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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Off the Bookshelf: Century Rain, Reversing the Anthology, Temporal Void

by Ken Newquist / June 28, 2010

I finally finished New Moon by Stephanie Meyers, and I have to say the vampire/werewolf/teenager love triangle left me cold. The main character, Bella, is whiny and unsympathetic, and she's exactly the sort of emotional heatsink that I'll be telling my son to avoid in ten years or so.

Finishing the book allowed me to move on to my proper summer reading list, starting with Century Rain and The Space Opera Renaissance. While both books were already on my bookshelf, I did still find myself buying another book for the list: Peter Hamilton's The Dreaming Void.

Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds

Century Rain is a space opera/noir/alternative history mash-up that echos Reynolds earlier work in its combination of post-Singularity speculation and end of the world/galaxy/university machinations. The book opens a few hundred years in the future. Earth has been rendered lifeless by a nanotechnology plague. Humanity survives in two factions: the Threshers, who are regular humans who have turned their back on nano-tech and actively avoid research any technology that might lead to it, and the Slashers, who see the destruction of Earth's habitat (and all the people living there) as a life lesson and embrace nanotech.

The Threshers discover a wormhole to an alternative Earth circa 1959, in which World War II was never fought, and technology is stuck at 1960 levels. The nature of this alternative Earth -- is it truly the past? is it a reconstruction? an alternative reality? or something else entirely? -- is unknown. An archeologist is sent into this "Earth 2" to learn more about the world ... and recover artifacts left behind by her now dead predecessor. But was that fallen archeologist's death an accident ... or something more sinister?

It's a good read -- not nearly as galaxy spanning as his earlier work, but still engaging, with a good mix of mystery and science fiction. My only complaint is that the real mystery -- the nature of the alternative Earth, not the murder -- is left unanswered. The book was released in 2004, so I doubt a sequel is coming, but I'd happily read it if it answered that question.

The Space Opera Renaissance

I bought The Space Opera Renaissance two years ago, and I've been slowly working my way through it. The book audits the entire space opera genre, and as such it starts with the early pulp writers. I'm not opposed to that per se, but it's just not my cup of tea right now.

My solution has been to attack the book from a different angle: I've started reading from the back of the book forward, allowing me to read some of the authors I've been enjoying ("Spirey and the Queen" by Alastair Reynolds, "The Great Game" by Stephen Baxter) as well as others in the same vein that I haven't read before ("Bear Trap" by Charles Stross, "Guest Law" by John C. Wright).

It's worked well -- I bell through a half dozen short stories before being distracted by the recently released The Dreaming Void by Peter Hamilton...

The Temporal Void by Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton's The Temporal Void, the follow-up to The Dreaming Void is out in paperback, so I picked up a copy. In the The Dreaming Void, the galactic core is home to a strange, self-contained medieval reality known as the Void. It's boundary with our reality is unstable, and it periodically undergoes expansions that cause it to devour (and presumably destroy) star systems. These expansions are fueled in part by the appearance of Dreamers -- those outside the Void who can sense what's happening inside.

It's all a bit convoluted, but Hamilton writes a mean space opera, and I suspect its tech-fueled melodrama will make for an good summer read. I launched into the book immediately after finishing Century Rain and I've got to admit I'm frustrated. The book reads like a direct continuation of The Dreaming Void, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I read that book 6 to 12 months ago. While I remember the general thrust of the plot and the major characters, there's plenty I'm fuzzy about. A brief re-introduction of the characters, or maybe a short glossery, would help a lot.