It is the year 2142 and in the city of Newcastle there is a mystery that needs to be solved. Police detective Sidney Hurst is called on the scene when a body is fished out of the Tyne river. As soon as he lays eyes on the corpse with the wound in the chest he knows that he is in deep - the body is a North. The North family is the most powerful family across humanity's interstellar expanse and they run Northumberland Interstellar which is responsible for providing all of the bio fuel humanity relies on. Nobody messes with the North family and of course their response to any threat is swift and brutal. Someone will be convicted of this crime and it will happen quickly and he is now stuck in the middle of this mess.
That set-up may sound like this is a simple little sci-fi murder mystery but that is far from the truth. This book is over 1000 pages long and the audiobook clocks in at over 36 hours. As Sid starts the investigation into this murder case he begins to unravel a giant ball of yarn. The Norths are a family of clones and there is an unfortunate side effect to the cloning process used to create them . Each generation of North begins to degrade until they become unstable thus limiting their numbers. The murder victim is a 2North, which is 2nd generation and near the top of North family hierarchy. The method used to kill the North is also of significance because of how unique it is. Five blades were inserted into the victim's heart and used to shred it to pieces, most likely five blades attached to the end of someone's fingers.
What makes this very interesting is that the same method was used to kill Bartram North 22 years earlier. Angela Trumelo was convicted of that murder but she remains imprisoned to this day so she is not a suspect. However, she always claimed that she didn't do it and that an "alien" being murdered Bartram and ran off. After being arrested, Angela was tortured and subjected to every known interrogation method to extract the truth from her yet her story never waivered. With this second murder it looks like it might be possible that Angela was actually telling the truth. Is there some kind of alien being running around Newcastle? With the inter-planetary gateway to St Libra in Newcastle is it possible that some sort of sentient alien lifeform snuck through?
This investigation takes place in a rich universe where the HDA (Human Defense Alliance) is tasked with protecting human planets from the Zanth. These entities seem to swarm in from another dimension to swallow up whole planets and devour everything in their path. The Zanth are a force that the HDA has little ability to resist so the possibility that yet another sentient alien being could exist is very intriguing to them.
So with the familiar forces of police, military, and business working mostly against each other, Sid's investigation faces one challenge after another. It all makes for some good science fiction that keeps you interested the whole time. There is a nice mix of new and familiar here and Hamilton does a good job of teasing out possibilities without revealing too much. If you are looking for a nice long listen this one is worthy of your consideration and Toby Longworth does a pretty good job on the narration
An intricate story told in foreshadow and flashback, advancing the narrative ever so slightly over so very long in clock time of listening. The three stars is because of the abuse of my patience. The story is very good, the reader is amazingly flexible - all those different characters. I can't believe such an imaginative and capable author could not have crafted a more tolerable and less tedious length.
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
Short and to the point - a pretty great story buried under ridiculous layers of tedious police procedural, a wild array of cartoonish characters, and long winded development of meaningless plot points and inconsequential players.
If you boiled out the real plot from this giant doorstop of a book, it is exciting and suspenseful. The story starts with the investigation of a murder that expands into a threat against all humanity from a powerful and mysterious alien presence. The sections that deal with the hunt for the alien are tightly plotted and full of delicious apprehension. Unfortunately, that is only a small part of the book and those sections suffer from frequent flashbacks and cuts to the extremely slow murder investigation.
In addition to the erratic pacing and lack of editing, this book suffers from a few other disagreeable faults:
1. The central female character, Angela Tramelo, is a total caricature of a woman. Seriously, the woman is beyond beautiful, super brilliant, athletic and tough, has powerful connections, and has been genetically altered to stay young for hundreds of years. So, of course, the only way she can resolve a challenge is to prostitute herself. Note to Peter: Selling one's body is really NOT the "go-to" solution for most women especially those who have as many other resources as Angela Tramelo. Some of the men are just a hokey, but at least police detective, Sidney Hurst, is portrayed as a "regular Joe" which does help the slower police sections of the book.
2. The ending is way too neat and tidy and after this VERY long trek on The Great North Road, it wraps up so fast that it feels rushed.
3. A really threatening and incomprehensible Alien suddenly becomes just "one of the guys" at the end and loses credibility and any power he once had to frighten.
Toby Longworth is not my favorite narrator, but he is not bad. He is rather dramatic in his delivery of the narrative sections of the book which I don't usually like, but it was good for this book that often wanders far "off the road".
With some severe editing (half of this book could go) and a little reworking of the character of Angela and the Alien, this could be a great book. As it is, I don't recommend it unless you are an avid Peter F. Hamilton fan.
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.
I really enjoyed Hamiltons Pandora Star series. I thought the setting was fun to learn about and the characters interesting and amusing, if sometimes a little two-dimensional. This, on the other hand, featured a tedious setting/culture, and characters I could care less about.
Sorry I just could not get into this book!! I have tried Hamilton books before and I don't think he a writer for me. This was his last chance. Will not buy a Hamilton book again.
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.