In AD 2600, the human race is finally beginning to realize its full potential. Hundreds of colonized planets scattered across the galaxy host a multitude of prosperous and wildly diverse cultures. Genetic engineering has pushed evolution far beyond nature's boundaries, defeating disease and producing extraordinary spaceborn creatures. Huge fleets of sentient trader starships thrive on the wealth created by the industrialization of entire star systems, and throughout inhabited space the Confederation Navy keeps the peace. A true golden age is within our grasp. But now something has gone catastrophically wrong. On a primitive colony planet, a renegade criminal's chance encounter with an utterly alien entity unleashes the most primal of all our fears. An extinct race that inhabited the galaxy aeons ago called it the Reality Dysfunction. It is the nightmare that has prowled beside us since the beginning of history.
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This book and it's sequels (Neutronion Alchemist, and The Naked God) are simply fantastic. In my opinion, this series is Hamilton's best work. Huge galactic scope, Elizabethan themes, 1940's gangsters, Interstellar travel, a very disturbing take on the Apocalypse, Sentient Cities, bio-engineering ethics (and advantages), telepathy, dystopias and utopias, interesting aliens, the Afterlife, cyborgs, cults, underworld syndicates, horror, etc, etc....
The page to page writing is arguably inferior to Hamilton's later stuff, but the ideas here are so dang grand! This is a Big Story with lots of point of view characters.
Like most of Hamilton's books, the start is a bit slow - with many characters and societies introduced, but once it gets going the momentum is impressive. Stick with it - it's worth it.
****As of writing this review you still need to download in parts, whole book download will not work (hopefully this is fixed soon). ***
Quick tip, I love John Lee as a reader, but I enjoy his reading and performance at 1.25 playback speed even more.
For the record, I only made it to the 20hr mark in this book. So if there's some big reveal that makes it all worth it, then good on the people who bore through it.
First off, the Narrator is actually decent. Not great, but decent. He's basically got one vocalization for all the characters, so pay close attention to the text or you'll be skipping back for the "said she" and "he said". That said, it's a decent voice with moderate inflection, interesting dynamics. The works. The frequent changes the author makes between scenes and entire story arcs also often misses an appropriate pause, which leaves you wondering how on earth they got all the way on the other side of the galaxy. Oh, right, scene change. More skipping back to find out exactly where.
Reality Dysfunction is billed as SciFi, but we fairly quickly see it's a supernatural horror. The lasers and space ships take a quick backseat to demons possessing people, some crazy Satanist cult, and a race of angel "analogs" (one of the words the author LOVES). It doesn't really do SciFi well, anyway. The author has no real new ideas. Cybernetics? How original! Sentient biological ships? We've just never seen anything like that before! Blissful socialist hive-mind societies, so scientifically enlightened that they can definitively disregard any religion as a caveman practice? Oh, right. That was basically the entire Star Trek series. My bad.
That's all very forgivable. A decent author can take a well explored landscape and bring you on a grand adventure if he can make interesting characters that you can love, hate, and then later wonder "What would Huckleberry Finn say to the officer walking up behind my car?" when you get pulled over for doing 65 in a 25 zone. Little hint for the author: Interesting characters are more then boring, predictable nameplates in unusual situations (another thing the book could use). Here the characters are as flat as a picture of pancakes printed on cheap paper, and as predictable as a labrador with a bacon wielding toddler. The author knows one trick, and it's the oldest trick in the book: porn. Some sex in a book is usually expected. But every single time, and done so crudely that you can see it coming twenty minutes of audio off? Every woman in the book (who isn't an antagonist) is either under 25 and a supermodel, or might as well be because she's got "geneering", so they'e ready to go for exotic sex at a look whether they're 15 or 75. One of the main characters, Joshua, is just the same. Every time we get a scene change, there's a new girl. Guess what? She's either eligible and droppable or scandalously desperate. And you the listener get a long description of how they bump uglies. The antagonist is basically the same, except he's gang raping the girl and murdering her afterward. After all, complex, well rounded bad guys do that because they know they're evil and do bad things for the sake of wrongness.
If that's your thing, Google Images should be able to point you in the right direction. If you're looking for an engaging novel, don't waste your time. Move along. Nothing to see here.