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Werthead

Salvation Lost by Peter F. Hamilton

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Salvation Lost by Peter F. Hamilton

A salvage operation to a remote world has revealed a devastating secret: the alien Olyix, the supposed friends and allies of humanity, are an existential threat to the human race. Humanity is forewarned, but the Olyix are also aware that their deception has been exposed and unleash their forces. As all-out interstellar war begins, it will take every resource on Earth and its colonies to stave off the attack. Meanwhile, millennia in the distant future, humanity's descendants prepare to mount a last, desperate offensive against the Olyix...but they have some unexpected allies waiting in the wings.

Peter F. Hamilton's Salvation trilogy is Hamilton back to doing what he does best: combining the science fiction thriller and an epic space opera into an addictive narrative set in a richly-detailed future. Hamilton is the finest worldbuilder in science fiction working today - perhaps ever - and his constant capacity for invention and storytelling remains unmatched in the genre. When it comes to big-budget, high-concept, highly readable science fiction there is simply no other game in town at present.

Salvation marked the start of a new sequence and it's familiar territory for Hamilton: painting a picture of a futuristic human society which is suddenly put in peril and a disparate group of characters scattered across many fronts has to respond to the threat. It recalled his two finest novels, The Reality Dysfunction and Pandora's Star, but clocked in at considerably less than half the length of either of those novels, so benefited from the tighter focus. This is Hamilton doing his normal thing but slimmed down a lot.

As with the first novel, this book unfolds on multiple fronts simultaneously. We get to see the war between humanity and the Olyix beginning from the POVs of the characters from the first book and other powerful figures. We also get a continuation from the story of the first book of the far-future humans fighting a war across an almost unimaginable timescale, with battles separated by centuries or millennia and the overall shape of the conflict hard to discern. This conflict, which is more cosmic in scale, feels a bit different to Hamilton's other work and is arguably the freshest aspect of this new series.

A new storyline also begins in this book, with a bunch of low-level London criminals providing a ground level view of the unfolding conflict and how they get more involved in it. I felt this storyline was a bit less interesting, mainly because all of the characters involved in it were morally irredeemable thugs. The attempts at moral complexity - giving one of the characters an elderly and failing relative and showing his plans to escape from the criminal world - aren't handled very well and I ended up not particularly caring about this storyline very much, especially as in a relatively short novel (if only by Hamilton's normal rhinoceros-stunning standards) it felt like page time that could have been spent on the other two, considerably better storylines. Some may also feel that some Hamiltonian tropes are a bit over-indulged here, such as once again the fate of humanity resting with an ultra-rich but ultimately benevolent super-corporation run by a semi-immortal philanthropist.

Still, Salvation Lost (****) is fiendishly readable and compelling (I read it in one sitting), intelligent and features a scope and scale unusual for Hamilton whilst simultaneously being a lot shorter and more focused than most of his prior work. The novel is available now in the UK and USA. The concluding book in the series, The Saints of Salvation, will be released next year.

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Great review, Wert.  I picked up this series on the basis of your review of Salvation and I wasn't disappointed by either volume.  A handful of questions though: 

Spoiler

1. It seems a bit improbable that humans have been repeating the same strategy to entrap the Olyix for thousands of years on the basis that the Olyix will fall for the same strategy again and again.  Maybe that's a feature not a bug of the plot, but the way its' set up seems simultaneously chilling and unrealistic. 

2.  The Ainsley Zangari AI/superweapon came out of left field.  It seems more comical than realistic. 

3.  the anti-Olyix alliance falling apart doesn't seem to make sense, nor does the escape of some humans to this supposed sanctuary with what seems almost complete disregard for the mission set for the remainder of the race.  

 

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18 hours ago, Gaston de Foix said:

Great review, Wert.  I picked up this series on the basis of your review of Salvation and I wasn't disappointed by either volume.  A handful of questions though: 

  Hide contents

1. It seems a bit improbable that humans have been repeating the same strategy to entrap the Olyix for thousands of years on the basis that the Olyix will fall for the same strategy again and again.  Maybe that's a feature not a bug of the plot, but the way its' set up seems simultaneously chilling and unrealistic. 

2.  The Ainsley Zangari AI/superweapon came out of left field.  It seems more comical than realistic. 

3.  the anti-Olyix alliance falling apart doesn't seem to make sense, nor does the escape of some humans to this supposed sanctuary with what seems almost complete disregard for the mission set for the remainder of the race.  

 

The problem is that humanity is so separated that none of the groups know that this has been tried before, is my impression

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16 hours ago, Maltaran said:

 

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The problem is that humanity is so separated that none of the groups know that this has been tried before, is my impression

 

Spoiler

I don't know. I thought the implication was that this was a well established longterm strategy. It does seem a bit odd that doing the same thing for thousands of years hasn't been seen as a fairly obvious problem.

 

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Hamilton do love his super-rich immortals...

 

Spoiler

I liked it, perhaps not as good as the first one but still a page-turner. 

Are we to summarize that there are only two free groups of humans at large now (three if we count the saints in the Enclave). Those at Sanctuary, and the fleet with Yirella. Even if humanity have been acting as predictable as we are to belive that seems farfetched right? 

 

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6 hours ago, Tarapas Amran said:

Hamilton do love his super-rich immortals...

 

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I liked it, perhaps not as good as the first one but still a page-turner. 

Are we to summarize that there are only two free groups of humans at large now (three if we count the saints in the Enclave). Those at Sanctuary, and the fleet with Yirella. Even if humanity have been acting as predictable as we are to belive that seems farfetched right? 

 

I doubt it.

Spoiler

There's probably lots of human groups that have given up and retreated to build redoubts deep in interstellar or even intergalactic space, and there may be other groups still out there still following the original plan. Hamilton is pretty good at statistical stuff, so the chances that the main group are all that's left is slim. I think the revelation was more that the tens of thousands of human mini-civilisations expanding across the galaxy was not happening and the Olyix had expanded ahead of the human colonisation wave, not that there wasn't anyone else left at all.

 

Edited by Werthead

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