REVIEW SUMMARY: A good book, but a bit lengthy for the story it told.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A corporate soldier intends to steal a mysterious treasure but must get past a formidable resistance movement and a determined company director.
PROS: Good characterization, well-told story.
CONS: A bit longwinded in places.
BOTTOM LINE: An enjoyable book.
In Fallen Dragon, Peter F. Hamilton’s 2002 novel, the populated universe is owned by corporations who loot planets under the guise of protecting or recouping their assets. Protagonist Lawrence Newton works for Zantiu-Braun, one of the few corporations who are not satisfied with what they own, but continue to explore space. One of ZB’s planets, Thallspring, is the target of a mission, or as the locals see it, an invasion. Schoolteacher Denise Ebourn leads a well-equipped underground resistance movement on Thallspring. Newton plans to steal Thallspring’s mysterious treasure, the Fallen Dragon, which is protected by Denise’s underground “KillBoy” group. Searching for the identity of both, ZB’s tough-cop director Simon Roderick has an agenda of his own.
The story is told in two alternating threads. The first thread follows each of the three main characters through the ZB invasion of Thallspring. Newton is on a quest for the Big Payoff. Denise is taking a firm and violent stand on protecting her planet. Roderick is searching for the identity of a rogue ZB soldier while trying to squelch the resistance movement on Thallspring. The second thread starts with Newton’s youth and tells how he got to be where he was. It examines his first true love and his strained relationship with his member-of-the-ZB-board father. Basically, it shapes his character and let’s the reader know why he is who he is. It also gives the author a chance to introduce one of the main themes of the book: fate.
It was interesting of Hamilton to tell the story with alternating threads instead of chronologically. Sometimes events were mentioned in the present-day thread and not explained until later in the flashback thread. That always seemed to provide some sort of suspense. But readers beware: The real suspense generator, the titular Fallen Dragon, goes unmentioned for seventy-five percent of this 812-page book and isn’t actually explained until 100 pages after that.
Alas, I found the prose was a bit winded in some places. At one point, it takes one full page for a young Newton to walk from a backyard hideout to his house. And sometimes pages would drag on discussing social issues which left me waiting for the more interesting character dialogues. While this exposition technique can add good backfill, here it just seemed like filler.
Still, the ride is fun. Hamilton’s characterizations are as crisp and believable as I remember them from his Night’s Dawn trilogy. Action sequences could have been more frequent, but were usually of extended length. And there’s lots of cool sci fi in there to keep the sci fi reader happy. There are cool weapons, futuristic military adventure, space travel, aliens, and alien planets. I particularly enjoyed the Skins worn by ZB’s soldiers. Gotta get me one of those!
Overall, a good book.