Del Rey, 2007, 640 pages
AD 3580. The Intersolar Commonwealth has spread through the galaxy to over a thousand star systems. It is a culture of rich diversity with a place for everyone. A powerful navy protects it from any hostile species that may lurk among the stars. For Commonwealth citizens, even death has been overcome.
At the center of the galaxy is the Void, a strange, artificial universe created by aliens billions of years ago, shrouded by an event horizon more deadly than any natural black hole. In order to function, it is gradually consuming the mass of the galaxy. Watched over by its ancient enemies, the Raiel, the Void's expansion is barely contained.
Inigo dreams of the sweet life within the Void and shares his visions with billions of avid believers. When he mysteriously disappears, Inigo's followers decide to embark on a pilgrimage into the Void to live the life of their messiah's dreams - a pilgrimage that the Raiel claim will trigger a catastrophic expansion of the Void.
Aaron is a man whose only memory is his own name. He doesn't know who he used to be or what he is. All he does know is that his job is to find the missing messiah and stop the pilgrimage. He's not sure how to do that, but whoever he works for has provided some pretty formidable weaponry that ought to help.
Meanwhile, inside the Void, a youth called Edeard is coming to terms with his unusually strong telepathic powers. A junior constable in Makkathran, he starts to challenge the corruption and decay that have poisoned the city. He is determined that his fellow citizens should know hope again. What Edeard doesn't realize is just how far his message of hope is reaching.
The Dreaming Void is the third book by Hamilton I've read, all in the Commonwealth universe, though The Dreaming Void is set thousands of years after Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained.
The Intersolar Commonwealth is now governed by the Advanced Neural Activity (ANA), a collective intelligence made up of humans who have ascended beyond physical bodies. To deal with a new conspiracy threatening the peace of the galaxy, they summon one of the main protagonists of the earlier duology, the obsessive investigator Paula Myo, still alive over a millennium later thanks to the Commonwealth's super-advanced technology.
When last we saw Paula Myo, the Commonwealth was threatened by an alien race known as the Primes, who were driven to exterminate all other sentient species in the galaxy. The threat this time is theoretically even more dire, but feels less imminent. The Commonwealth has become even more technologically advanced, with the ability to upgrade or completely transcend themselves, thus forming a number of distinct and sometimes adversarial cultures. This leads to the rise of the Dreaming, followers of a messianic figure named Inigo. Inigo has dreams of a heroic young man living on a planet within the Void at the center of the galaxy, and telepathically projects these dreams to his followers. When Inigo disappears, his followers begin a mass migration towards the Void, seeking to enter it and become part of the dream.
This provokes potential conflict with a number of alien races who believe that such an act will cause the Void to violently expand, threatening to consume the entire galaxy.
Not much about the Void really makes sense — it's a vast yet vague threat, more metaphysical than science fictional. However, the chapters about Inigo's dream, which are actually the saga of a young man named Edeard, on a low-tech world in which everyone has telepathic and telekinetic abilities which essentially serve as a substitute for magic, made me wonder if what Hamilton is really hankering to write is a big fat epic fantasy. Edeard's story actually engaged me more than the external metaplot about the Commonwealth and the Void. Edeard is a typical Farmboy of Destiny who escapes with his one true adolescent love from a razed village, journeys to the big city, and becomes a hero thanks to his prodigious nascent powers.
This is a big book with a lot of characters, an immense amount of worldbuilding, and many subplots. Peter F. Hamilton's big fat space operas are grand and epic, but there always seems to be something missing for me in British science fiction. When I compare British authors writing literary SF, like Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds, Iain M. Banks and Charles Stross, they just don't rate as highly as their American contemporaries like Vernor Vinge, James S.A. Corey, or Dan Simmons. I will probably continue the Void trilogy, but it just didn't hit the mark for me.
Verdict: While it will appeal to most fans of big, epic space operas, The Dreaming Void, like Hamilton's previous books, left me lukewarm; I liked it, but I did not find it compelling or particularly memorable. 7/10.
Also by Peter F. Hamilton: My reviews of Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained.
My complete list of book reviews.