The year is 3326. Nigel Sheldon, one of the founders of the Commonwealth, receives a visit from the Raiel - self-appointed guardians of the Void, the enigmatic construct at the core of the galaxy that threatens the existence of all that lives. The Raiel convince Nigel to participate in a desperate scheme to infiltrate the Void. Once inside, Nigel discovers that humans are not the only life-forms to have been sucked into the Void. The humans trapped there are afflicted by an alien species of biological mimics - the Fallers - that are intelligent but merciless killers. Yet these same aliens may hold the key to destroying the threat of the Void forever - if Nigel can uncover their secrets.
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John Lee is the best narrator ever and the Hamilton Commonwealth/Void series is one of the best Meta-Space Operas ever Nice combination. If you have followed our various storylines in and out of the Void you will have to read this. If not, you will not get it. But can I make a suggestion? Go back and start with "Pandora's Star"....I envy you the journey.
Pandora's Star (2004), ISBN 0-330-49331-0 Judas Unchained (2005), ISBN 0-330-49353-1 The Dreaming Void (2007), ISBN 978-1-4050-8880-0 The Temporal Void (2008), ISBN 978-1-4050-8883-1 The Evolutionary Void (2010), ISBN 978-0-345-49657-7 The Abyss Beyond Dreams (2014) (This one) The Night Without Stars (TBA)
I assume you won't listen to this until you have listened to the previous 100+ hours of books in the Commonwealth Universe. That is, I assume you wouldn't even be reading this review unless you were already a fan of Hamilton. If you are, I have good news! This book is great, and shows real evolution in Hamilton's writing.
If that worries you, it shouldn’t: there is a lot of typical Hamilton here: we return again to the Commonwealth Universe, old characters re-appear, the book title is again bad, the worldbuilding is incredible, and the plotting is propulsive. And the man can write action scenes!
But some things have changed, nearly all for the better. For example, the two dozen character perspectives that Hamilton typically uses are reduced to just a few, allowing the reader to better settle into the characters and the story. This is combined with a slightly shorter overall book (closer to 20 hours than the usual 30+) which makes the plot feel tighter and more focused without losing the worldbuilding and detail that Hamilton is famous for. Also, the way Hamilton has traditionally built up the central mysteries in his books is by having characters with secrets in their backgrounds that are only revealed gradually as the book goes on. Here, he greatly reduces his use of that crutch, making the twists and turns in the plot involve less unexpected slight-of-hand, which helped me engage with the plot.
Finally, Hamilton does some very clever things with the plot of the book, building up expectations based on the previous Void Trilogy that are subverted in interesting ways. The end result is that this feels like the best written Hamilton book to date, while keeping all of the usual cool elements - hard(ish) science fiction worldbuilding, universe-scale action, and tight plotting – that have made his books so great. And Lee, as usual, is awesome.
Honestly, if you have spent 100+ hours with Lee and Hamilton, you probably are going to get this. Just be ready to find excuses to listen to your audio book, because it is excellent…