The acclaimed Peter Hamilton's standalone SF adventure Fallen Dragon
sees him taking a breather after the immense, galaxy-spanning Night's Dawn
trilogy, with a tauter story of future skirmishing in a mere few solar systems. Centuries
hence, despite faster-than-light travel, human interstellar exploration is stagnating. There's not enough money in it for the vast controlling companies such as Zantiu-Braun, now reduced to extracting profits via "asset realisation"--plundering established colonies that can't withstand Earth's superior weapons tech. Lawrence Newton's childhood dreams were all about space exploration. Now he's just another Z-B squaddie, trained to use the feared, half-alive "Skin" combat biosuits, which offer super-muscles, armour and massive firepower, all queasily hooked into the wearer's bloodstream and nervous system. Commanding a platoon in Z-B's raid on planet Thallspring, Lawrence has secret plans to make off with a rumoured alien treasure. But Thallspring resistance is unexpectedly tough, thanks to locals such as Denise Ebourn who have mysterious access to neuro-electronic subversion gear far subtler and perhaps more dangerous than Skin. Meanwhile, how fictional are the stories Denise tells her school pupils, about a fabled Empire that ruled our galaxy for a million years before becoming... something else? Hamilton excels at violent action, but not with the dreadful simplicity of space opera. Despite his role in the explosive Thallspring situation, Lawrence genuinely hopes to avoid bloodshed--while Denise's lofty idealism results in chilling atrocities, and even Z-B may be less cruel and monolithic than it seems. A breakneck interstellar chase leads to a satisfying finale and an unexpected romantic twist. This is solid, meaty SF entertainment. --David Langford
From Publishers Weekly
This hefty novel of interstellar war and alien contact in the 25th century, a sort of Starship Troopers as if written by Charles Dickens, ranks as one of Hamilton's best. Though he's a mercenary for the Zantiu-Braun corporation, which gets its profits by periodically looting old interstellar colonies, Lawrence Newton has his eye on picking up a treasure trove of alien technology not on his employer's approved list of loot. When the Zantiu-Braun Third Fleet descends on the planet Thrallspring, the invaders unexpectedly find the inhabitants, who have access to some of that lost alien technology, prepared to fight back. After several hundred pages of well-depicted action and intrigue, the technology of the "dragons" makes the war superfluous, a definite victory for all opponents of the corporate pirates. It also makes it possible for Newton himself to travel in both time and space, and to put right the mishandling of a youthful love affair that forced him into exile in the first place. Ignoring conventional wisdom about expository lumps, flashbacks and viewpoint shifts, Hamilton (The Reality Dysfunction) nicely develops character while he also does some fine world building that's as good as it gets in space opera short of Lois McMaster Bujold. Despite the somewhat uneven pacing, the book is undeniably a page-turner and should provide many absorbing hours for the author's existing readers as well as a salutary introduction to a major SF author for a new audience. (Mar. 11)Forecast: With a five-city author tour and national print advertising both mainstream and genre, expect this one to rack up strong sales.Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.