THE TEMPORAL VOIDA novel by Peter F. Hamilton
(2011 Del Rey Books)
The Void Trilogy, book 3
As the Dreamer realizes her full potential, various factions try to find her, while they all try to find a way to stop the expansion of the Void that will be triggered by the Living Dream movement.
-- First reading (ebook)
A fitting conclusion to the trilogy -and given how much happens, it demands a reread of the entire trilogy. The solution to the Void might have been a little too easy, but it did make sense, given the universe we see here. There were so many plots that it's amazing the author managed to wrap them up, some more successfully than others. Quite a few little surprises were scattered throughout the novel, which made it even more enjoyable.Spoiler review:
As with The Temporal Void, this book picks up right where the previous one ended, and it doesn't stop until everything is finished. All of the characters introduced in the previous books reappear, and some take on more interesting roles. I expect that when (not if, anymore) I read the first Commonwealth novels, I will see many of these characters again, including Gore, Qatux, Paula, and even Troblum's relatives. The author saw fit to include some cameos by others from those books, too, including one (Bradley Johansson) who turned himself into a Silfen.
Every race in the galaxy is concerned about Living Dream's Pilgrimage mission to enter the Void. The Ocisen Empire has launched a fleet of ships with Prime mentalities, which Admiral Kazimir had to deploy the deterrence fleet to defeat. It was a pretty cool concept, expanded from the personal armaments that this universe already has -he essentially turned himself into an energy being, with a warships capabilities, and had a complete arsenal to choose from. Unfortunately, the Accelerator faction has already out-maneuvered all the other human factions. They created something strange and unknown, and it is based on the impenetrable Dark Fortress technology that isolates the Prime worlds. They also deploy a sphere based on this technology around Earth, closing its wormholes and isolating ANA from the rest of the galaxy. Kazimir is unable to defeat Ilanthe in her inversion core, and he ends up trapped within Earth's sphere.
I still wonder at why the Accelerators trapped him into using the deterrence fleet. I suppose they wanted to see if the "fleet" could defeat the inversion core, but if it could, the core would be destroyed, and their plans would be derailed. They could never guarantee that Kazimir would be trapped within the sphere.
Aaron, Inigo and Corrie-Lyn have a large part in this novel; they follow Aaron's programming as it takes them to the home of Ozzie (creator of the first wormhole from Earth, and the gaiafield). That's where Aaron's mental state, assuming it had any sanity left, starts to deteriorate. His mission becomes getting Inigo into the Void, to Makkathran. This is where Troblum comes in. I guess that was his whole purpose, because he doesn't really get much conclusion. Back in The Dreaming Void, he created a wormhole that could transport planets. Here, they use it to transport his ship all the way to the void, a much smaller wormhole for a much longer distance. To do this, of course, they need to trigger a nova. And the one person in the whole galaxy he fears to terrifying depths has come to meet him before he goes -The Cat. The Cat refused to fight Oscar while searching for the Second Dreamer, but here, she chases Paula Myo around the star system as the nova is being lit. Thanks to Paula's friendship with the Raiel, the Cat is killed (this version of her body, anyway). That was the end of the rivalry.
Araminta probably gets the best plotline. She starts the book walking down the Silfen pathways, which takes her to a world on the edge of the Commonwealth. She manages to rest a bit, but is detected when she decides to watch Inigo's dreams. She can talk to the Skylord at a level that Inigo and even Edeard never could. She escapes back into the Silfen paths thanks to Paula, who as a police enforcer, has access to a lot of criminal ways of circumventing the usual communication methods...
Back on the Silfen paths, the author gets to make fun of all those fantasy stories where wise old races give convoluted wisdom to the heroes, without actually saying much of anything. At one point, Araminta yells at them to give her some real advice, or she'll just stop listening to them and leave! Bradley Johansson was once a human hero of the Starflyer War, and turned himself Silfen somehow (in this galaxy, anything is possible). He gives her the most human advice of all: follow your heart, and think with your brain. Like most wandering-through-unknown-paths stories, this one was on the verge of getting rather boring; fortunately the author ended it just as it was reaching that point.
So Araminta does follow her heart, and she returns to Mr. Bovey, then takes the leadership of the Living Dream, on her own terms. And there is nothing Ethan or any of the others can do about it. It was a wonderful turn of events, and though she talks about how she would feel bad about deceiving all the people she was leading across space to the Void, once it is defeated, she never mentions it again, and never even visits with the people she befriended. Were the millions of people in suspension on the ships infuriated at her when they woke up? Does she have to fear for her life, now, due to revenge? Possibly not, after so many people witnessed her use Void methods to subdue soldiers, even when she wasn't in the Void, thanks to the Skylord. Come to think of it, where did the Skylords go, afterward?
The trick comes when Araminta reveals she has gone Multiple, like Mr. Bovey. She has actually borrowed one of his bodies, and contacts Oscar with it, who takes her to see Ozzie, where they team up with Inigo and Troblum to get into the Void. I thought this was a great development, especially since I've been waiting for more than a full book to see Bovey again. The entire romance was just to set up this ability, which was a terrific way of showcasing this society.
The other pair who get a lot more to do, even if it is mostly searching, are the Delivery Man and Gore. As with wandering unknown paths for days, searching abandoned cities for clues (like the mechanism that can elevate a species to post-physical status) can also get boring quickly. This one, unfortunately, did reach that point, and kept going. Maybe if I had met the Anomine in previous novels, where they defeated the Prime, I would have appreciated the devolved species better.
The Delivery Man finds the platform where the Anomine went post-physical, and Gore discovers it is tied to an infinitesimally small wormhole to the local star. The Delivery Man tries to activate the wormhole from within the star, while Gore tries to infiltrate the sentient software in the mechanism. Recognizing the threat to Ilanthe, one of her faction agents, Marius, turns the star into a nova, trying to kill him. All that really does is open the wormhole prematurely, as the sentient intelligence tries to elevate as many remaining Anomine as possible, and Gore along with them.
There were a few plots that didn't really need to be there, but I believe were put in the book just to give more old characters some cameos. The one with Paul Cramley and Araminta's ex-fiancÚ Laril is one of those, as he tries to help Araminta, but fails very miserably, showing how inept some people still are, even this far in the future. Cramley teleports him out just in time, to wait out the rest of the book. Even Araminta doesn't think about him after that, and we never hear of him again.
We still get to see a few more dreams of the Void in this book. Now that he has discovered he can reset the Void to whatever time he wants, Edeard lives his life over and over again, trying to get things right. In one timeline, a group of telepaths, linked so they are stronger than Edeard, attempt to take over the city. So he tries several times to rectify that. Now that the Skylords are taking people to the Heart of the Void to die, old people are coming to Makkathran by the thousands, creating a housing problem. Edeard finds several ways to deal with that, but it is never enough. Once, he goes on a trip around the world, creating a completely different life than the one he has lived over and over again -this is his best one, but while he is away, chaos erupts in the city. Once he even molds everybody to his vision, becoming a tyrant that his own family (divorced a long time ago) rebels against. He is horrified when he realizes he has become the enemy he has tried for so long to defeat.
Finally, he gets it right, simply by asking his family for help from the beginning. And he lives a very long life, eventually growing old and traveling to the Heart, himself. But he also gifts the world the knowledge of how to reset time, which brings about a time of beauty and wonder, but also of decay, as people live more in the past than in the future. Unfortunately, he never gets to redeem Salrana.
So now Justine lives in Makkathran, having entered the Void in the last book. Araminta-two leads Oscar and Inigo to Makkathran also, and Araminta in her original body brings the Pilgrimage Fleet in, including Ilanthe, who kills a Skylord.
A surprise that I very much appreciated was the idea that Edeard dreamed of Inigo, the way that Inigo dreamed of Edeard. No wonder he was always looking to the stars, and wondering if other people lived on Querencia.
I hadn't predicted that the grand conclusion would take place within the Void, but I should have. Inigo reaches into the Void's creation layer to bring back Edeard, as he once again jumps of Finitan's tower, while waiting for the Skylord to take him away (we see this scene many times throughout the book, as Edeard tries to get things right). Gore instructs them to follow a Skylord to the Heart, where they get inside (Ilanthe also gets inside). Edeard reaches back not into Querencia's past, but into the past of the Void, to a time when the Firstlifes lived and created the Void. They did so to reach post-physical status, so it is an easy choice for them to make when they see Gore go post-physical, much to the ire of Ilanthe. The irony here is that it was her own agent, Marius, who finally turned the device on, as the planetary sentience of the Anomine world saw the danger to the species as a whole.
My favorite surprise in the whole book was the fact that Makkathran itself was one of the Raiel warships that entered the Void to attack the Heart untold millennia ago, and crashed, when all the other ships were destroyed.
The Firstlife uncreates the Void, which leaves a gigantic dark and starless void at the center of the galaxy. I wonder how that will affect the galaxy as a whole, in its development. This resolution may seem a little too easy, and too convenient, but I do accept it, given what the Firstlifes were looking for. When they created the void, there was no other life in the galaxy, so they didn't think it would do any real damage. The Raiel, who have devoted their entire existence to defeating the Void, are left wondering what to do next. As for the humans? I think Ilanthe might have gone post-physical, but I'm not sure. The rest of the survivors do what humans do best -they think of sex. Before the Void is dismantled, Araminta creates several more copies of herself, and when she gets back to Bovey, she takes multiples of him to bed. Edeard recreates Salrana before she was turned against him by Ranalee. Justine recreates the Kazimir that she found in the Void in the last book. Troblum turned his computer-generated lover into the real thing. And according to Araminta (though she could really just be teasing Bovey), the others recreated figures from the past to create various lovers.
Although the various plots and characters had so much to do, as I've mentioned before, the true gem in this book is the culture and technology that it showcases. From the gaiafield, to weapons enhancements, starships and force-fields, not to mention the cool deterrence fleet, though we only got to see that for a very brief period. It looks like the Commonwealth might now have Dark Fortress shields, as well. I wonder how that will change people's outlooks (I have trouble believing Troblum escaped punishment for his part in creating the Swarm technology that imprisoned Earth).
There were a few unanswered questions, but on the whole, this book was satisfying. It is more of a long-term enjoyment than a quick read. The length of the novel allows the reader to spend many days (or weeks) immersed in this culture, to really absorb it. As such, and because we were not given any real preamble in The Dreaming Void that brought us slowly up to speed, the entire trilogy demands to be reread. I'm sure there are many things at the beginning of the first book that I completely glossed over because I didn't understand it. Now that I am familiar with the culture and technology, I'm certain the first two books would bring greater pleasure and understanding.
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