By:Pat Ferrara
Review Date: Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Kicking off a new series that breaks the mold of contemporary space epics, Peter F. Hamilton has created a masterpiece in the mind-busting opener to The Void Trilogy…and firmly cemented his place as one of the modern masters of Science Fiction.

The year is 3589. From Earth the Greater Commonwealth has spread its influence out to the far stars of our galaxy, transforming space as we know it into a teeming metropolis of alien and human life. The thousands of Central and External worlds offer safe havens for every technological, cultural, and philosophical ideology the multitude of races could ever fathom, but the system’s hard-won peace is in jeopardy.

The center of the galaxy holds a super-massive enigma known as The Void, an impenetrable globe that for eons has stumped even the oldest and most powerful of races. Though surrounded by an alien wall of protective star clusters, The Void will, over billions of years, expand outward to devour everything in its path. No one ever knew what was inside the astrophysical mystery until a man named Inigo had a vision of human life inside the sphere’s inky depths. Promising a new era of fulfillment to a population increasingly obsessed with transcendence, Inigo’s shared dream has sparked a billion-strong movement known as the Living Dream: a growing theocracy that puts the whole galaxy in danger when they announce their plans for a Pilgrimage into the unknowable Void.

The Dreaming Void sports all the sensibilities of a modern sci-fi epic, yet it maintains a certain throwback flair to the beloved classics that defined the genre. With narrative that’s woven denser than The Void’s event horizon surface, Hamilton takes us on a heady journey that doesn’t shirk the complexities of life, but rather relishes in it.

Originally created in the Commonwealth Saga (2004’s Pandora’s Star & 2006’s Judas Unchained), Hamilton’s universe is richly textured and expertly crafted, exuding a surprising amount of realism despite its outlandish concepts. Through the lenses of a human race fractured by technological culture we glimpse different views of how the Living Dream movement is ruffling an entire galactic ecosystem.

Whether through the eyes of Araminta, a young, genetically enhanced Advancer trying to make her way through a nasty divorce, or through the eyes of Justine, a megacorporate Higher who’s just been downloaded back into her body after three centuries inside Earth’s governing ANA system, the novel presents us with characters that are just as diverse as their own point of views on the story. All this adds up to the book’s greatest strength: providing thought-provoking material in an immensely enjoyable narrative package.

Those short of attention may find it difficult to keep up with The Dreaming Void’s pacing, which is dictated by a layered plot structure that intersperses real-time subplots in between Inigo’s multiple dream sequences. But unlike most dream sequences or flashbacks that string along a work of fiction, these chapters on Inigo’s dreams anchor the whole novel, offering a side story that will have you flipping through the pages to reach the next dream POV.

In short The Dreaming Void is the best new sci-fi story I’ve read in the past few years. Regrettably I’m now faced with the worst part of getting into a new series: waiting for the next installment.

Mania Grade: A+
Book: The Dreaming Void
Author: Peter F. Hamilton
Publisher: Del Rey
Pages: 624
Price: $17.82