The Abyss Beyond Dreams
Peter F. Hamilton
The Abyss Beyond Dreams doesn't have a lot going for it. It has just enough, though. It's over 600 pages long, and I read it. I didn't love it, but I liked it enough to finish.
It doesn't need to be that long. The first 150 or so pages are, in effect, a prologue--in fact, they're two prologues, neither of then necessary. Their function is, apparently, to let Hamilton mention every piece of science-fiction technobabble he's ever dreamed up, as well as to haul in some characters who will never make an appearance again. He could have skipped it, since all the essential information is explained during the course of the actual plot. If you find your attention wandering, you can skip it too.
It doesn't have characterization, either. The characters are one-dimensional. It's the kind of book where every character can be fully encompassed by a pithy epithet. We get the Dedicated Revolutionary, the Brilliant Scientist-Hero, the Evil Dictator, and so forth.
Nor is it a Big Idea book. Nothing in The Abyss Beyond Dreams is terribly original. Some of it recalls Vernor Vinge's "Zones of Thought" galaxy. Other parts are reminiscent of Iain M. Banks. Yet other parts have a whiff of Greg Bear. The difference, however, is that Hamilton doesn't do anything with this stuff. Like the technology, it's just window dressing; you don't have to worry about it, as it doesn't really matter.
Really, The Abyss Beyond Dreams doesn't even make a lot of internal narrative sense. The plot holes are . . . substantial. E.g.: Nigel (the Brilliant Scientist-Hero) discovers that the [random tech jargon involving the word "quantum"] bomb could be used to [random tech jargon verb phrase] and thereby destroy the Void (the Bad Thing). OK, great. Why does he have to use the particular [random tech jargon] bombs that are already inside the Void? Why not send a message to your sponsors--which you can do, because blah blah something to do with dreams blah blah blah--saying "Hey, send in a few hundred [random tech jargon] Bombs!" There were many other examples.
So what does Peter F. Hamilton have? In a word, pacing. The Abyss Beyond Dreams is, if nothing else, a page-turner. I won't say I was deeply invested in the characters or the situation, but I did want to find out what happened next. That's something.