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A novel by Peter F. Hamilton
(2010, Del Rey Books)

The Void Trilogy, book 2

The Second Dreamer attempts to elude Living Dream, an alien species attempts to stop the pilgrimage, while in the Void, Edeard strips power from the gangs of the city.


-- First reading (hardcover)
November 11th to December 7th, 2010


I liked this book better than the first one, probably for the simple reason that I already knew the universe and cultures and understood somewhat the issues that were being presented. The characters were the same as in the previous novel, The Dreaming Void, and they continued along their same paths as if this was one long story.

A lot more of this novel took place in the city of Makkathran, where the water-walker Edeard lives, which was fine with me, because I liked the near-fantasy aspect of that culture. Now that the world and its main characters have been introduced, the story can get into full gear, with Edeard taking on the gangs. Araminta took up the next largest chunk of the story, outside the Void, in a hugely technological culture -and this was thoroughly enjoyable. I continue to be amazed at the society this author has created. While Araminta lives in a single city, the same society is inhabited by Paula and Troblum on a much grander scale, one that spans worlds.

Spoiler review:

I really enjoyed reading about Edeard. As mentioned in the previous review, this is more of a fantasy story, because it involves descendents of a ship that crashed in the Void, and whose survivors were forced into a more medieval way of life because electronics don't work there. Edeard is a typical country boy, as everybody keeps reminding us. The city has developed such a culture that he can't really penetrate, despite his hero status. In The Dreaming Void, we learned about the constable service, and how it was truly powerless. After Edeard took his squad around, they became much more powerful, but still have the gangs to deal with. But in this book, we see that the higher class families actually control the city, and they don't really want Edeard to shake it up too much.

Edeard at the beginning of this book is still enjoying his hero status, sleeping with as many women as possible, even keeping a few company whose husbands are out in the militia, trying to keep the bandits at bay. This goes on for long enough that it is not suspicious when Ranalee takes him to a cottage for a weekend of sex. But she has a power that the Families have kept secret from the rest of the population, the ability to coerce a person's mind to their inner desires. She tries to corrupt him with sex and this power, offering him to tap his desire to rule Makkathran, and telling him he can sleep with other Family women to create even more heirs, making him the most powerful man in the land, and guaranteeing his family rulership for generations to come. Essentially, she wanted to control him through his desires, which he recognized after a short while. He is able to resist, earning him her ire. She was also involved in the gangs, which are far more organized than Edeard ever realized.

His nemesis at the House of the House of Blue Petals, a whorehouse, plans several traps for him. Edeard survives them all, and makes enough mistakes in dealing with Ivarl. But his power grows, so that he can walk through the city's walls and the city even helps him escape, especially when Ivarl burns down his own establishment to try and kill Edeard. The city would always rebuild its old housings, but it also allows Edeard to sink through the floor to deep canals, which shows him how to travel quickly from one side of the city to another. Eventually, he defeats Ivarl, who is killed by his own people.

Edeard finds an obscure law that allows one sector to banish people from its borders, which he uses to full effect, but which causes the gang members to retaliate. When they kidnap the young daughter of the District master, everybody thinks Edeard's plans will backfire and he will be left with nothing. However, he uses the city's memory of events leading up to the kidnapping to locate the girl, and his squad travels below the city to rescue her. There he learns that some of the gang and Family members are working together, and that some of them have better concealment even than him.

But he does rescue the girl, and earns the love of the older daughter in return. It is Kristabel who Edeard falls in love with, and whom he eventually proposes to. From her he learns things about sex and telepathic ability that he never dreamed of.

Edeard is ambushed when his squad hears of previously-unknown types of rifles being unloaded in a certain area of the city. They push him off a tower -and he flies, thanks to the city. Even the death of one of his squad members works to his benefit, as he actually sees the man's soul, which he gifts to the Pythia, the spiritual leader. This raises his hero status even further.

I found the wedding preparations and the election vote to be a little long, but I suppose they were necessary setup for the final chapter, which changes everything. As Finitan, the egg-shaper guild master, wins the elections, Edeard and several of his men are sent out to apprehend bandits who have been raiding the outer provinces. This, too, is an ambush, but of the former mayor! I never saw this coming, but I suppose it was somewhat telegraphed beforehand. But when every one of his companions is killed, I started to think that something was wrong. The author was going so far in making Edeard alone again that I grew suspicious. Then Edeard returned to the city he found Owain in control, and men with guns on every street -and every one of his friends dead, including Kristabel.

At this point, I knew the story was going to go one of two ways. It seemed unlikely that we would start over, with Edeard (and at this point Salrana, the other survivor from his village) going off to another part of the world to start their lives over. It seemed more likely there would be a reset button of some kind, and there was. I also found Salrana's betrayal distasteful. As Edeard said, it was not like her at all. I thought it was rather convenient that the one person he had left in his life would treat him so callously and join his enemies. But at the very end it is revealed that Salrana has taken not only Owain as a lover, but also Ranalee. It is Ranalee who has used her power to corrupt Salrana, who could not resist it as Edeard had.

So the reset button is revealed -it's actually revealed in the title of the novel. Edeard can see into the patterns stored in the Void, which has recorded every instant it has experienced. He can reach into that past and delve into it, restarting from a point before he made his mistakes. And so he does, riding back into the city before its takeover. He kills Owain and all the other conspirators, and makes many arrests. The city is thus saved, and somehow it doesn't feel like a cheat. This is related to part of the story that doesn't take place in Makkathran -where it is revealed that the Void, which is a machine created by the original inhabitants of the galaxy, is a giant telepathic container that can grant wishes, but in order for it to store all the information within it and to be able to reset to a previous time, it needs to consume star system after star system, eventually consuming the galaxy.

For outside the Void, after Araminta told the Skylord she didn't want to talk to him at the end of the last book, the Void expanded again. I don't remember Justine from the previous novel, but she becomes important here. On the guardian outpost constantly watching the Void, Justine launches her ship toward the Void after it expands, risking the wrath of the Raiel to get there. Araminta risks speaking to the Skylord again, who expands the Void to accept Justine's ship. When she went into hibernation and emerged occasionally, spending a year for about every day spent outside the Void, I suspected she might actually be The Lady, whose teachings so many in Makkathran worship. But if so, it hasn't happened by the end of this book. At the end of her journey, she lands in a place that resembles one she visited a thousand years ago, meeting the love of her life -again, stranded as her ship no longer has power to leave. But she knows Edeard's trick, and is convinced by her father (the Third Dreamer, now that Justine is in the Void) that she has to reach into the past and do a reset to before she crashed, and try to reach Makkathran. This is all in humanity's quest to discovery what is at the heart of the Void, and either join with it or stop its expansion.

Araminta wants to stop its expansion, and explain to the Skylord why the Pilgrimage is a bad thing. Actually, she wants to be left alone, but that's not going to happen. The book only takes place over a few days, but in that time, Araminta escapes from the Living Dream occupation forces that took over her city, set up one of its devoted members by communicating with the Skylord (to allow Justine to get in and escape the Raiel) inside his apartment, which she renovated. I thought it was quite exciting, and this early part of the book was by far my favorite after several of Inigo's dreams about Edeard. Now that she knows she is the Second Dreamer, she also knows she is in trouble. She bunks at one of her former co-worker's places, and then goes to a secret business her ex-fiancÚ owned, getting him to help her. In the end, she discovers she has a connection with an exotic alien race, and manages to get through the force field dome and is transported through a wormhole to a Silfen place -and I'm not even sure I know what that means, yet! Poor Mr. Bovey, whose multiple personalities get left behind!

Meanwhile, Inigo is traveling with Aaron to escape the planet that is being blown up from the inside in the last book. He betrays Aaron, sending the assassin over a glacial cliff, but being enhanced as he is, Aaron gets back up and captures Inigo again. Aaron kills the crew of a navy ship sent to search for survivors, and steals their ship, but it is damaged in the severe storms, so they wait in far orbit while it repairs itself and watch the planet as it explodes.

I still haven't figured out Troblum. He doesn't feature much in this book, except in a long action sequence that sees his entire collection of Starflyer War memorabilia destroyed as The Cat tries to kill or capture him. Actually, she uses him as bait to catch Paula Myo, her arch nemesis from over a thousand years ago. I should probably read the older books about the Commonwealth to see more of that. But for now, both women are obsessed with capturing or killing each other. Paula, for her part, discovers that Troblum took part in secret navy projects against the Primes (possibly in those previous novels). But aside from his desire to leave the galaxy, we don't learn more about him. Paula discovers that the Accelerator faction has teamed up with the Ocisens, who are trying to invade Commonwealth space to destroy the Pilgrimage fleet. They have grafted themselves into Prime bodies (where the Primes were apparently the main alien enemy in the Starflyer War). She discovers a huge factory around an alien planet, which houses many more clones of the Cat, and which is destroyed leaving no evidence after she trips an alarm. She does manage to escape.

Another small part of the book is dedicated to following the Navy's attempts to have the Ocisens turn back their invasion fleet. We don't have anything invested in this plotline for the moment, because we don't know the aliens and they only have a single purpose. The navy knocks one ship out of the equivalent of hyperspace, only to have a Prime ship de-cloak nearby. It destroys the first navy ship to encounter it, and later the navy is able to destroy several of theirs. This will force the navy and ANA to deploy the Deterrence Fleet, which is such a huge secret that nobody knows what it is, and most people doubt its existence. But it appears that the Advancers want this fleet for their own purposes. I seriously doubt it's to take it over and use it to defend the Pilgrimage against the Raiel, as suggested here. But I have no idea whatsoever, otherwise, except maybe to free the remaining Primes who are sealed in the Dyson Spheres? Regardless, by the end of the book, the fleet is about to be deployed.

I would say that more than half of this book is devoted to Edeard and his efforts to rid the city of the gangs. I liked the way he cooped all the gang members up in the district of Sampalok, which limited the damage to one district when they rioted. Things didn't go as smooth as he expected, though with help from the city, he managed to convince the militia to stand down (the city lifted them into the air), and the district master to resign (the city absorbed his mansion). This was actually the turning point for Edeard, as he embraced his power and revealed how he could communicate with the city to the residents of it.

So Edeard's world is starting anew, while Araminta is about to start new also, and the Commonwealth is on the cusp of a very large change, for better or worse. As is often the case in the second novel of a trilogy, I am looking forward to the next book, and wonder what possible conclusion it could offer.


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