Sunday, December 30, 2012

Peter F Hamilton “The Great North Road” (Del Rey, 2013)

The Great North Road begins as a police procedural, when the body of a rich clone is found in Newcastle.  The investigation shows startling similarities to a murder committed years earlier off world, leading to an exploratory expedition to find and neutralize a deadly alien.  

Most of the story is told in parallel, with the police investigation switching back and forth with the alien expedition.  Hamilton uses his two primary POV characters to lead us through their respective storylines.  Sid Hurst is the lead detective investigating the murder in Newcastle.  He’s a career cop, & while a bit flawed (it seems that the entire police department is on the take from someone), he’s a sympathetic character.  Angela Tramelo is the POV character for the alien sequences.  She’s a convict, found guilty of the earlier murders, who is released after the present day murder takes place.  Her own story is one of privilege and betrayal, intrigue and revenge.  I found it provided the most insight into Hamilton’s world, and yet Tramelo herself was decidedly less sympathetic than Hurst.

Somehow The Great North Road feels like much more than the sum of its parts.  Don’t get me wrong, the parts themselves were enjoyable & well executed, if not the strongest examples of their type.  The police procedural was a bit below Stross’ Halting State novels.  The alien hunting expedition was often reminiscent of Predator.  Still, the detail and thought of these storylines made for a compelling and very enjoyable read.

The Great North Road is a big book.  Big in length as well as story.  There are numerous flashbacks and subplots to be explored.  But if you are willing to put in the work, you’ll find it to be one of the best SF reads of the year.

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