“How many twenty-second century bureaucrats did it take to change a light panel? We’ll have a sub-committee meeting and get back to you with an estimate.”
I have mentioned this to people (both in “real life” and also in a comment on Goodreads), but when considering novels I have read recently, Peter Hamilton’s ‘Great North Road’ must take a leading position in that group without much doubt. The beauty hiding itself in this book can mostly be explained by the fact that I could not guess where the story was heading in the first 40%. Are we dealing with a corporate scandal, alien invasion, or a sinister political plot (not to say that a corporate scandal cannot be a part of a sinister political plot)?
After finishing it, I can say that it makes sense — the turns the plot had, and now I know. Indeed, I could probably guess well by two thirds into it, but I wasn’t sure before the very end (say four fifths) and that in itself is something which has no longer happened to me. By that, I mean I cannot remember the last time I was surprised by a plot and where the end position could not be guessed with accuracy from how the book began.
So, Peter Hamilton has certainly done a very good job. Now, admittedly, I can understand why people have posted certain comments in their reviews after reading it (comments that I will not repeat for anyone can find them rather easily and without reading it previously they can detract from the experience) — but while reading it, all of the depicted events made sense. One particular moment made me doubt everything that had happened thus far (and perhaps with good reason?), and for anyone into the story (since cannot act as a spoiler) that would be the Wild Valkyries fight above New Florida.
What about the characters? Well…
The persona of General Khurram Shaikh (which I probably misspelled here) was a really appealing character as we go into that side of the book. I enjoyed his sense of integrity, in a way, I guess. Ravi Hendrik was a brilliant pilot, his battle story (the same mentioned above) being most intriguing in a book otherwise devoid of grand battle scenes. Angela herself was quite good. Her early life is the part I enjoyed most. Raymond DeVoyal, though with a very short appearance, made sense to me as a man of brilliance. Vance Elston — though not the best commander I’ve seen — appeared so human in his doubts and failures. Sid, of course, is the general guy we can probably all feel for at some level. Ian — again, well built into the story on very many different levels, especially appreciable after we look at where he ends up.
Not all of the actions performed by these guys (and the others) were perfect, but I guess that’s the way of life. The benefit of hindsight is not always there. [I wonder how I had approached the book if I had read these words before reading it (I cannot possibly guess).]
All that I can think of is really how well formed this book was. Naturally, there are questions left unanswered (I personally would really like to know how Grande Europa came to exist in that universe) and a few holes in the plot (I am fairly confident Hamilton got confused by centuries at one point, plus lightspeed travel..) but they appear on a handful of pages from a thousand or so.
At the very least, I would recommend this book to people — make of it afterwards what you will.
Reality impact the Groom Lake shrinks called it. The abrupt realization of the Zanth’s immensity. Faced by an enemy so overwhelming the human soul simply shrank to a foetal ball and whimpered piteously.
Update, 05/11/2012: Fixed a few problems with language that I seem to have generated while writing this. My mind clearly wasn’t working very well then.