Peter F Hamilton: Evolutionary Void

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.

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10 Responses to “Peter F Hamilton: Evolutionary Void”

  1. drej08 Says:

    Grrr Here in Wait Awhile land, am STILL waiting for my on-order Evolutionary Void. Absolutely agree with you on the anti-climax that was Nights Dawn. Pandoras Star was the first PH I read, and so far, still the best.

  2. Bjorn Says:

    Addendum to the last paragraph: “And don’t, for the love of all that is holy, touch Misspent Youth with so much as a pair of pliers…”

  3. barnesm Says:

    Thanks for the heads up loved Pandora’s Star / Judas Unchained but hadn’t stared on the Void Trilogy yet

  4. drej08 Says:

    Ok, just finished TEV. Enjoyed it, thought the ending was definitely better than The Naked God, certainly this novel seemed to move at a faster pace than the middle-void one which was starting to bog down with all the space given to Inigos dreams.
    True the wormhole trains were great in the orig series, but given 1000+ yrs have passed, and the bigger scale involved, I guess he had to show some uh, evolution, in technology.

  5. Orin Says:

    This one felt rushed out the door. The main threat didn’t really come off as all that threatening and jeopardy that was there in Naked God and Judas Unchained never really coalesced with the Accelerator faction.

  6. Birmo Says:

    I can understand why you’d have issues with the way he wrapped it up, especially since it seems to be a re-run of the Nights Dawn resolution. But I think the pacing was actually spot on, where as in Nights Dawn it felt like a very abrupt ending. I enjoyed this trilogy, and was left wanting much more at the end of it, but I didnt have your issue with the narrative arc feeling rushed at the end.

  7. Sead Says:

    You got me hooked on Hamilton back in 2000 when you let me borrow “The Reality Dysfunction”…

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