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Science Fiction Index


A novel by Peter F. Hamilton
(2016, Del Rey Books)

The Chronicles of the Fallers, book 2

The legacy of a tyrannical leader afraid of the Fallers leads to rebellion, and the final assault by the lethal aliens, before a young woman from Commonwealth society is reborn.


-- First reading (ebook)
June 23rd to July 18th, 2019


When I started this book, I was disappointed by the society that had developed in the time since the previous book ended, which I think is modeled too closely on our own. But the use of the Advancer technology made up for it, especially later in the book. I quite enjoyed Paula’s storyline, and the Warrior Angel’s take on Florian, while the PSR story didn’t engage me as much as it probably should have.

Spoiler review:

I’m not a fan of modeling SF alien cultures too closely on our own, especially in terms of technology. When the spider race of A Deepness in the Sky became basically human, I grew quickly bored and couldn’t wait until the book was over. In this book, the politics were very human, and I grew weary and bored with it almost from the start. While I was very disappointed to see cars, jets and Sputnik-type vehicles, there was at least enough of a twist with the Fallers that it kept my interest going, if barely. It wasn’t until Paula appeared and joined forces with the Warrior Angel that the story picked up for me.

It turns out that Laura Brandt, who was saved from the Forest at the end of the last book, and who had been dying for three thousand years, over and over, in the desert, lived long enough on Bienvenido to advance their technology to mid twentieth century Earth. They’ve been destroying the Forest one tree at a time with nuclear bombs, and she’s used her Advancer technology to activate the wormholes that came with the original colony ship.

They’ve discovered several planets in the solar system where Bienvenido was ejected to, a place where the Void apparently sends planets that try too hard not to fit in. Nigel’s explosion among the Forest triggered this. Only two planets appear to be inhabited, and one contains the deadly Primes, who will stop at nothing to destroy all intelligent life except their own. Laura uses the wormholes to bring the dense and toxic atmosphere from a gas giant onto its surface, destroying it and the Primes. She dies doing this, but not before she also transplants an aquatic species to Bienvenido to share their environment. The destruction of the Prime world is a very exciting and technology-based introduction, and quite satisfying.

The Forest, meanwhile, has reconfigured itself into a ring, and continues to send eggs down to the surface. The story picks up another two hundred years later, where Svlasta’s legacy lives on -paranoia against not only the Fallers, but against a coup. So his secret police roam the streets, ensuring all people remain “equal”. No Advancer genes can go unregistered, while the police also investigate Faller nests, which are increasing in number, despite the fact that the jets can destroy almost all eggs before they hit the ground.

Chiang is an intelligent man, but he’s hiding some Advancer genes, so he’s also the subject of an investigation, something he doesn’t catch on to until much later. He’s been in contact with the legendary Warrior Angel, Kyssandra from the previous book, who is leading the resistance against the totalitarian regime, and more importantly against the Fallers. He discovers a huge nest, where we are introduced to breeder Fallers, which are huge, misshapen creatures that feast on humans and create more of their kind.

He also later goes in search of Florian, an Advancer who enjoys coding in his isolated job as a forest warden, until he witnesses a spaceship fall to the ground. I never thought we’d see Joey again, from the very early part of the previous book. But like Laura, he was caught in a time loop until Nigel blew up part of the Void, and has only recently been released. His brain was downloaded into a computer, so he can’t do anything physical, but he presents Florian with a baby girl, who grows up way too fast. This was Nigel’s plan B, presenting the diplomat police woman Paula, a legend in the Commonwealth.

The book struggles to show us the culture of this planet, which is basically survival under a brutal regime, with a worry about Fallers. We get Chiang and Jenifa’s love affair, even though they don’t trust each other. There’s Ry’s trip to space to destroy one of the Trees, and his subsequent escape to investigate Joey’s ship. I liked Florian’s escape down the river, hideout with his dealer colleague, and the uncomfortable chase into the city, where he hides out in his aunt’s old mod-cave. By the time they leave, Paula is almost a teenager.

Things start to get interesting when they are captured, when they attempt to leave. It was obvious that the mob boss knew about the extraction, given that he “needed” one of his own people to be extracted only two days earlier -that’s how they infiltrated the escape car.

Brought to another city, they meet a rejected Faller, who is part human, part of several other kinds of creatures. In the heat of the discussion-attack-destruction of the mob house, Paula is forced to download all her memories and abilities in an instant, allowing her to protect herself and Florian. Then they travel to the south, where they meet up with the Warrior Angel.

While Kyssandra has been waging a holding war against the Fallers, as well as undermining the government when she can, there has been no innovation or real progress on either front in more than two centuries. Paula arrives with fresh ideas. While she wants to negotiate with the government, she realizes that the war against the Fallers has been lost. Even with the help of the aquatic species, the world outside the human continent has been overrun with Faller animals, which the Breeders can control. Paula mounts a search over the southern continent for one of the other ships from the colony convoy, which must have crashed there.

The planning for the trip south garners suspicion from Chiang and Jenifa, who surveil the ship they believe will be transporting the Warrior Angel. It also gives Florian a chance to become intimate with Kyssandra, and while he’s smitten, she’s just continuing to explore her sexuality, as she did in the previous book.

The Fallers attack in huge numbers, detonating a stolen nuclear bomb at a bomb factory and almost doing the same at the dock where Kyssandra will launch from. The breeder Fallers suddenly become public knowledge, where they were a squashed rumor in the past. As they escape, the Fallers follow.

It is at the southern continent that the threat of the Fallers becomes real. The author weaves the danger of the ice and the airship with the giant Faller walrus bears in an intense action sequence where they try to ambush the ambushers, holding the great beasts off with Florian and the anadroids, prematurely detonating the portable nuclear bombs the Fallers plan to use to stop Paula and the Warrior Angel, and nearly killing them all in the process. They finally escape through the new wormholes to one of the abandoned planets in the solar system. I couldn’t put this section down, it was so well written.

It's here that they realize they are not alone in this rogue solar system, so far from any galaxy. Paula figures out that the gas giant planet is actually a prison for the Raiel warships mentioned in the previous book. The planet they gate to is inhabited by tunneling creatures that have abandoned the surface after a devastating war. A chance comment from Florian to Paula makes her realize that another species is on a planet that used to have bloom-like artwork on its moons before the Primes attacked, so long ago. They left the Commonwealth galaxy long ago. She gates there to ask for their help in freeing the Raiel, which they do.

Meanwhile, Chiang prepares for the Faller apocalypse. They find several Faller nests near the capital city, and they are all on the move. Joey, who has downloaded to and taken over the body of the Prime Minister after curing him of cancer, tries to organize to defend the city, but his security minister takes over, having seen the changes in the chief and not liking them. In the secure bunker below the palace, where the Commonwealth technology is stored, Bethaneve, under a different name and with significant body changes in the last two hundred years so no one can recognize her, secures the wormhole there, and Chiang knows that the defense of the city rests with the Advancers. But Jenifa shoots Joey just as he turns off the forcefield on the wormhole there, and Chiang is forced to kill his lover.

It all comes down to the defense of the city, where Kyssandra and the anadroids stall for time, returning to fight the Fallers against overwhelming odds. Then the Raiel arrive, and stop everything.

Humanity is scooped up and put into stasis, while the world is left to the Fallers, which the Raeil exterminated from the Commonwealth galaxy long ago. Humanity is returned to Earth, where they can go where they want. I like the way Chiang meets with Edeard, both outcasts from the void, and is invited to live in the same kind of rural community on this sparsely populated planet.

The last chapter of the book, the epilog, was the most romantic and enjoyable that the author could have written for this series. Just a few pages, young Paula delivers Kyssandra to Nigel on the outskirts of the galaxy. Nigel, thinking his clone had killed everybody on Bienvenido, is shocked to tears, and runs to his love with tenderness and passion. In all his long lifetime, I don’t think he’s been as happily shocked as this. It was quite amazing.


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