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Having read a lot of Peter F. Hamilton's work and enjoying the Commonwealth saga, Void trilogy and Faller's series of books immensely I decided to give Fallen Dragon a go. What's perhaps a little unusual about this book considering it's length is the fact that it deviates somewhat from Hamilton's multi-part saga format and is a stand alone story. Hamilton is one of those authors that improves his craft with age and the original paper release date of this book of 2001 places it between the Night's Dawn trilogy and the later Commonwealth saga and it shows.
Hamilton has the ability to craft a lengthy story and shows great patience in the time he takes to slowly build the world and characters within it. Perhaps one of Hamilton's best skills is the ability to depict alien worlds in such vivid detail right down to exotic names for trees and other plants and animals. He really places you into these worlds with the rich detail that it makes you almost believe such places exist. Few authors I've read have quite the ability to paint such vivid environments and make them seem totally plausible and realistic so in that regard he really is a master of immersive writing. Where Fallen Dragon shows its weakness is in Hamilton's over lengthy route in reaching plot points. With books of this length and scope it's a difficult balancing act to get just the right amount of detail and narrative to provide the reader full story immersion against going too far into the realm of over doing it which ends up slowing up the plot with what can be judged as unnecessary padding. There is certainly an element of this going on here but what initially feels like much of this actually has meaning but right near the end of the book. Once the reader reaches that point in the final stages of this story then we see that there is some need for much of it but this still leaves us with a significant quantity of excess fat which is rather surplus to requirements. Now, this is the area that I feel Hamilton has refined and improved his writing since Fallen Dragon and we see a much tighter while still epic in scope series of books that form the Commonwealth saga later on. The earlier Night's Dawn saga also suffered from narrative bloat that mainly served to slow the pace of plot development to a crawl in many places. So, I'm very pleased to see that Hamilton has grown and finessed his writing style to make for better stories.
The real pay off in this story is in its conclusion. This is one of those clever tales that only plays its trump card at the end. Once you reach that point, you appreciate other elements earlier on in the story and it makes you understand why the author spent so much time on certain aspects as he did. The core concept of the "pay off" isn't new. We've seen this sort of thing before in science-fiction but it's the journey we take to get there that is part of the requirement to make the ending what it is.
However, we are still left a story which is somewhat too long and we take a very long time before things really start to move. I suppose the last 20% of the book is what makes the first 80% worth going through but, as I say and another reviewer mentioned, there is a bit of fluff getting there. In fact, there is an entire period in the protagonists life that really could be excised from the story I felt relating to the Joona character but that's just my view.
The story format was such that the reader was bounced from the current to the past and back again several times. This and changes of "scene" became confusing given the lack of significant pause between one section and the next. Even if John Lee didn't insert a long enough pause to clarify the jump, the production team ought to have done so which would be a simple task I'm sure. I've seen this lack of pauses between key passages in many other audio books and so I'd like the production team to take note on this point please.
As I listened to the excellent John Lee narrating this book as he has done on many a Hamilton novel, I wondered why an English writer and an English narrator would use American pronunciations on words like Aluminium, the letter "Z" and some others. Probably nothing to do with Hamilton and most likely the production requirements which is sad as I understand that this audio book is aimed at a global English speaking market but I would think the target audience for such a book would be intelligent enough to figure out what aluminium or the letter Z was when pronounced as "Zed" and would appreciate the English narrators use of his native dialect which is reflective of the author's.
I also noted, as another reviewer has, that the closing stages of the story seemed to suddenly rush to a conclusion. It felt so obvious to me that I thought I'd missed something I was so surprised at the sudden change in tempo to one of wrapping up things. It was as if Hamilton realized all of a sudden that he had to limit the number of pages or he ran out of steam and jumped forward a bit to round off the story. I'm sure readers will recognize this when they come across it.
Fallen Dragon is not Hamilton's best work in my opinion but is a journey worth taking if only for its ultimate destination.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Liked the book, though unsure of the ending it threw a load of closure in a hurry, maybe a deadline or word oimit.
The narration was good, though pauses where the narrative jumped in time would have been helpful.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Hard science fiction at its best. Hamilton has created a fully realised universe and filled it with utterly believable characters. The ending was perfect. John Lee's narration was quite compelling.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I read this book when I was 15 and just finished listening to the audiobook. Excellent performance again by John Lee and great story!