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REVIEW: The Temporal Void by Peter F. Hamilton

REVIEW SUMMARY: Maintains the quality and wonder that began with The Dreaming Void.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A planet-eating region of space known as the Void continues to expand, forcing several factions to act towards guiding what they think are the best plans for human evolution.

PROS: Excellent world building; Distinct characterizations; Edeard’s story was continually captivating.
CONS: Pacing issues cased some stalls at the corner of World Building and Info Dump, though that’s a bigger issue for those coming straight off the previous novel.
BOTTOM LINE: Hamilton’s plot and world building skills outweigh any occasional pacing issues the book has.

The Temporal Void is the second novel (following The Dreaming Void) of Peter F. Hamilton’s Void Trilogy which is set in The Commonwealth Saga universe some 1,500 years after the events recounted in Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained.

In The Temporal Void, the Living Dream movement moves ever-closer to their pilgrimage into the Void, an expanding, planet-eating region of space from which dreams emanate. Various factions exert their influences and try to help and hinder this from happening, a tug-of-war revolving around the unknown forces behind the Void itself and the desire to shape the future of human (or posthuman) destiny. Inside the Void, on the planet Qurencia, Edeard the Waterwalker continues to use his telepathic powers to clean up the streets of the medieval-like city, Makkathran, and solve the mystery of weapons that use technology beyond what his world has seen before.

Summarizing a book with numerous characters and plot threads in such a concise manner can hardly be called comprehensive, but it does help one get a handle onto the story. But reading The Temporal Void makes it easy to simplify. Basically, there’s Edeard’s story from inside the Void and then there’s “lots of other stuff” happening outside the Void. Those two threads don’t cross, though characters outside the Void do reference the Edeard’s story which they experience as living dreams.

Edeard’s story is by far the most entertaining, faltering only when the narrative lingers too long on a Mayoral vote. Otherwise, Edeard’s continued discovery of his newfound telepathic powers is the driving force of the novel. Edeard and his fellow constables face the city’s gang problems head-on, allowing for several page-turning sequences, like sting operations and the rescue of a kidnapped child, for example. Enemies are met and alliances are formed while Edeard inevitably gets involved in city politics, the grease that makes the medieval wheels of Makkathran spin. His kind-hearted ways make him an easy hero for the reader and an easy target for his ever-increasing list of enemies. Edeard’s abilities seem to get more powerful as the story progresses thus giving him the means to enforce the law. By the book’s end, though, one wonders if Hamilton has perhaps gone too far with Edeard’s abilities. Even so, Edeard soon learns that many situations are more complex than they appear and it’s the unexpected that makes his story so engaging.

Meanwhile, outside the Void, several factions go about spinning wheels of their own. This translates into several story threads that have characters moving about Hamilton’s vast universe. There’s memory-wiped agent Aaron’s quest to find Inigo, the so-called First Dreamer who first made the Void’s dreams available to everyone; there’s the threat of the alien Ocisen fleet against the human worlds; there’s the flight of Araminta, the reluctant Second Dreamer who is suddenly the object of several factions’ plans; there’s Paula Myo’s genetically-driven quest for truth and justice; there are the plans of Ethan, leader of the Living Dream, who wants desperately for the Second Dreamer to lead his followers to salvation; and there’s Justine Burnelli, still recanted into human form from the post-physical domain of the ANA, who, at the behest of her father, is sent to learn the truth about the Void (the ANA fears the Void means the end of humankind).

Does the mention of numerous plot threads and detailed world build sound familiar? By now, aspects of reviewing Peter F. Hamilton’s novels are starting to feel repetitious because the same impressions keep surfacing. Hamilton’s storytelling powers lean heavily (and successfully) on fascinating world building and distinct characterizations, but at a cost of pacing. Overcoming inertia to set this huge story in motion can be expected, so is that really a problem? Not really. In the previous book, it was much more noticeable because the world was unfamiliar. The ramp-up time was a learning curve. In The Temporal Void, the seemingly slow start is much less pronounced, perhaps because it offers this long-gone reader time for recollection. The world is familiar, but it’s been a year since I read the last book. Someone reading these books back-to-back might feel that this ramp-up time was unnecessary.

The ultimate question is whether Hamilton’s world building and plot warrants the occasional pacing issues, and in the case of The Temporal Void, the answer is: yes.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

9 Comments on REVIEW: The Temporal Void by Peter F. Hamilton

  1. Nobody infodumps like David Werber! Maybe Hamilton is taking lessons from him.

  2. I believe I have read a Hamilton short story in the past couple of years but I have not tried any of his novels.  If memory serves, however, he surfaced on my ‘to try’ list from things I read about his novels over here.  This series certainly sounds like an interesting one and knowing it is a trilogy gives me more of an interest in reading it.  I am not a fan of the neverending series that seem to plague the fantasy genre more than any other.  I like the ideas of series of stories being set in the same universe but having arcs that one knows will end.  After this review, Hamilton has moved up higher on the list of people I want to check out.  You really must stop reviewing books though because my too-read list cannot take it!!!

  3. I’m finding this book better than The Dreaming Void, which I found uncomfortably nostalgic (the absence of characters key to Judas Unchained for example) and quite slow. The return of Paula Myo and others sets this one up to be a return to form for my favourite SF writer at the moment.

  4. As I’m reading this now, I did have one key aspect to mention.  The Edeard story inside the Void is told through flashbacks.  Technically, all that happens with Edeard has happened in the past from the perspective of the ‘outside the Void’ storyline.  They often mention that they know about events in Edeard’s story that we don’t yet know about.  I found that to be very cool.

    I also keep feeling like there was a prequel book that we didn’t get to read as the characters often refer to their past in a very rich manner.

  5. I have the third book waiting on my shelf….I’m itching to get back into this again…

  6. @Scott – Have you read the Commonwealth Saga? Judas Uncahined and Pandora Star, to which the Void Trilogy is a sequel.



  7. @Andy – I did, but it was so long ago I’ve forgotten it.  I assume that’s the backstory?

  8. Not so much backstory, because it was written before, but it does introduce some of the major characters and is what is repeatedly referenced in the void trilogy. That said there is also a fair amount that happens between the Saga and the Trilogy that is refered back to in a similar manner that left me wanting at least another novel – something similar to the Confederation Handbook created for the Nightdawn Trilogy would be ideal.

    Actually I am sure Peter said somewhere that Misspent Youth is also tied into the Comonwealth saga, although its not integral to these novels, more that when he started thinking about what regeneration would mean to society he started thinking about a setting to explore it further, mixed in a few other ideas he had knocking about and the Comonwealth came into mind.

  9. P.S. Cat, Paula Myo, Oscar Monroe, Ozzie, Kazimir, Gore and Justine are the main characters who are carried over as well as MorningLightMountain, Starflyer and the Starflyer war. There are also a couple of other name drops.

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