In this book Peter F. Hamilton brings to a close the story begun in The Abyss Beyond Dreams. It’s now some 250 years after the clone of Nigel Sheldon broke down The Void, an area where time and physics no longer acted normally. This ejected the planet of Bienvenido with its population of humans who had been stranded and isolated from their home planets while within the Void. Now, millions of light years away from the nearest planetary system, they feel no less isolated. And there are two pressures on the human population: the revolution that took place shortly before the Void was destroyed has become a totalitarian police state and the Fallers are increasing. Fallers are another creature that had been trapped in the Void. They can absorb and mimic humans and will even feast on them. Called Fallers because the spherical eggs that produced them fell from the sky, once they take human form the only way to tell them from any other human is that their blood is blue.
In the time that passed from the first novel the population of Bienvenido has had to make other adjustments. They are no longer able to understand each other in the semi-psychic way that the Void allowed. At the same time, now that physics functions normally again they have begun to expand their engineering and scientific knowledge. The combustion engine has been reintroduced as has the atomic bomb. The latter is being used to try to eradicate nests of the Fallers.
On one of these clearing missions, Ry Evin, of the People’s Astronaut Regiment, notices an object streaking out of the atomic firebomb. This object contains a backup plan left by Nigel’s clone in the event that his mission didn’t succeed. What is in this and who will get to control it becomes the center of this book.
Hamilton creates a tense atmosphere throughout the book. There is tension within the “people’s government” now ruling through dense bureaucracy and secret police who use informants planted among the population. And when a near-hermit forest warden named Florian finds the object expelled from the atomic blast the book becomes like the best kind of police chase, where the runner and the chaser are both followed in the book and we can watch from every perspective.
In the first of these books the action began to center around a discovery in a place known as the Desert of Bones. The centerpoint of this book is even more powerful and interesting.
If I have a complaint about the book it’s that the ending has a type of deus ex machina ending. It probably has less irritation for someone who has stayed with the Commonwealth books from the start, but for someone starting with these two books it seems to come out of the blue. The only advice I can give to a newer Hamilton fan is to scour the chronology included at the start of the book. If you have the audio version you can still see the chronology in the free preview or “look inside” offer for the Kindle version on Amazon. It will give some answers. After that, you get the joy of working your way through the other books in the series until Hamilton’s next book drops.