Audiobook short: The Dreaming Void

After having finished Peter F. Hamilton’s two-part Commonwealth Saga, I discovered that one of his trilogies was placed in this same story universe, only about 1200 years later. Although I do believe that this is a perfect jumping on point and you don’t have to read or listen to the prequel novels of the Commonwealth Saga, I’m also convinced that you’ll enjoy The Dreaming Void more if you have.

Although I found the prospect of what would undoubtedly be another long listen somewhat daunting, I also thought that a little over 21 hours was very much better than the almost 38 hours a piece of the aforementioned two-parter. So I happily embarked on this new listening trip, blissfully ignoring the fact that the entire trilogy would of course take me almost exactly as long as the previous saga. But who’s counting.

Publisher’s Summary

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. Even death itself has been overcome. But at the centre of the Commonwealth is a massive black hole. This Void is not a natural artefact. Inside there is a strange universe where the laws of physics are very different to those we know. It is slowly consuming the other stars of the galactic core – one day it will devour the entire galaxy.

Inigo, a human, has started to dream of a wonderful existence in the Void. He has a following of millions of believers and they now clamour to make a pilgrimage into the Void to live the life they have been shown. Other starfaring species fear their migration will cause the Void to expand again. They are prepared to stop them no matter what the cost.

And so the pilgrimage begins….

©2008 Peter F. Hamilton; (P)2008 Macmillan Digital Audio

My thoughts: “Smart combination of scifi & fantasy!”

From the beginning this novel requires your attention – no vacuum cleaning or shopping while listening please – as per usual, it seems, with Hamilton’s work. The plot takes its time to unfold in all its detail, sauntering unhurriedly forward while you meet all of its well-fleshed out characters. But then: a novelty, a story-within-a-story, a novel-within-a-novel even, and to Hamilton’s credit I cannot make up my mind which of the two I liked better. I might love them equally well – although Inigo’s dreams, which make up this interwoven second novel, are more action-driven with a higher pacing, so I guess I do prefer that storyline a little.

By combining two-novels-in-one in this particular way, in my opinion Hamilton has also brilliantly succeeded in combining scifi and fantasy in one great tale, without the genres ever actually crossing over. A smart move, and smartly done. The novel hints at the two stories, or at least their worlds, being integrated in one of its sequels, but this first part will have none of that. Loved it!

After The Commonwealth Saga, The Dreaming Void has a new narrator: Toby Longworth, which comes with its perks and its disadvantages. On the plus side, there are actual sentence breaks in the correct places now, and some clarifying seconds of silence between chapters. What.a relief that was, compared to the prequels. Also, as a narrator he performs perfectly well, and I would listen to any novel read by him without any qualms. My criticism of the change of narrator however outweighs its advantages. For Longworth pronounces certain names of characters and species differently from what we have become acquainted with in the Commonwealth Saga, which I found slightly annoying and couldn’t get used to. Also, his acting voice for the different characters is, naturally, different from John Lee’s, which includes inflection of voice, and the way certain sentences are intoned. I found this distracting as well because the effect was that several well-loved characters didn’t sound like themselves anymore. So I was glad to notice that John Lee, the original narrator of the Commonwealth Saga, returns to parts 2 and 3 of the Void trilogy!

All in all I liked this first part of the Void trilogy enough to recommend it to anyone who likes the Commonwealth Saga, or simply Peter Hamilton’s work! 👍🏼

Also follow my reviews on Audible.com! (where I am Katarina – if you’re an Audible listener, simply bookmark my Listerner page once you’ve found me)

 

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Audiobook short: Judas Unchained

The audiobook version of the second and last part of Peter Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga is even longer than its predecessor Pandora’s Star,counting only two minutes short of 38 hours! So the same comments apply that I offered in one of my previous posts: this requires some stamina to finish, especially since it also needs you to concentrate – really concentrate – while listening, to avoid getting lost in the intricate plot, habitated by its many characters. 

Whether this is worth your precious time and effort I leave up to you, my dear readers, to decide; however, I really liked it, inspite of its sometimes overly detailed plot threads. The reason is that the novel is, in the end, character driven, more than plot driven.

Publisher’s summary

The high-action concluding novel of the Commonwealth Saga from one of the world’s bestselling Science Fiction writers.

After hundreds of years secretly manipulating the human race, the Starflyer alien has succeeded in engineering a war which should result in the destruction of the Intersolar Commonwealth. Now, thanks to Chief Investigator Paula Myo, the Commonwealth’s political elite finally acknowledges the Starflyer’s existence, and puts together an unlikely partnership to track down this enigmatic and terrifying alien.

The invasion from Dyson Alpha continues with dozens of Commonwealth worlds falling to the enemy. The navy fights back with what it believes to be war-winning super weapons, only to find that the alien fleet has equally powerful weapons. How the aliens got them is the question which haunts Admiral Kime. Could it be that the Commonwealth’s top-secret defence project has been compromised by the Starflyer’s agents, or is the truth even worse?

©2005 Peter F Hamilton (P)2008 Tantor Media Inc

My thoughts: “Satisfying end to this 2-part saga”

Judas Unchained continues where Pandora’s Star left off. It follows the story through to the end, with a neat, not-very-rollercoaster-yet-satisfying-nonetheless climax and ending. All the characters you loved (and loved to hate) from the first novel are there, and every single one of the storylines is solved. Which is how it’s supposed to be, especially after two of those immensely long audiobook listens. No annoying cliffhangers or unresolved plot points here. Good!
Narrator John Lee is still fantastic, but the breaks between sentences and chapters are still confusingly absent – as they were with part 1, Pandora’s Star. If you liked that first part, you will like this sequel as well. The quality is the same and the stories are truly two halves of one saga.

This was not a five-star novel for me (too long and detailed for that, which slowed it down) but I liked it enough to have bought the second saga as well (a trilogy called The Void, in the same universe but far into the future).

Recommend.

Also follow my reviews on Audible.com! (where I am Katarina – if you’re an Audible listener, simply bookmark my Listerner page once you’ve found me)

 

Audiobook short: Pandora’s Star

 

For the audioversion of this review, check out episode 475 of the Spiritblade Underground Podcast, go to timestamp 15:03.

Peter F. Hamilton’s Pandora’s Star, the first novel of the two-part Commonwealth Saga, is a VERY long and detailed telling, with many characters, many of whom (sort of) protagonists. It takes a whopping 37 hours 33 minutes to finish, so from the start you’ll have to pay attention, otherwise you’ll get lost quickly! I had to ‘rewind’ several times because I wasn’t paying close attention for, like, a whole minute. So this novel is not something to listen to while doing lots of other stuff that requires your attention. Saga, indeed.

Publisher’s Summary

Britain’s bestselling SF writer returns to outer space.

In AD 2329, humanity has colonised over four hundred planets, all of them interlinked by wormholes. With Earth at its centre, the Intersolar Commonwealth now occupies a sphere of space approximately four hundred light years across.

When an astronomer on the outermost world of Gralmond, observes a star 2000 light years distant – and then a neighbouring one – vanish, it is time for the Commonwealth to discover what happened to them. For what if their disappearance indicates some kind of galactic conflict? Since a conventional wormhole cannot be used to reach these vanished stars, for the first time humans need to build a faster-than-light star ship, the Second Chance. But it arrives to find each ‘vanished’ star encased in a giant force field — and within one of them resides a massive alien civilisation.

©2004 Peter F Hamilton (P)2008 Tantor Media Inc

My thoughts: “Perfect if you want to take your time”

As I said, this story requires a lot of time on your part, but if you do like to invest the more than 1½ days (!) it takes to finish, this scifi novel offers a pretty immersive story with the author taking his time to paint his universe. His characters are fleshed out very well, and none are 100% ‘good’ or ‘bad’, which gives them a realistic feel.
As for the scifi aspects, I enjoyed this author’s concept of human society a couple of centuries from now. How humans tackled the immortality problem, the everyday tech gadgets that are used by everyone, and even its application to… porn. Really fun ideas, without getting crass or sleezy. However, be aware that there are several instances of crude language, if that is something you deem important to know.

The author has also integrated diversity into his character concepts, different races and sexual preferences are presented in a very natural way without drawing unnecessary attention. The only thing that does not get much attention is religion; none of the characters seem religious in any way, the entire human race seems to have a naturalistic viewpoint. Which is why religion or even plain spirituality is the only thing I found lacking in this otherwise colorfully diverse universe.

The narration is terrific, with lots of different accents and voices by narrator John Lee. He is a joy to listen to, and adds emotion and identity to his characters without overacting. I especially enjoyed his high society females, the way he read them was absolutely fantastic and often laced with humor.

Loved them all.

A point of criticism: The editing makes it very hard to distinguish between chapters, and even viewpoints. There are no pauses whatsoever. So one minute you’re completely into one character’s story unfolding, and literally the very next sentence takes you to a whole different character WITHOUT mentioning them by name so you still think you’re at the previous viewpoint! Another reason to skip back a couple of minutes several times…

Nevertheless I recommend this novel, and I went ahead and bought its sequel as well, titled Judas Unchained. More on that next time, as I haven’t finished that yet.

Also follow my reviews on Audible.com! (where I am Katarina – if you’re an Audible listener, simply bookmark my Listerner page once you’ve found me)

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