Published by Del Rey
Hardcover, March 2009
Peter F. Hamilton’s epic galactic saga continues in The Temporal Void and picks up with a chaotic Commonwealth following the events of The Dreaming Void. The Void itself is threatened with devastating expansion as the Living Dream movement is growing as they plan their Pilgrimage into their nirvana, the Void. Their key, and perhaps the keystone figure in the series is the Second Dreamer who, like Inigo, is passing along the activity of the Void to the Commonwealth populace through the Gaiafield (a shared consciousness to which many individuals are connected or uploaded). In reality, if somebody was told he or she was a lynchpin on which an enormous religious movement and galaxy hung, this person might be a little reluctant. So is the case with Araminta, the Second Dreamer.
Paralleling this thread is the story being told within the Void itself, those stories that came to the Commonwealth through the First Dreamer, Inigo. These dream-stories tell the of the legend of Edeard the Waterwalker, a heroic figure who brings justice to a crime-ridden land. In total, the Waterwarlker/Inigo’s Dream storyline comprised the majority of the novel and proves something many readers of Hamilton’s fiction have known for quite some time – he’d probably have just as successful writing career if he turned his hand to Epic Fantasy.
With the set up of growing religious movement, alien threats, and an expanding Big Dumb Object established in The Dreaming Void, Hamilton is able to fully pull those plot-threads along as he ramps up the pace in this volume. When the space station Justine is on is attacked (in rousing, exhilarating scene) by one of the mysterious Skylords from the Void, she bucks up and enters the Void, hoping to bring and end to the threat both the Skylords and Void represent.
In addition to the threat the Void presents to the “real” galaxy, the Ocsiens are intent on destroying the Living Dream movement before it can reach the Void. Paula Myo returns in her role as an ANA investigator, this time tracking down Troblum, a man obsessed with the Starflayer War as enumerated in the previous duology and his connection to the hoped-for success of the Living Dream.
The Temporal Void really is two intertwined novels under one cover – the Waterwalker storyline which takes place in the Void and the effect of the expanding Void and Living Dream movement outside of the Void could conceivably stand on their own as two separate books. Both ‘novels’ are compelling, with the Edeard story being slightly more so. However, considering the book (at least in US ARC form) is large enough to stop a rhino in its tracks, the read was quick and engaging thanks to the best pacing I’ve read from Hamilton. (Admittedly, I’ve yet to complete what many consider his landmark work – The Night’s Dawn Trilogy). The link between the Waterwalker’s world and the Commonwealth seem tangential at first, but Hamilton hints at connections between the two throughout with further hints of a more concrete connection perhaps to be revealed in the concluding volume, The Evolutionary Void.
In a book packed with great storytelling, flaws are minor but existent. Perhaps the greatest flaw is in Edeard the Waterwalker himself. Throughout his storyline, he manages to triumph over every defeat. Reading those scenes proved exciting, but as the final chapters of the Waterwalker storyline came and went, some of the dramatic tension was lost. Despite his youth and initial lack of experience with his telekinetic powers, he still defeated all of his enemies. Theconclusion to Edeard’s story was both revelatory and powerful. I’m also hopeful that Hamilton will reveal more of Edeard and the Void’s true nature so as to better explain why Edeard overcame every obstacle. I also trust enough in Hamilton’s storytelling abilities to anticipate a solid (if at times protracted) conclusion and revelation of the connection between the Void and the outer galaxy.
Ultimately, what does Hamilton give his readers with The Temporal Void? One might say the middle book of a trilogy. While that can’t be denied, Hamilton manages to build a great deal of excitement, reveal just enough of the background behind why things are happening, and work with the set up he created in the first volume and along the way, tell two solid novel-length stories under one cover. In essence, The Temporal Void is just about everything a reader could hope for in the middle book of a trilogy, without merely treading water. If anything, I’m swimming harder and out of breath waiting for the conclusion.
© 2009 Rob H. Bedford