal ship arrives in the Beta Eridani system in 2204, it detects a beacon signal coming from a crashed alien spaceship light years away from Earth. And as impossible as it sounds, that ship contains the remains of human victims. An assessment team comprised of powerful and important men and women is sent to investigate, and they'll soon realize that they have more in common than they ever thought possible. And eighty-nine years from their home world, they'll come to realize that Earth might be facing a threat and that no one is aware of the imminent danger.

The structure of this novel is a little unusual and takes some time getting used to. There are three different timelines, and one of them feels somewhat discordant until you realize that it takes place far into the future. The first timeline follows the assessment team as they make their way to the alien ship's crash site. The second timeline explores the backstories of a number of members of the assessment team, and these chapters allow readers to connect the dots and find out how some of these people are related to one another and why they were selected for this mission. The third timeline occurs on Juloss, a terraformed planet nearly six centuries after the arrival of human settlers. That final timeline is decidedly different and it takes a while for things to start making sense. Protected by skyforts and with traveler generation ships having portaled out of orbit, the only people left on Juloss are those training to face the enemy which has decimated countless of mankind's home worlds. It's only when they refer to some of the assessment team members as Saints that it dawns upon you that the Juloss plotline takes place centuries, or even millennia, in the future and that Earth may already have been destroyed. This atypical narrative structure can sometimes make for an uneven reading experience. Salvation is never boring, mind you. But until everything comes together at the very end, one often wonders why such a big chunk of the pagecount is dedicated to some characters' backstories. The plot doesn't progress a whole lot for the better part of the novel, and Salvation often feels like the introduction to an introduction.

Peter F. Hamilton always had a knack for creating interesting and genuine characters and the same can be said of the Salvation cast. The perspective through which we follow the assessment team is that of Feriton Kayne, an exosolar security division officer from the Connexion company. He is convinced that someone on the team could be an alien spy and he's trying to uncover who it might be before they reach the crash site. The second timeline features the points of view of disparate protagonists as their respective backstories are unveiled. It was interesting to discover what led to Callum and Yuri's profound hatred and how they were both involved with Jessika. And I loved how the mysterious dark ops agent only known as Cancer showed up in both Alik's multiple-murder case and Kandara's secret mission. The Juloss timeline is comprised of two POVS, that of Dellian and Yirella, following the evolution and training of a boy and a girl at the beginning, all the way to adulhood when they ultimately board a battleship and leave their world in search of the nameless enemy for a final showdown.

Sadly, Salvation does suffer from occasional pacing issues. As is habitually his wont, Hamilton's latest novel weighs in at 565 pages and is another big work of fiction. Problem is, the bulk of the book focuses on the aforementioned backstories, not on what the blurb promised. And although those backstories can be fascinating and action-packed, there are times when you wonder why such a huge portion of the novel is devoted to what at first appears to be extraneous material. Only a handful of pages actually deal with the assessment team's arrival at the crash site, which was a bit of a disappointment. Having said that, Peter F. Hamilton closes the show with panache, with all the storylines culminating into the sort of ending that makes it impossible for me not to want to read the second volume, Salvation Lost, as soon as it comes out.

In the end, Salvation is another epic space opera that sets the stage for what should be another gripping series featuring rich worldbuilding and complex characters. On its own, the book is not as self-contained as it could have been and that can be detrimental to both the plotlines and the rhythm of the novel. Still, it's a satisfying read that will likely get better and better when the forthcoming sequels are published.

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

1 commentaires:

Neil said...

I picked it up last night at a book signing/talk last night. Fingers crossed for another great series.