The Evolutionary Void is the final book in Hamilton’s “Void Trilogy”, and the fifth book in the “Commonwealth” series that started with Pandora’s Star.
The setup is that an alien intelligence has created a device that allows attuned people to go back and reset history in their own personal timeline. If you don’t like how something turns out, you simply go back and reset the Universe. This device exists near the galaxy’s center and in the trilogy only one person, living on a planet close to the center, has figured out the reset trick. Unfortunately the reset trick requires a staggering amount of energy – so much that each use consumes tens of thousands of star systems each time it is used. When humanity finds out about this place where one can just undo any mistake, a large group of them want to go and live there. The problem being that if resetting one person’s life a few times ends up consuming a decent percentage of the matter in the galaxy, you can imagine what the constant resetting of millions of lives will do.
Like the Reality Dysfunction series, the Void Trilogy is let down by its third act. Whereas the Pandora’s Star/Judas Unchained duology was tightly paced, the Evolutionary Void is a little listless and the conclusion ends up a little damp. The solution seems to be to have the characters go up to the device and ask it to “turn itself off”, which is a lot like the end of The Naked God where the protagonist asked a hyper-intelligent entity to flick a button and make everything better. There are a lot of pages to read to get to a point where everything is tidied up neatly by another unknowable superintelligence.
One of the charms of the Commonwealth series, for me, was the idea of no-one using spaceflight as all the worlds in human space were interconnected by permanent wormholes and train lines. No one bothered with FTL starships because it was generally easier to travel by train to everywhere that was settled or open a series of wormholes if you wanted to go somewhere where there wasn’t a permanent gateway. In the Void trilogy, everyone hoons about with very fast FTL drives – which makes the series feel more like a “generic sci-fi setting” than the more unique “get on at this station, go through the wormhole, get off, change platforms, ride on another train through a wormhole to get to your destination” setting of the earlier books.
Hamilton is an excellent universe builder, and he didn’t really play to his strengths in the Void trilogy.
If you’ve already started this trilogy, you should slog on to the end. If you are new to Hamilton, read Pandora’s Star / Judas Unchained, stop, and then go back to the Reality Dysfunction and Greg Mandel books.