It might be odd to label a book that's just shy of 1,000 pages as "restrained", but that's what I would say about Great North Road.
You have to take that description in context - normally, Hamilton writes series that are thousands and thousands of pages long, with volumes that could double as body weights. But his fans (I count myself among them) are willing to forgive the length because he makes it worth the readers attention and time. His plots span a multitude of alien environs, include a jaw dropping number of characters, and most importantly, manage to juggle description and pace if not perfectly, then very well.
It's always an impressive show.
But, with only a grand to spend on pages in this newest work, I was curious to see how successfully he trimmed down his loquacious style.
Let me say: he manages it.
Once I finished the book, I had to sit back for a moment to appreciate the kind of intellect it takes to weave together the threads of so many plot lines into a climax and denouement worthy of the build up.
It leaves no doubt that Hamilton's greatest strength is his ability to balance intricacy and plot progression.
About the actual content of the novel (quick aside: how the hell do you write a summary for something this size?), it'll suffice to say: the story takes place in a somber, technology-driven future, where humanity has not yet learned to shed its more devious peccadillos.
To anyone considering the book: It's great. I highly recommend it.
So, you might be curious, why only 4 stars? That's a glowing review of him as an author - why not 5? There must be a "but" somewhere in there.
You're right. It's small, but...
Hamilton can't write women very well.
Anyone who's followed his progression as an author knows that some of his characters come up flat (which is understandable given the size of the cast) and even when most of his male leads are respectably nuanced, Hamilton hasn't managed to create a female voice that rings consistently true.
The internal monologues of his women sometimes sound like convincing cross-dressers.
This problem has dogged him his entire career (and any reader of the genre knows that it's a frequent issue in sci-fi) but he's made progress - particularly when you consider some of the cringe-worthy female characters in the Commonwealth Saga.
That being said, I'll continue reading his works because the strengths dwarf the weaknesses.
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