BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Several factions, each one interested in controlling mankind’s evolutionary path, focuses on the mysterious Void, a region of space whose existence dangerously feeds off the matter from our universe.
PROS: Hamilton’s ideas are big and bold; no time wasted on a recap for those coming immediately off of The Temporal Void.
CONS: Character motivations seemed unclear; Edeard’s repetitive resetting of the Void grew tiresome; Small ramp-up time for those not coming immediately off of The Temporal Void; hard to care about the characters or get immersed in the story.
BOTTOM LINE: Disappointing when compared to the reading experience of the first two novels.
To its credit, The Evolutionary Void, Peter F. Hamilton’s capstone to his Void Trilogy, is every bit as ambitious as the two previous books, The Dreaming Void and The Temporal Void. It juggles multiple story lines and a large cast of characters, its doles out many grand-scale ideas, and it’s an unabashed space opera of epic proportions (in both plot and physical size). The main conceit of the series is the desire to control nothing less than humanity’s destiny by choosing its evolutionary path. Several different factions take a particular interest, each with their own schemes and players, but all vying for the same control. The center of their attention is the Void, a region of space that holds a microuniverse within it but requires vast amounts of energy to sustain itself; energy it acquires by consuming matter it finds outside its boundaries in our universe. If the Void is not stopped, its energy requirements will consume the galaxy, which kind of puts the kibosh on everyone’s plans for evolution. Or, if you belong to another faction, the answer (i.e. salvation) resides within the Void itself.
The narrative of The Evolutionary Void essentially switches between two plot threads: the story of Edeard the Waterwalker inside the Void, and everything else that happens outside the Void (itself consisting of several sub-threads involving many characters). Edeard’s psychic control in the Void culminated over the last two novels with his new-found ability to reverse time within the Void, thereby initiating a localized cosmic do-over. His story, witnessed by those outside through the dreams of Inigo the first Dreamer, forms the basis of a religious movement. The so-called Dreamers feel that their destiny lies within the Void which, in this novel, finally comes within their reach.
This is all well and good, in theory, yet as all-powerful as the Void seems to be to those outside, it’s a curiosity why they would want to go there. They have already seen that their entire existence can be precluded by a mere thought that reverses time. It was this ability of Edeard’s, in fact, that contributed to an annoying helping of Never-Mind-That-Reality-Was-Just-A-Dream and a side order of Been-There-Done-That as Edeard continually reset the Void every time life didn’t align with his Utopian ideals. The experienced monotony of it all wears thin on Edeard – a necessary lesson he admittedly had to learn — but only long after it did for this reader. This is a disappointing turn of events in the series itself because Edeard’s story was the captivating highlight that supported the series. Without that support, The Evolutionary Void degrades into something less noteworthy. Few of the book’s scenes grabbed me like they did before. I wasn’t pulled into the story so much as watch it pass me by. The urgency that the characters felt did not translate to the reader and their motives were at times unclear. There was simply no reason to become involved.
To be fair, my enjoyment of the book suffered from a non-consecutive reading. It’s been a while since I’ve visited this universe and, unlike the previous book, Hamilton doesn’t waste time bringing readers up to speed. There are also many references to Hamilton’s previous Commonwealth books, Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained. By the time I picked up The Evolutionary Void, much of those story details had vanished from memory, thus much of book was spent wondering what was going on in the grand scheme of things. This is admittedly a reader failing, but one that unfortunately affected the overall enjoyment of the book, especially when compared with how engrossing I found the previous books to be.