In an attempt to discover more about the sci-fi genre, I am currently working my way through Peter F. Hamilton’s space opera – Great North Road. So far, an expedition to go and look for killer aliens is being organised, a virtual replica of Newcastle has been created and there has been a nice little reference to Dolly the Sheep.
Since part 2, it’s been a rather slow week in the land of 2143 Newcastle all in all. Detective Sid Hurst is no closer to establishing the identity of the murderer (or the murder victim for that matter), the Government are themselves no closer to proving either way if there is another sentient life form out there that appears to enjoy shredding the hearts of clones and their friends and I still can’t work out for the life of me what the Zanth are!
I’m not really sure where to start with the Zanth. There is something about them that fascinate me as well as leave me feeling dazed and confused. They feels more like a concept than actual physical beings and no matter how many times I read the sections of the book that are about them, I just don’t seem to get any closer to grasping exactly what they are. The most that I can gather is that they are some kind of alien mist that turns everything into a combination of psychedelic sculptures and colours. Only not in a cool arty way; in an unstoppable, could potentially destroy mankind sort of way. It seems fair to say that the main thing readers need to know about the Zanth is that they are a bad bad thing that should be avoided at all costs.
Also since part 2, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t want a body mesh after all. Hamilton had me right up until he mentioned eyes. I have a thing about eyes. Other things that make me squeamish come and go but eyes have been a constant source of, well… ickness to me. Last week, I really wanted the sort of body mesh that most of the characters have. This week, however, I found out that require contact lens to be worn during installation. If having to put your fingers on your eyes wasn’t bad enough, the lens then inject the necessary technology magic into your eyes. Needless to say that since then, I’ve decided that I am happy to stick with my smartphone. Add in the minor plot point where someone has hooks placed under under her eyelids to keep her eyes open during interrogation and I was left feeling faint and queasy for longer than I appreciated!
This week, once again, this book has impressed me (when it wasn’t confusing me or making me feel ill.) The plot at the moment is taking it’s own sweet time to get anywhere and yet it’s still remarkably readable. It’s one of those books that I find myself thinking about and missing while I am at work or staring longingly at while doing housework. I can imagine that the pacing around the middle might be a bit of a problem for some people and normally I know that I would be getting frustrated by this point and wanting the story to just get on with it but for some reason that doesn’t happen here. Some how, despite the fact that you could read Great North Road for a couple of hours and not have a major plot development occur, Hamilton does a really good job of always keeping things varied and interesting. There is a lot going on here and you need the story to take it’s time so that you can get everything that is happening straight in your head. From a crime story point of view, it’s nice to feel that you are genuinely watching the investigation unfold, complete with all the hiccups and dead ends that would most likely happen in real life. From a sci-fi novice point of view, it’s nice to be able to spend time on working out how everything fits together. You have time to work out how a piece of technology works or where a colony is or what has happened in the last 100 years of Earth’s history without it ever breaking the immersion of story.
I’m going to leave it there for this week because I can see Great North Road calling to me from the other side of the living room and I can’t ignore it any longer. If they could not mention injecting things into eyes again though that would be great!