Saturday, October 01, 2005
Operation: Space Opera
Yesterday was a big day for me. Why was that? Well, I finally finished this humongous space opera, the Night's Dawn trilogy by Peter F Hamilton. Did I tell you that each one of these books is 1200+ pages? Yes I did. Why would somebody write a story with that many pages? Don't they know that there are many other books that we haven't read yet and want to read? Time is money and all that jazz. Are these people sadists?
Well, was it worth it? Was it worth spending six weeks reading this story? It was in one way because now I can say I've read a 3724-page story. Also, now I know what this "space opera" business is all about.
So what is it all about? The story is set in the year 2600 and something and the main focus is a starship pilot Joshua Calvert. This guy is a handsome devil indeed, and quite the ladies' man. Any pretty girl he meets, he has sex with. And in the future everybody is handsome or pretty because they have this thing called *geneering*, so when you have a baby you can program all the good stuff in and bad stuff out. Anyway, Calvert is not only good looking, he is also very smart, very confident and very lucky. Everything works out perfectly for him, everybody either admires him or wants to sleep with him, nothing goes wrong for him, although he will get into a tight jam here and there. After one of those tight jams, he got wounded on the arm, quite a bad injury, but he got back to his starship with everbody's eyes popping out with concern and he just shrugs it off, says no sweat dudes, I'm OK, only a flesh wound, then does a perfectly excecuted somersault into his captain's chair.
Another thing about this space opera biz, there are so many people to keep track of. There's Joshua Calvert and his starship crew; another starship crew led by a girl he had sex with; a big living (bitek) space city (or *habitat*) ruled by another girl he had sex with; a primitive *stage one* planet where people are going to get away from Earth which is totally messed up (weather so screwed you got big domes around cities while outside rage almost constant MEGAstorms); numerous asteroids and their mining colonies; other planets; other habitats; and other starships. And the action jumps around so fast between all these different places and scenarios and people, it really takes some memorypower to keep up with. So it is like a soap opera in that respect, only with amazing technology and living starships and people coming back from the dead and possessing people. You see, the big deal in the story is that the dead are coming back from *the beyond* and possessing people. This brings in a theological angle: in this story, everybody who dies goes to this *beyond* place which is horrible, a place of constant torment. Then this thing happens that gives dead people a way to come back and possess the living, but that person must be tortured by a possessed so they will admit the *beyond* soul into their body. Then that possessed constantly has the voices of other souls from the beyond screaming begging them to let them come back so they do it, they can't help it. But some don't like doing it, and refuse. There are some actual *good* possessed. But they are possessing somebody so how can they be good? Well, some are, like Fletcher Christian. He comes back and he's a good egg.
So the possessed are expanding and taking over planets all over the place, and the Confederation (the military) forces have to take action. But! The dilemma they face is that if they kill these possessed, they also kill the person who was possessed by that soul from the beyond. How can they get around it? Now you see how tricky this situation is!
Anyway, a big part of it all is the life after death angle, but as much as Mr Hamilton attempts to incorporate these theological matters, it gets pretty wacky, and is hard to take seriously, especially with the Dexter Quinn character, who is some kind of superior possessed *Satanist* and his monologues are ridiculous. He's supposed to be some major evil force but he sounds like a teenager with inverted cross earrings squawking obscenities at his parents for not letting him stay out too late.
This review could go on forever. There is a LOT going on here in this big fat space opera. Half of it was interesting, pretty amazing for sure, but the other half was really boring. I had to find out how it ended, but it was hard work getting there. I'm glad I read it, but also feel some kind of shameful wonder that I read it through to the end. In the end, there's no way I can recommend it, unless you are a big sci-fi fan, or want to know what this space opera biz is all about, and have LOTS of time to kill.