Michelle Herbert reviews The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton…
The Abyss Beyond Dreams is part of The Commonwealth Series; if you have never read this series, then don’t worry this novel will not spoil them for you. In fact it may make you want to go back and read the others: Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained are the first two novels set at the beginning of The Commonwealth. These are followed by The Void Trilogy: The Dreaming Void, The Temporal Void and The Evolutionary Void which are set in their reality’s present day. The Abyss Beyond Dreams begins roughly around 200 years before The Void Trilogy starts. Will it matter what order you read these books in? Probably not. I read The Void Trilogy before The Commonwealth Saga and found that just like this new volume, each novel fits together like a jigsaw, bringing clarity to earlier pieces but allowing you to wonder what could come next (or even in some cases what had happened before).
The Abyss Beyond Dreams is split into six books, each split between different themes; some books set up future plot twists and can seem unconnected at firs,t but are later shown to be perfectly written segments that fit into the whole.
The book starts with the Brandt dynasty searching for a new galaxy to build a community away from the Commonwealth, but with all of the Commonwealth’s skills and knowledge. Their journey to explore the unknown is cut short when they find that they have mysteriously been sucked into the space anomaly known as The Void. The Abyss Beyond Dreams builds up to one of the most terrifying opening sequences. If you have read The Void Trilogy, this is not The Void you know; instead we are brutally introduced to Fallers. Peter F. Hamilton has written a segment that can only be described as horror, as we all know “in space no one can hear you scream”.
There are also characters that appear in previous Commonwealth novels and help to reference this book in a time frame some readers may be familiar with. Nigel Sheldon, who can only be described as enigmatic, gets given more depth in this novel. Paula Myo on the other hand has a smaller role to play in this book, but I believe that this will lead to a larger part in the (not yet released) sequel Night Without Stars. I enjoyed the interaction these characters have not only with each other but with the new characters in this story.
Book three begins in The Voids present on the world of Bienvenido, the planet inhabited by the Brandt colony survivors, This world is pastoral in nature with nothing high tech, and the inhabitants of this world resemble the characters who live on Makkathran (the inhabited planet in The Void Trilogy) as they also have telekinesis and telepathy. Bienvenido though differs as it has to deal with the menace of Fallers, which they have never been able to solve; this has allowed the society of Bienvenido to become static. This allows the events of the book to unfold.
The main bulk of the book is set on Bienvenido where we follow the lead protagonist Slvasta, who experiences firsthand the devastation The Fallers can leave. Slvasta is idealistic working on changing his regiments handling of Fallers. Because of this Slvasta is soon sent to Varlan, Bienvenido’s capital city, and from there the book becomes revolutionary in nature. Will Slvasta be able to stay the same noble man he started out as or will the city corrupt him like so many before?
Although the Abyss Beyond Dreams is quite long it never felt hard to read, and the richness of the story drags you in so that you become entwined within the convoluted plot. There are a lot of characters to follow – most I haven’t mentioned as they need to be revealed in the same way I read them, so you can gauge their importance to the story. I can say that once you have started this you will be richly rewarded with a galaxy that feels fully formed. Welcome to space opera at its finest.