I've read many other Peter Hamilton novels: the Commonwealth, Void and Greg Mandel series. Loved those, but this one just didn't take. I suggest any sci fi fans who've read nothing by Peter Hamilton start with those series and in that order. Only consider 'Great North Road' after that.
At that point, my review to those folks would be that 'Great North Road' has all the elements of those previous efforts, but it was less interesting, developed, exciting and thought-provoking. In addition, it was mired in several large sections. I recommend giving it a pass.
To end on that first point though - I very much enjoy the many other novels of Peter Hamilton, and look forward to more!
This very long audible book encompasses two novels. One is a well-written and well-plotted mystery that launches the book. (Great narration, too) The police detective characters are great and the way they solve the mystery is smartly written and plotted. The other part is basic horror story: Isolated team gets picked off one by one by knife wielding monster that stalks them. Cue scary music. And why do characters go out in a blizzard by themselves to get slaughtered again and again? Be warned: How the horror story resolves itself may make you scream: WTF! I can't help but wonder if the publisher was screaming at the author: "Finish the bloody thing already."
Despite all of this, I do love what Hamilton tries to accomplish in his novels. He imagines interesting new worlds with complex people. I also don't mind the back and forth of the narrative, as he jumps back into time to give the reader background stories on the various characters. In this case, it is partly to keep the reader guessing. He hides key clues by doling out details slowly.
And, yes, I'll probably listen to another Hamilton story.
Although the narration is fantastic, the story could have used some editing. Also I found the frequent flashbacks confusing and the final payoff was so-so in my opinion. I really enjoyed several of his other novels, though.
Finished! At almost 37 hours in audio format this is a long book. About halfway through the book I asked myself "Did the author write a long book just to write a long book?" 2/3 of the way thought the book I told myself "No, the author did not just write a long book just to write a long book." It starts off as a sci fi suspense novel and builds to a space opera like conclusion. Peter F. Hamilton does a amazing job at writing epic sci fi. This book will take you will take you on a nice journey to meet a good cast of characters and take you to a really cool conclusion. Narrated by Toby Longworth, who I think does a good job. My only complaint about the book and narration is that sometimes it is hard to tell when the scene change is. A large break on a page is a good visual cue that can tell you the scene has changed perceptive. It is hard to relate that in audio. Sometimes a change in voice in an audiobook can tell you the same thing. Unfortunately the narrators range is not a great as the cast of characters.
I found the Great North Road to be entertaining and absorbing but ultimately a bit of a let-down. I've read several books by Hamilton and this is my least favorite. It is still good and you will be entertained but I didn't think the ideas presented were that original. The narration is great. If you are new to Hamilton and sci-fi in general I think you will really enjoy the story. For us older Hamilton fans, you will still like it but be prepared that it is not his best.
I found this story excellent as a mystery, with a good rendition of futuristic pervasive computer and sensor equipment. However, the actions of the military leaders and their procedures were hard to believe. Further, the portrayal of a small non-commercial scientific enterprise as being wildly more successful than the body of scientists as a whole is also a stretch. Yet it was engaging from beginning to end.
The plot was interesting but lacked the full wonder of his previous works in The Commonwealth Saga and the ending was a bit of a letdown. With that said, Peter still displayed his master craft literary skills that I've come to admire.
The best part was the intertwined story, the way it's told with flashbacks slowly explaining everything and that it kept me guessing and really the first half of the book was great. BUT, "yet another PFH story" with a women who's tougher than everyone else around her, but still has to sleep with everyone to make her way in the galaxy was tiresome. The last part of the story started to seem like PFH just wanted to get it over with or something. (sort of spoilers ahead) People are able to make huge leaps of logic early on, but then couldn't put 2 and 2 together near the end. Would iron man let an average guy go through the door first if he thought Iron Monger was behind the door waiting for them. Would Clark Kent go undercover and let weeks go by with people being randomly slaughtered because he didn't want to reveal he was Superman? Granted no one is this story was supposed to be a Superhero. But their "superpowers" which was way better technology; was given to them to do the job. Yet they didn't use that power to do that job until AFTER something really bad happens, over and over in one case. And this one really is a spoiler, why didn't the person just pull the fancy gun out and shoot as soon as there was someone else coming close enough to get injured by the bad guy? Using a gun was the whole reason she was there... When people have WiFi built into their heads why don't they get out warnings quicker, all it takes is a thought and done, and when you know the bad guy makes the WiFi drop out how come that isn't just as good of a warning??? After all the irrational behavior and bloodshed and then as soon as the bad guy gets stunned he suddenly becomes totally rational/peaceful/willing to communicate and cooperate...? How about just let your presence be known? If the Avatar became human and took on our bad traits, he would also get our good traits. Norths weren't murderers, sure they might have screwed over people for money. But they didn't just go around slaughtering people. So why did the bad guy do that? And most of all, what was it that was so bad about the bioil was doing to the planet??? I don't recall ANYTHING being mentioned about pollutants, leaks, or any environmental impact. I guess there must have been a fair amount of clear cutting to make room for the operation and the human settlers? But it sounds to me like bioil would be a heck of a lot cleaner way to make Oil than drilling for it!!! The book is still worth reading. But I definitely got more and more disappointed in some of the details. Definitely not his best work. "IF" his other books had so many plot holes in them I was so enthralled and entertained nothing ever really occurred to me. But this book was like a Hollywood blockbuster where it's normal for a person to have to "suspend disbelief" just to enjoy the story.
Of course, my favorite author and have read everything he's put out.
Really great ability to change voices and characters. He can sound just like Micheal Ironside. It was a little weird at first because Sid sounded just like Greg Mandel at first. But as the character was built it became Sid to me. (a few other voices he did were the same ones from other PFH books)
The never giving up/being open to going forward and dealing with whatever life throws your way.
It would have been nice if he didn't use a super sexed blonde bombshell using sex to make her way across the universe. (spoiler) what if the princes of new Monaco had bankrupted Angela in part because she DIDN'T sleep with them? That would have been a nice change. Even would have made her further exploits an even more difficult personal decision/sacrifice than when you consider sex had already been nothing to her. Plus it didn't seem true to character that she never got revenge against the Middle Eastern guy as well as the Norths.
Possibly the best sci fi novel I've ever listened to. Terrific story, well paced, and narrated with just the right style. I'd read Hamilton's Nights Dawn trilogy, and liked it but thought it was a bit too dark for my taste. Great North Road is just as well written, probably better, but has a more optimistic tone than Nights Dawn.
I'd read another review that said that the book was too long. I disagree. I wish this book were twice as long, so I could listen to another 25 hours!
Sci-fi/Fantasy geek :)
Peter F. Hamilton is one of my favorite sci/fi authors. Just short of 1,000 pages in hardcover, I was really looking forward to digging into this book (yes, I bought the hardcover also). His books are usually sweeping space opera's with enough sci and fi to choke a normal person. This book started out with the usual excellent overflowing amount of cool ideas, interesting characters, and pacing that I have come to know and love. Please note that I rated this book 4 Stars, so I want to re-iterate that I really liked the book overall.
However, somewhere in the middle, things got a bit muddled, a little repetitive, dare I say... a little boring. The writing was excellent, don't get me wrong. But, I think writers of this quality sometimes get away with a lack of hard editing simply based on their reputation. I myself could have probably edited out 25% of this book without the story having suffered at all. Granted, that 25% that I would throw away would be better than 90% of anything I could write, but that's not really the point.
Another "tell" in a book that sags is that it gets really good again near the end and the pace noticeably increases. It's as if the writer has discovered their error and is trying to make good. This is where the editor should step in, remove the overstuffing, and make the whole thing sing. The amount of sci-fi-ness that was put into the last 10% of the book was more than what was in the middle 40%, which is saying a lot for a book of this size. I think that at some point during his writing, the author may have bored of writing about forward-looking tech, sweeping universes, and the story of mankind and wanted to tell a good simple family/people story.
The characters were fresh and engaging. There was a great bit of suspense/mystery which I really liked and was refreshing (I don't think sci/fi writers employ mystery enough). Aside from when it sagged, the story moved along well and kept me very engaged. As always Peter F. Hamilton's technology is all stuff that I fully expect my great great grandkids to have. It's well researched and based in the realm of possibility such that you don't find it far-fetched, just forward-looking.
The narration was excellent! The accents sometimes faltered and some characters were a little hard to differentiate, but excellent nonetheless. Anybody that can narrate a book this long gets extra kudos in my book.