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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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The Saints of Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton

The alien Olyix are besieging Earth, whose great cities stand protected by forcefields, each one powered by a quantum entanglement portal leading to distant colony worlds. One-by-one the fields and the cities they protect are failing, the inhabitants captured and cocooned for an unknown fate. The defenders of Earth are preparing to launch a counter-attack, knowing they are only buying time for the great exodus fleets which are hurtling into deep space, intending to preserve humanity for the eventual fight back. In the distant future that fight is now underway, with myriad different human societies and several alien species allying for a direct strike on the Olyix home system. If they succeed, they will free trillions of lives from imprisonment; if they fail, the galaxy will be subjected to a reign of religious terror. Key to the victory are the Saints, the first human to recognise the threat of the Olyix, and whose fates remain a mystery.

Peter F. Hamilton has spent more than a quarter of a century writing a potent combination of science fiction, mixing formidable scientific and technology speculation with fiendish readability and accessibility, along with characters who remain sympathetic and human in their motivations. Whether it's near-future techno-noirs thriller or far-future, posthuman cosmic epics, his ability to write page-turning novels remains undimmed.

The Salvation trilogy, here reaching a conclusion after Salvation (2018) and Salvation Lost (2019), is Hamilton working in a new setting and milieu, and shaking up his standard space opera format with some interesting new structural techniques. This trilogy is notable both for its relative brevity - the trilogy as a whole is only slightly longer than one of his longest, shelf-annihilating single novels like The Naked God or Great North Road - and its clear focus with a restrained number of characters and subplots. Some fans may miss the vast array of characters and cultures clashing across multiple storylines, but others (particularly those with an aversion to books that threaten to break their wrists every time they pick them up) will find his sense of purpose in this trilogy is more preferable.

The first novel in the trilogy had a great, Hyperion-style focus on the individual "Saints," the humans who first discern the scale of the alien threat through their individual experiences, fleshed out in almost self-contained, backstory-heavy novellas. The second novel couldn't sustain that device but continued the structure from the first book between alternating between events in the early 23rd Century and an unclear period in the distant future, building up impressive narrative momentum between the two timelines. Some may wonder why Hamilton adopted that structure in lieu of a more linear narrative, but The Saints of Salvation makes the reasoning clear, and it's very impressively handled.

Hamilton does have a slight weakness with endings. His classic Night's Dawn Trilogy is oft-criticised for its maybe-too-neat ending, whilst the Commonwealth Saga duology's second book was decidedly weaker than the first. His later series have had stronger finales, but they were also somewhat slighter works without quite the same feeling of tense horror that he nailed in those earlier series. The Salvation Trilogy brings back the horror in spades and also nails its ending, delivering a massive, widescreen-style space opera finale with more explosions, hyper-advanced space battles and exotic technology than sometimes seems feasible.

There are hints that this isn't quite the end. Hamilton has expressed a preference for messier endings following The Night's Dawn, and the finale to this novel leaves several key questions open to speculation. Whether he intends to return to this universe with more books is unknown at present (Hamilton has projected possibly a different setting for his next work), but he leaves enough track laid to pursue future storylines there if possible.

Negatives are few. Perhaps the characters aren't quite as memorable as in his previous works (there's no equivalent of Paula Myo here), maybe the story hinging once again on an ultra-rich but fortunately benevolent super-corporation run by a quasi-immortal philanthropist is a bit of an overdone trope, maybe this last volume jettisons a few quieter character moments in favour of exposition, but it's hard to criticise a book which slams its foot to the accelerator and moves the plot to a grand crescendo without any filler. Certainly some of Hamilton's earlier weaknesses are long gone (the trilogy lacks any slightly embarrassing sex scenes you have to flick past, which bogged down some of his early work).

As it stands, The Saints of Salvation (****½) delivers an epic, fast-paced and well-characterised grand finale to an enjoyable trilogy. The trilogy isn't quite up to the engrossing scale of Hamilton's best work, but it's still one of the strongest space opera series of recent years. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.

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Repeating my thoughts from the general reading thread I like The Sainnts of Salvation quite a lot. It's a good action packed ending to the trilogy but I did have an issue with one major part of the plot.

Spoiler

The neutron star people becoming advanced enough to defeat the Olyix in the space of 50 odd years seems a bit of a stretch and was very convenient.

Honestly I think a group of people raised without parents with the looming threat of alien attack is unlikely to result in a particularly stable society. Even if we accept the premise that by putting people in an extreme environment without the burden of previous cultural expectations you might see some significant new thinking they had 50 or 60 years with a population of about 100,000. The chances of a super advanced society developing in that time seems tiny.

In terms of the plot threads left hanging I'd be pretty interested in a follow up. I think this universe has been one of Hamilton's better efforts.

Spoiler

I'd definitely like to see what happened to the Sanctuary and what's going on with the Neana. I'm less concerned about Yirella's hunt for the Olyix god but why not?

 

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1 hour ago, ljkeane said:

Repeating my thoughts from the general reading thread I like The Sainnts of Salvation quite a lot. It's a good action packed ending to the trilogy but I did have an issue with one major part of the plot.

  Hide contents

The neutron star people becoming advanced enough to defeat the Olyix in the space of 50 odd years seems a bit of a stretch and was very convenient.

Honestly I think a group of people raised without parents with the looming threat of alien attack is unlikely to result in a particularly stable society. Even if we accept the premise that by putting people in an extreme environment without the burden of previous cultural expectations you might see some significant new thinking they had 50 or 60 years with a population of about 100,000. The chances of a super advanced society developing in that time seems tiny.

In terms of the plot threads left hanging I'd be pretty interested in a follow up. I think this universe has been one of Hamilton's better efforts.

  Hide contents

I'd definitely like to see what happened to the Sanctuary and what's going on with the Neana. I'm less concerned about Yirella's hunt for the Olyix god but why not?

 

Spoiler

Is there going to be a sequel? I thought the ending was open by design, and I didn't mind. 

 

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Posted (edited)
31 minutes ago, Gaston de Foix said:
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Is there going to be a sequel? I thought the ending was open by design, and I didn't mind. 

 

I don't know. He's certainly left himself room to write another book or series set in this universe, and he's done that in the past with his Commonwealth setting, but whether he will or not I'm not sure.

ETA: I actually decided to have a look and see if Hamilton had said anything about this. The last time he tweeted was about losing his bag on the train in June 2015 which isn't particularly helpful.

Anyway, apparently he did a Reddit AMA recently and said he's going to return to the universe. It's not going to be his next series though which will be in a different setting and released exclusively on Audible.

Edited by ljkeane

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Yeah, I think Hamilton took the criticisms of the ending to The Naked God being "too neat" back in 1999 to heart and since then he's made his endings messier and a bit more open-ended. Sometimes people have complained about that too and him appearing to set up more books which they don't appear. He also sometimes will say he'll do more in a setting but when a few years have gone by he seems to lose interest and rules out returning. He had some more Greg Mandel stories (set pre-Nanoflower) he wanted to write, but they never appeared, and a possible post-Night's Dawn novel or novella in that setting which he teased for a few years and then gave up on (Graham Joyce was also going to write a story in the setting, but passed away before they could work out how that was going to work).

It does feel like the search for the Olyix god is very definitely an open-ended plot point and cliffhanger than most of his other ideas though.

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On 1/3/2021 at 9:36 PM, ljkeane said:

Repeating my thoughts from the general reading thread I like The Sainnts of Salvation quite a lot. It's a good action packed ending to the trilogy but I did have an issue with one major part of the plot.

  Hide contents

The neutron star people becoming advanced enough to defeat the Olyix in the space of 50 odd years seems a bit of a stretch and was very convenient.

Honestly I think a group of people raised without parents with the looming threat of alien attack is unlikely to result in a particularly stable society. Even if we accept the premise that by putting people in an extreme environment without the burden of previous cultural expectations you might see some significant new thinking they had 50 or 60 years with a population of about 100,000. The chances of a super advanced society developing in that time seems tiny.

In terms of the plot threads left hanging I'd be pretty interested in a follow up. I think this universe has been one of Hamilton's better efforts.

  Hide contents

I'd definitely like to see what happened to the Sanctuary and what's going on with the Neana. I'm less concerned about Yirella's hunt for the Olyix god but why not?

 

The one thing I'll say in it's defense is

Spoiler

They don't need to advance to the point that they are when we arrive in 50-60 years, they just had to get to the point they have the temporal flow technology which gave them thousands of years in subjective time.

Now them reaching that point in 50-60 years might also be unrealistic, but it does at least have that excuse for the rest of the development. And we don't know how far from that tech their starting point is.

I really enjoyed it and I think any criticism I might have had faded in the face of

Spoiler

Literally dragging a star through a wormhole to throw at another star

I was definitely left wanting more in this universe. Which is a common sentiment with his series 

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Just finished it and I pretty much agree with everything that's been said. It was a rousing finale!

Wouldn't mind seeing Hamilton returning to explore the "loose ends" that have been mentioned. But I also think that it could be the end just the way it is. Keeping some threads up into the air just shows that history isn't static.

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