I’m always awestruck by how Peter F. Hamilton manages to find so many alternate future universes for humanity, but make them all so plausible.

Peter F. Hamilton Fallen Dragon

(Credit: Jeroen Bouwens, Peter F. Hamilton)

This story is no different. Fallen Dragon describes our society a few hundred years into the future, when we’ve managed to colonise some planets. Unfortunately, we’ve discovered that doing so hasn’t fulfilled the commercial dream of creating financially lucrative products to ship back to Earth and make lots of money. Interstellar travel is just too expensive.  Instead, the starship companies that have footed the bill for creating colonies are shifting money around in funny accounting procedures and heading out to established colonies to conduct “asset realisation”, which basically adds up to piracy on a planetary scale.

Our main character is an idealistic boy who wants to see the stars. The only way for him to do this is to sign up to one of the companies that conducts “asset realisation”. As he realises his mistake, he forms a plan of how to get himself out of his predicament, but it might be more complicated than he thought, because the world from which he intends to pirate away the money to exit the game isn’t as helpless as other worlds have been.

What follows is an intense action sci-fi that has you waiting for the next page. I enjoyed the universe that Hamilton created, and the plot was not at all predictable, keeping me guessing all the way.  As always, I loved the complexities he built into his story and how he makes even minor characters seem real.

I also love how he manages to comment on society, quietly, without making us feel like we’re being lectured at. I really thought hard during this book about how we homogenise everything as we become more numerous and how the cultures of individual countries are taken over by a global culture, or to coin Hamilton’s term, the uniculture.

However, despite this enjoyment, I had a bit of a problem with the way that he’d set this novel up. It sprang between time in an erratic manner that was sometimes a hard to follow. I just couldn’t ascertain why he had made temporal leaps when he did. I think he wanted to start the novel with a bang, which would have necessitated the constant seesawing in time space, but somehow, I think I would have more enjoyed the journey of the main character, Lawrence,  if I’d followed the story with him in chronological order.

The killer issue necessitating the time play is perhaps that we don’t meet the other main viewpoint characters that have a role  in the book until the last chapter in Lawrence’s life plays out, which is probably why Hamilton wrote the novel in the way he did. Given this, I can’t really give a solution for how he should have done it, but I felt something was a bit skewiff.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the biggest issue I had with the novel. My biggest issue is that we, as people,  develop in real life. We mature. (Caution, slight spoiler.) Lawrence was not a spring chicken at the end of the novel. Yet, he decides to settle down with a teenage girl at the end of his travails. How on earth was that going to work? I felt like Hamilton just got tired and didn’t want to deal with what would happen if he brought Lawrence back to the world he’d been born on, years after Lawrence had left it. Perhaps Hamilton didn’t want to describe the changes in the world and what they meant for Lawrence, or perhaps Lawrence’s meeting with a sweetheart who might have married and had children and sagged in the wrong places sickened Hamilton. I had personally been looking forward to those changes. There is nothing more powerful than two lovers meeting after years apart and realising that, although they’ve changed, their attraction for each other is just as strong.

Hamilton robbed me of this in his male desire for his main character not to have wasted his life and have lost his vitality because of a bad life mistake. Boo, I say.

That’s why I’m giving this novel a 3.5/5, despite the fact that it could have scored much higher.