Stars: 5 out of 5
The Abyss Beyond Dreams is a rather hard book to describe, because it’s equal part science fiction and fantasy. In a way, it reminded me of Inversions by Iain M Banks – an author I absolutely love.
In Inversions, we have an agent from the Culture, a highly advanced space faring civilization, living as the personal doctor to a king on a medieval planet. The people around her don’t know anything about starships, other planets or even that their world is a round ball orbiting another round ball of burning gas. And the reader experiences the story through the eyes of one of the locals to whom a lot of what the doctor does seems like magic.
We have a bit of a similar situation in this book. There is a large and highly advanced civilization called the Commonwealth that is very reminiscent of Mr. Banks’s Culture. Several Commonwealth colony ships get sucked into the Void, a mysterious area in the center of the universe that nobody has ever returned from. What they discover inside is a world where normal laws of physic don’t always apply and things that seemed impossible become ordinary. Their highly technological ships, robots and nano-enhancements fail. But they discover that they all have acquired telepathic and telekinetic abilities instead. They crash land on the only inhabitable planet within reach of their rapidly failing starships and call it Bienvenido.
Fast forward about 3000 years and the civilization founded by the colonists has devolved as far down as the high middle ages, with a rigid system of casts ruled by a corrupt nobility and a justice system that favors the rich and powerful. The civilization is stagnating, so buried under the burden of traditions that all notion of progress is killed in the cradle. And into this culture that has forgotten that once upon a time it traveled between stars, lands a man freshly sent by the Commonwealth to find out what happened to the missing ships. And Nigel Sheldon is just the man needed to create a few waves in this stagnating cesspool and maybe start a revolution.
I loved this book. It has this wonderful mix of science fiction and fantasy that is very hard to pull off well, and Peter Hamilton accomplishes it to perfection. We are introduced both to the highly advanced world of Commonwealth, where technological and biological advances have made even death optional. And then we are fully immersed in the rather medieval world of Bienvenido, where technology is reduced to a bare minimum, but everyone can use teekey (telekinetic) powers and talk to each other through ‘path (telepathic) voice.
Then there is the significant detail that Bienvenido is under constant attack from the Fallers – mysterious black eggs that fall from the sky on regular intervals. They sure people to touch them, and absorb them. Once absorbed, the egg hatches and a Faller is born. It’s an exact copy of the person who had been absorbed, but it only has one thought on its mind – destroy the humans of Bienvenido. Nobody knows why those Fallers are so hostile, or how to do more than mitigate the damage they do, because to defeat them, humans have to bring the fight to the sky, and nobody has flown off planet in milenia.
I loved the characters I got to explore the mysterious Void and the planet of Bienvenido with. I loved the highly complex and fleshed-out world the author built. And the story itself is a good mix of adventure, horror, and high politics. It’s especially interesting to see how a few well-placed “pebbles” can have a ripple effect that brings about a tsunami of civil unrest that washes away the old order and attempts to created something better out of the wreckage. I loved following Slvasta around and seeing him evolve from a naïve young trouper dreaming of glory and axing his first egg to a battle-hardened young man who still managed to preserve his integrity, no matter how much he had to go through.
The Void is a bizarre and fascinating world, and I am really looking forward to exploring it farther in the next books in the series.
So is this book worth buying? Yes, definitely. You are guaranteed to spend several days (this book is over 600 pages long) happily immersed in a very detailed and interesting world.
PS. This review is for and advanced copy I received courtesy of NetGalley.
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