Michelle Herbert reviews Night Without Stars by Peter F. Hamilton…
Night Without Stars is the sequel to Peter F. Hamilton’s The Abyss Beyond Dreams, you will need to have read that before you start reading Night Without Stars. My review of The Abyss Beyond Dreams can be found here.
It can sometimes feel disconcerting to start reading the next book in a series that you began reading in 2014, especially when there is a jump between where the first book ended and the next begins. This is certainly true of Night Without Stars, which begins, after a prologue, eight years after The Abyss Beyond Dreams. Though the main story starts 250 years after those events; it shows how those moments affect the lives of everyone that came after. Living in the times we do, where many events point to the rise of fascism, it is easy to see parallels to the real world within this story. How easy it is to be caught up in events beyond your control and making the decision to fight when all you want to do is hide and forget the world exists.
Night Without Stars is again set on the world of Bienvenido, but this world is very different from that shown in The Abyss Beyond Dreams. After Bienvenido was expelled from the Void, the inhabitants of Bienvenido were again able to use Commonwealth technology. This has allowed their society to become more advanced than they were in the Void. Unfortunately, it also means that the inhabitants of this world have been split into two; those who are not gifted with Advancer genes are now baseline human, whilst people who have Advancer genes are now called Eliters and treated like second class citizens. This is due to Director Slvasta’s fear of anything to do with Commonwealth technology.
Bienvenido still has to deal with the menace of the Fallers, the Government of this world has focused all of their technology and resources into eradicating them. The Fallers sole goal is to wipe out humanity so that the planet is theirs. This has led to a military force called the People’s Security Regiment (PSR), (reminiscent of the KGB) who hold records on all the citizens of Bienvenido. The PSR’s job is to remain forever vigilant in their hunt for Fallers. The PSR is also fearful of Eliters, as Eliters are still able to communicate with each other using Commonwealth genes. Government controlled propaganda keeps the citizens afraid of what Eliters can do, and also controls them by not giving them access to universities or high-ranking jobs.
This doesn’t mean that Bienvenido is not without its rebels. We get to see what happened to some of the characters from the previous novel, still fighting against oppression. The Warrior Angel is both a real person and a legend to the people she is able to save. The Warrior Angel has friends in the resistance, mainly consisting of Eliters, but it is the new characters that really make this book stand out. Captain Chaing is a loyal member of the PSR who truly believes in his mission, eradicating Fallers who have eggsumed hosts to fit into Bienvenido’s society. It is scary how early Chaing becomes part of the problem rather than the solution, having to show that he is a company man in his hunt to find out what the Fallers are planning. Florian is an Eliter who has removed himself from society by becoming a forest ranger. He is frustrated by the way he as an Eliter is treated. As he is isolated from society, Florian gets caught up in a situation that is far beyond his idea of quiet anonymity when he is entrusted with the safety of an entity that could stop the Fallers being an issue forever.
The characters in this novel are so realistically human, they are quick to anger and are distrustful of things that are different and beyond their perceptions. There is also political intrigue throughout this novel, characters do not always see the bigger picture as they try and keep the world as it. The book uses fear of “the other” as a weapon to keep people docile, but this also hides the truth that working together to defeat the Fallers would be beneficial to society.
For the size of Night without Stars, the story manages to be intense and scary at times. You get a real feel for the characters and what they believe they are fighting for. This book can seem to be just about lies and propaganda, but it is so much more than that. As the book is split between different parts, the story also changes so that there are scenes that feel very much like a police procedural, to that of a fugitive on the run, mixed with alien races who have evolved beyond our understanding. Night without Stars has a lot of heart and shows that when all else is lost, you have to keep believing that you can succeed against overwhelming odds. I for one enjoyed every moment of Night without Stars and didn’t see the ending coming. I hope that this isn’t the last we will read about Peter F. Hamilton’s Commonwealth, but if it is then I look forward to rereading this epic series again.