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Reading – or, for that matter, writing – galaxy-spanning space opera is not for everyone, particularly space opera with the scope and vision of Peter Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy. It isn’t even a trilogy, but rather a single gargantuan book cut into volumes for practical reasons. The three-volume edition I’m reading takes over 3,600 pages to reach its conclusion; the obvious question this raises is if Hamilton really has that big a story to tell.
The answer is: yes. Kinda.
Hamilton creates a huge and complicated world, rich in detail and seemingly well thought out in history, economy and sociology. The central problem of the story, its effects and consequences certainly are widespread, diverse and complicated enough to warrant a really long book. Following the storylines of the dozens of main characters is generally worthwhile, and at times the story is hard to put down.
(Can you feel the ‘but’ approaching?)
Unfortunately, ‘generally’ and ‘at times’ is all the story has to offer. While Hamilton does try his best, it clearly takes a better author than him to keep me thoroughly hooked as a reader. There are too many main characters I couldn’t care less about; too many storylines that slow down the book without contributing to the overall plot; too many details thrown in just because they are cool. All of that adds op to what I estimate is at least 1,000-1,500 pages too many. The story had enough of a hook to make me want to read it all, but enough of a drag to want to avoid any other Hamilton monoliths.
A good editor should have culled the book to a more manageable length. And while he was at it, that same editor should also have done something about Hamilton’s abominable style.
For that is the real problem with this book. Hamilton has ideas aplenty, enough plotting and storylines to go around, and a lot of compelling characters; he just doesn’t have the ability to write good sentences. His writing is without rhythm, his sentences convoluted and usually too long, his wording bad. On practically every page there is at least one sentences which is not only too long, but simply bad English. And his choice of words is simplistic, obvious and boring, except in the places where he grabbed his dictionary and chose the first word coming close to what he meant to express.
The story will get me to the end of this megabook. But his writing brought me to the conclusion that I do not want to read any more of his writing.