Peter F. Hamilton has been writing books about the Commonwealth for some time. This book begins a new story arc dealing with the mysteries of The Void. This is an excellent stand-alone book, but if you’re new to the universe you may find yourself wondering about references to the Space Lords and the like until you get drawn into the story. There is an opening timeline in the printed and Kindle versions that may help get you up to speed. The Audible version leaves you on your own.
The book begins aboard a ship that is entering the mysterious Void, a strange spot in the universe where some have come to believe that the souls of the dead go. What they find instead is a place in which time and physics are distorted and, soon enough, find speres that duplicate their crew and turn cannibal.
The story then advances to Nigel Shelton, the thousand-year-old inventor of wormhole technology, who has cloned himself to investigate the Void and possibly rescue the crew and passengers of the lost ship. When he arrives he finds a society that can use none of the technology they brought with them. They have developed a stratified society in which an aristocratic group of Captains rules over a society of workers. And while advanced machinery fails in the Void they find they have been able to create servant creatures called Mods through genetic manipulation of creatures called newts.
The story then runs in tandem between Nigel and his investigation of the society and a cadre of revolutionaries who are attempting to overthrow the Captains.
Nigel (or his clone who has been filled with all of Nigel’s memories) is a terrific character. The activities of the revolutionary cells is some of the best political science fiction I’ve read in quite some time. Hamilton does a wonderful job of detailing the political manipulations and eventual paranoia that can come with a revolution mixed with ideologues and those who simply want an improved society. The revolution by itself would have made an excellent book. The additional threads of Nigel and The Fallers (new instances of the egg-like creations that fall to the planet to form cannibalistic monsters) just add more tension and interest to the book.
A great read for either those familiar with the Commonwealth theme or sci-fi fans totally new to Hamilton. If you are new, slogging through some unfamiliar terms and technology is worthwhile.