The Dreaming Void (Commonwealth: The Void Trilogy)
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88 of 97 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2008
The dust jacket proclaims, "The year is 3589, fifteen hundred years after Commonwealth forces barely staved off human extinction in a war against the alien Prime". The arithmetic is flawed ("Judas Unchained" was circa 2380, so about 1200 years have elapsed), but Hamilton's story-telling, character development, and world-building are virtually flawless.

After a prologue introducing Inigo and the mysterious Void, which is being studied by the ancient Raiel race, Commonwealth humans, and a number of alien races at Centurion Station near the galactic center, the story alternates between the main time sequence following various Commonwealth characters, and chapters detailing Inigo's past "dreams" of apparently medieval humans. As the story unfolds, it is soon revealed that Inigo's "dreams", which have been recorded and shared with millions of other humans through the gaiafield (a kind of telepathic network enhancement that many have chosen for themselves), are believed to originate from the Void and to chronicle actual life inside the Void. Millions of humans believe life inside the Void to be idyllic -- a religion, the Living Dream, grows around this belief, culminating in a plan for a mass Pilgrimage into the Void.

In conflict with the Living Dreamers are the Raiel, at least one faction of the human-created non-physical intelligence ANA, and an alien race called the Ocisen Empire. The Raiel have been struggling against the Void for a million years, having seen the Void expand and devour countless inhabited worlds, and they expect that a Pilgrimage could trigger another deadly expansion. The Living Dream Pilgrimage, if not stopped, may cause the destruction of the galaxy. But the Living Dream religion persists, and ANA:Governance, controller of the immensely powerful Navy (a military force which has grown in power since defeating the Prime in "Judas Unchained"), seems inclined to protect the Living Dreamers from outside influence or attack.

A number of characters are introduced, both in Inigo's dream chapters, and in the Commonwealth chapters. Aaron is searching for Inigo (who has disappeared sometime after having his famous dreams), but he does not know why or who sent him, and he seems strangely accepting of the mission script he is following as it is gradually revealed to him. Edeard is an orphan boy from Inigo's dream who is trying to find his place in a world that is both hostile to him and able to be shaped by his telepathic powers. In the Commonwealth where technology can be employed to keep one's body fit and perfect, Troblum is a physicist who is extremely fat, a collector of memorabilia from the Starflyer war, and gifted at creating advanced technology and weapons for whoever is willing to feed his obsessions. Araminta is a young, ambitious first-life woman who is trying to start a property-development business herself after a divorce, but her adventures are just beginning.

Justine, Paula, and Oscar from the Commonwealth Saga also have storylines, and there are appearances by several other characters from the Commonwealth Saga. Commonwealth Saga characters notably absent from "The Dreaming Void" are the alien Silfen, any escaped alien Prime, the SI (sentient intelligence), the Bose motile, and Nigel and Ozzie (although Ozzie has apparently become a common swear word).

There is a timeline at the end of the book that provides a number of helpful historical references to fill in some of the events between the end of the Commonwealth Saga and the events in "The Dreaming Void". For example, "2833--Completion of ANA first stage on Earth; Grand Family members begin memory download into ANA rather than to SI....3001--Ozzie produces uniform neural entanglement effect known as the gaiafield." There are no significant spoilers in the timeline, and since Hamilton does not fill in all the details in the narrative, it may be helpful to read the timeline before beginning the novel.

While there are at least 9 viewpoints running simultaneously in "The Dreaming Void", I did not find myself bored by any of them. In contrast, I frequently skipped over various uninteresting viewpoints in Hamilton's Nightsdawn trilogy. Hamilton has done an excellent job of choosing the viewpoint characters in "The Dreaming Void", balancing the action between them, and keeping all of them relevant and interesting. I appreciate that Hamilton has not spent many words summarizing events from the Commonwealth Saga, since that would merely bore readers who are familiar with those events, and probably not help those who have never read those books. Also, since this is not strictly a sequel (1200 years have passed and the most important characters are new), I suspect that it can stand on its own for someone who has not read the previous books. However, as expected in the first book of a trilogy, "The Dreaming Void" does leave quite a few plot lines hanging at the end. If I had not already read the Commonwealth Saga books, I am sure I would feel compelled to read them while waiting for the next Void Trilogy book to be released.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2008
Peter Hamilton is one of the most ambitious and engaging writers in contemporary science fiction, and The Dreaming Void, the first novel of a trilogy, will please many of his old and new readers.

Told as a dual narrative, The Dreaming Void takes its title from the Void, an inaccessible "microuniverse" that most of the galaxy's races see as a threat to their existence. One strand of the narrative centers upon astrophysicist Inigo's dreams of the humans living within the Void. Since Inigo was serving as an observer, these dreams were broadcasted by the "gaiafield" (a kind of VR Internet) to humanity, and their appealing vision of paradise spawns The Living Dream movement--a new religion whose goal of "living the dream" soon changes to the goal of a Pilgrimage into the Void.

The second strand of the narrative details the galaxy-wide power struggle that unfolds as Ethan, the newly appointed leader of Living Dream, secretly plans to launch a fleet of ships into the Void. Like all of Hamilton's stories, The Dreaming Void features a massive cast of characters: scientists, political leaders, agents of various factions, fathers and daughters, lovers, aliens, and believers. Some, like Aaron, an agent of the faction, do not know whom they are working for; others, like Troblum or Corrie-Lyn, do not know whom they can trust. And then a Second Dreamer surfaces.

Kirkus Reviews describes the book as "a far leaner and more purposeful product: a real spellbinder from a master storyteller," while The Times (London) says, "compulsively readable and abundantly full of ideas." I agree with most of that praise. What distinguishes Hamilton's books is the exploration of how technological progress changes the experience of living. In The Dreaming Void, one example is the "near-postphysical" existence of the people who have uploaded themselves into the Advanced Neural Activity (ANA) system. Yet the balance between exposition/ideas and character development seems slightly less effective than it was in Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy.

That is a small quibble, though. Overall, Hamilton has successfully launched another theologically thought-provoking trilogy and a rich vision of one possible future for humanity.

Armchair Interviews says: Super addition to the bookshelves of fans of sci-fi.
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42 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2008
Firstly let it be said that I'm a huge fan and avid reader of everything that Peter Hamilton has written and I was eagerly awaiting The Dreaming Void. Unfortunately I was a bit disappointed. One can forgive the first volume in a trilogy a lot because there has to be a lot of scene setting and introduction of new characters but this book to me lacked the suspense and frenetic action of "Pandora's Star" and "Judas Unchained". Judas Unchained was a bit longer than it needed to be I thought but that's another story.

We are now some 1200 years from the events of Judas Unchained and the Commonwealth has expanded enormously with humanity now being one of the most powerful forces in the galaxy. Scientists are investigating a mysterious void at the centre of the galaxy which seems to be progressively expanding and there is a fear that it will eventually consume the whole galaxy. Inside the void there is a complete inhabited micro universe which only has a medieval level civilization but the inhabitants possess mysterious telekinetic powers. A character named Inigo in the Commonwealth dreams of the life within the void and transmits his dreams to the rest of the Commonwealth. Suddenly everyone wants to go there and a religious movement is founded with this aim. Various alien races want to stop the pilgrimage to the void at any cost because they fear that the migration will trigger a catastrophic void expansion that will consume the whole galaxy.

The central characters in the book are Edeard who lives in the void and Aaron who doesn't have any memory of his previous life but knows that his mission in life is to find Inigo who has gone missing and stop the pilgrimage by any means possible.

Firstly the good parts. Hamilton has an amazing talent for introducing mind blowing technology that mostly makes scientific sense. The characters are never overwhelmed by this technology and you can relate to them quite easily. And now the parts I didn't like. We are asked to believe that an advanced technological race suddenly all want to migrate to a world with a technology equivalent to the middle ages, something I find very difficult to believe. The worst part of the book to me was Edeard's story which is told in a series of interludes. I didn't find any of the Void characters compelling or interesting which makes it even stranger that anyone would want to go there.

The narrative alternates between Edeard's adventures in the void and Aaron's attempt to track down Inigo with new characters being progressively introduced. One of these characters is Araminta, a sweet young thing who seems to alternate between renovating her apartment and getting laid. Some of the characters from the previous books are reintroduced but they seem a bit tired and don't add much. There is plenty of the usual high tech violence which should make those that like that sort of thing happy. The book ends with the usual cliff hanger and it looks like we are headed toward a galactic war.

All in all this is a patchy effort and I was expecting better. Perhaps it's all going to make more sense in volume 2 in which case I will quite happily admit to being wrong. Even mediocre Hamilton is still pretty good though and I decided to rate this book a strong three but it's not quite good enough for four stars.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2008
Here's the thing about Peter F. Hamilton - take any one aspect of his overall body of work (weighting the Commonwealth Saga ahead of the Night's Dawn stuff because I consider the latter to just be an earlier draft of the former) and there's probably someone in SF who can do it better. Any number of military SF writers do better space battles. Bruce Sterling handles near-singularity hyptertech better. Vernor Vinge's mastery of sheer epic scope is better. And I'm sure there is better porn.

And yet I find Hamilton's stuff incredibly readable. I'm such a sucker for space opera, and tore through The Dreaming Void in about a week. It looks like he's finally doing something other than an alien-invasion story (although there is plenty of time to bring that in) and all the usual tropes are there. The technojargon is a little less impenetrable than normal, which is nice to see (although I have no problems being thrown into the deep end). No honking big space battles, but instead there are a few really nice brawls between hyper-enhanced humans with a delightful amount of collateral damage.

Still, not without downsides. First, he can't seem to kick a few of his old habits, notably a few-too-many callbacks to the Commonwealth Saga (including a cringe-inducing bit of exposition right near the end), and of course, lots of gratuitous sex. Apparently one of the major benchmarks as to how posthuman you are is how often you get laid. And the other demerit is that he's back to writing trilogies, meaning I have to wait at least 2-3 years to see how this all turns out.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 31, 2009
In the circles in which I read, making disparaging remarks about Peter F. Hamilton's big fat space operas is nearly as accepted as making fun of Twilight. And I have to admit, I kind of get the criticism. Big, politically dubious, overblown, overly complicated. True, true(ish), true, true. Probably all true.

But still, I really like his books, and read them with great pleasure. The Dreaming Void (Void trilogy book 1) is no exception. Set in the world of the Commonwealth, but 1000 years in the future, it dislocates the reader in time even as it provides a semi-familiar setting. I suppose that the only thing that I really tripped over in this book is how many of the familiar figures we see back from the other Commonwealth novels.

Good fun, if you like this sort of thing. If you don't, you'll probably not find this an exceptional outing for Hamilton. Myself, I've already bought The Temporal Void and am looking forward to reading it. By the way, even though this trilogy is supposed to be able to stand on its own, I would still read the earlier books set in the Commonwealth first. Some back knowledge of characters adds quite a bit of depth.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2008
Peter Hamilton is one of those authors whose new books I always look forward to as he is always extremely inventive in his world building and plots.

By the standards of most SF, this would be brilliant. By his standards, it is adequate. The world is interesting, but not quite as novel as his Confederation Space series or the indeed its predecessor, the trains-based Commonwealth. I guess the problem is that 3500 AD is somewhat difficult to describe both in terms that we can relate to and in terms that evoke wonder. In this case, I related to it more than I wondered at it. Some descriptions seem eerily similar to Pandora's Star/Judas, like that of a heavily armed cyborg intruder raiding a temple. And... recycling main characters from the Pandora/Judas storyline is a bit of a letdown.

The setting for the low-tech world-in-Void was actually the more inventive and engaging of the storylines, to me (many disagree).

Once again, we get multiple threads unfolding at the same time. But it is more difficult to stay interested, because there is no overriding menace/change happening at this point in the plot. Indeed it is hard to understand exactly why everyone cares so much about the Void. And, once again, Mr. Hamilton drags out his somewhat-besides-the-point sex scenes.

But the main problem is how slowly everything unfolds. Sure, it is interesting, but taking up 700 pages to basically set the foundation for books 2 and 3? Keeping in mind that Mr. Hamilton occasionally shows weakness in concluding his stories (ex: The Naked God), we are looking at a 2000 page run with an uncertain payoff.

My advice if you are not feeling completely compelled to start on this series: wait till the conclusion of the trilogy, or at least the second book, and check what readers think of it.

update April 2012 - started reading book 2 and felt totally underwhelmed. There is not the slightest bit of re-explanation on who's who, which is not so great given the big cast of characters. And, since we are supposed to get right back into the book, character development, or just plain description, is totally left out, with the exception of Araminta and Edeard. I might have waited too long to get back into it, but the books still had a year gap at the first time of publishing - cut busy readers some slack and at least make an attempt at providing some plot reminders.

I'll repeat myself: re-cycling characters from the Pandora series is just plain old lazy. Paula Myo was cool, 3 books ago.

More than that, the modern part of the book has caught a bad case of Star Trekkish gobbledygook techspeak, with all sorts of made up words and weird sentences replacing more believable world building. Hamilton usually does much better than this. For me, and I know I seem to be a minority here, there is much more heart in the Waterwalker's world.

So after about 150+ pages of not enjoying book 2 I quit. YMMV.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2008
Peter Hamilton is nothing if not extremely creative. Some of his previous work, including the Night's Dawn trilogy, was astonishing in its portrayal of aliens, living spacecraft, genetic engineering, space habitats and the evolution of the human species.

Hamilton's exhalted reputation for creativity is preserved in The Dreaming Void, though the book also contains examples of Hamilton's other renowned habit which is including a level of story detail where the reader's pace is periodically slowed. The detail often feels tangential while you experience it, but you finish the book with the feeling that you know the characters very well. Overall, Hamilton pulls it off in a reasonably successful way. Hamilton fans will know the experience well and his work tends to strike the right balance.

The story arc is understandable, but falls short of giving readers an emotional connection with the forces that are driving the characters, especially the Knights and to some degree the Living Dream movement. For me, one of the most compelling concepts was that of ANA - the amalgamation of personalities and memories into which humans uploaded themselves when they became bored of their extremely long physical lives. In particular, that this collective sought post-physical, god-like existence is fascinating and definitely forms a compelling justification for their seeking contact with the Void. The fact that ANA is composed of ideologically compartmentalized factions that are constantly engaged in shifting alliances and conflicts is reminiscent of the gods on Olympus, though their motivations are a little flat and could use some of Hamilton's attention to detail. Hamilton's description of space battles and combat between the augmented humans is unparalleled in the SF genre.

Hamilton does a good job of engaging the reader without knowledge of the Commonwealth series of books, but the background is very useful in proving richer context for The Dreaming Void and is a very exciting read itself. In total, I would rate "The Dreaming Void" almost on par with those thrilling books and well short of the first book of the Night's Dawn trilogy.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2008
I had a great reading experience with this book. Dreaming Void was one of those books that I looked forward to whatever free time I would have to get back into the story and see where it goes. The universe Hamilton created and multitude of viewpoints was something that kept me hooked. In a nutshell, the imagination / creativity captured in the story was great for me.

This book steps so far forward in time to the last books in the same universe (Pandor's Star, Judas Unchained) that Hamilton has the freedom to make whatever assumption he wants with the storyline and technology and it is believable. It has a series of story lines that some may find confusing, I found it enticing.

As this book was never sold as a sequel to those books, I have no qualms that this story's pace and style is different than the previous 2 books in this universe (and it is, clearly the book has Hamilton's style stamp, but the story and pace is more laid back). All that matters to me is that as I was reading this book, I looked forward to not only learning more about the universe and what it was like, but learning more about the story that I was in the midst of. For me, the book was my definition of a 'page turner'... I was actively engaged and enjoyed the book beginning to end.

My advice, dig in and enjoy this book! I look forward to the rest of the series.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2010
Peter F. Hamilton's The Dreaming Void is the first book in the British hard sci-fi writer's new trilogy, which has been dubbed the Void Trilogy.

Hamilton has been one of my favorite authors (not just my favorite genre author) for several years. I started with his classic work, the incredible Night's Dawn Trilogy (The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist and The Naked God) and continued with his Commonwealth Saga. (MadProfessah's reviews of Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained are also available.)

Like most of Hamilton's work, The Dreaming Void is a sprawling novel, with a huge cast of characters and numerous intersecting and separate plots. An interesting feature of this book, which repeats something he did in Fallen Dragon, is the inclusion of an entire storyline in which technology is not featured--it is a pretty straightforward individual hero fantasy; it even includes a star-crossed, teen romance. Peter Hamilton is known as a hard-core purveyor of the hardest military sci-fi space operas, so for him to devote a good third of his book to a fantasy is an intriguing blending of disparate genres.

It's an interesting choice, because most fans of one genre are not necessarily fans of the other genre (the only fantasy book I have read recently, for example is Patrick Rothfuss' excellent The Name of the Wind). It also works well, because the fantasy sequence, which is the story of Edeard, an orphaned country boy who becomes the fabled Waterwalker in the big city of Makkathran on the planet of Querencia, is excellent and gripping.

The hard sci-fi sequence, which tells the stories of how the Commonwealth has changed in the fifteen hundreds years since Judas Unchained and Pandora's Star is oddly not as compelling as the fantasy sections. It's not clear if this is because we have been exposed to most of these characters before (Paula Myo, Senator Justine Burnelli, Wilson Kime, Oscar Monroe et cetera) or if the changes that have occurred over time to the Commonwealth Universe are not as interesting as we would have expected.

I do think the conceit of how the two sequences are connected is interesting (what happens on Makkathran appears as what is known as Inigo's Dreams and is accessed by Commonwealth citizens through something called the Gaiafield, a Galaxy-wide network invented by Ozzie Isaacs (who previously co-invented wormhole travel technology) that allows humans to share emotions and thoughts. An entire religion has developed around Inigo's Dreams which it is believed must be emanating from The Void, a strange anomaly at the center of the Galaxy which frightens the Raiel, the incredibly powerful aliens from the earlier books.

How Hamilton manages to tie together all of these multiple threads is a gripping, somewhat exhausting tale which demonstrates that he is once again a master of the craft of compelling speculative fiction for an expanding audience.

Hardcover: 640 pages.
Publisher: Del Rey.
Date: March 25, 2008.

OVERALL GRADE: A/A-.
PLOT: A.
IMAGERY: A.
IMPACT: A-.
WRITING: A-.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2008
The Dreaming Void is actually 3 books under 1 cover.

Book ONE continues with characters from the previous Pandora's Star/Judas Unchained series which takes place in our future -- which is about 1,000 years in their past.
Book TWO is about the second dreamer who is unnamed but self-evident as a character.
Book THREE is the set of Inigo's dreams.

Read the prequels (Pandora's Star/Judas Unchained) first.
Then read the set of dream sequences as a stand alone. These sequences have a different typeface.
THEN go back and read the rest of the book.

Otherwise, you will be lost temporally, geographically, and character-wise.
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