Tits MCGee CBR III 5-7 The Night’s Dawn Trilogy

[I’ve had a number of reviews completed and sitting on my desktop for a few months now and am only now getting around to posting them. My apologies for flooding the Cannonball blog with posts.]

After reading the Jewel of St. Petersburg for my second Cannonball read, I got cold feet. I didn’t want to pick up a book unless I knew in advance that I’d like it. Luckily for me, when I was looking for book number 5, my husband was buried in Peter Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn Trilogy, and working hard to convince me to read it. Every so often, he’d poke his head over the top of the first book and say, “you have to read this. You’re going to read this next, right?” or “wait till you get to the part about the Ly-cilph. You’ll love the Ly-cilph.” So when he finished the first book, I eagerly started reading. What I didn’t think through was that each book is 1,000 pages and the series would completely de-rail me from my cannonball goal of 52 books in one year. Indeed, after making my way through the trilogy, I’m well behind and with wounded pride, I’m going to have to change my goal to 26 books this year.  It was worth it.

I’m going to review all three books together because they’re not written as three separate stories that make up a trilogy. They’re one book that had to be split into three to prevent broken wrists and strained fingers.

Hamilton’s version of humanity’s journey into the stars and the aliens (xenocs) they encounter was unlike anything I have come across before. His vision of our technological advancement and divisive nature is unique and highly convincing. It’s possible that I simply haven’t come across another author who has the creativity and talent to envision species so far outside of those found on our own planet’s that reading about them is both off-putting and intriguing. The scale, culture, psychology, life cycles and mobility of the different xenoc species are all completely different from us. He also gives most of the xenoc species an evolutionary basis so that it’s clear how their specific characteristics and cultures developed, which adds strength and intelligence to his vision.

The plot itself and the characters that drive it were equally intriguing. The Reality Dysfunction, a problem that all sentient species must solve in their own unique way, is an interesting paradox. As it plays out, the story crosses from science fiction to horror to war and back again. The final solution to the problem was not only a surprise to me, but I couldn’t imagine a single solution that could work for humanity myself, despite my best efforts.  I was impressed and relieved when the author came up with something that was satisfying, though maybe the solution was a bit too simple.

One (minor) complaint is the character development. Hamilton set up a group of compelling and complex characters, with someone to relate to for everyone. My personal favourite was Syrinx, the Edenist voidhawk captain.  She was all at once naive, adventurous and eventually a little bit damaged. If I lived in this universe, I would want her life, minus the whole reality dysfunction nastiness. Also, my favourite villain from any story may now be Quinn Dexter. I still get shivers and glance over my shoulder when I think of him. He even has the potential to be a sex symbol among a certain demographic. If this series were ever made into a movie, Quinn Dexter would quickly top the list of villains you’d want to sleep with, and probably spark a wave of BDSM fetishes. While the characters were complete and well rounded, they didn’t grow throughout the series in a way that I felt was realistic. Those that did change seemed to do so overnight, and others simply stalled out. One could argue that this is fairly realistic given the situation, but I didn’t feel it was as realistic as gradual personal growth would be.

My main complaint for all three books is the editing. In this day and age, it’s just sloppy to miss a punctuation mark or to have a spelling mistake. I’m no grammar Nazi and I’m definitely not perfect, but I don’t like getting ripped out of an intense starship battle because I’m trying to figure out where the dialogue ends and the narration begins because a quotation mark is missing. Once or twice would be forgivable, but when it’s a chronic problem through a 3,000 page series, it starts to distract from the story.

All said and done, Night’s Dawn is an epic, creative rip and a genuinely fun read. It’s not the series for someone who isn’t sure if they’ll enjoy a science fiction (check out Ursula LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness first), but for someone like me who was looking to dive further into the genre, it was the perfect choice. This trilogy isn’t a fling; it’s a long-term commitment, but well worth your time in the end. I loved this series, flaws and all, and will definitely check out more work by Hamilton.

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