Great North Road

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Seems interesting. Yes sir.
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I admit it wasnt one of his best books, but it is nothing as bad as this article makes it out to be. I will agree that learning more about the Zanth could be very interesting, especially considering the last few pages, that seemed to hint at lots lots more happening.I hope he will consider making a sequal. It has happened before, just look at misspent youth and what that book eventually turned in to.
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I was a bit worried the article would come across as far too harsh, it wasn't that I thought it was bad as such, just extremely disappointing considering the authors usual standard.
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Just a suggestion! Would it be possible to implent some sort of "Amazon" box on these book reviews, where you get a brief description of it? Like price, frontpage and a "Buy now on Amazon" ?
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Just found it hidden in the upper right corner. That was pretty well hidden!
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Yeah, making that whole link doodad a little more useful is on the list.It's a big list :p
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I actually thought that Hamilton had played to his strengths; the wind ups to the crescendos and conclusions are generally the best parts of the books he writes, and this one had a build up that was much longer and more coherent, while wrapping up much more succinctly. The ending is no-where near as (literally) Deus Ex Machina as the Night's Dawn Trilogy, with some enjoyably optimistic epilogues
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I agree, I thought it was a decent book but not Hamilton's best. I feel a lot of the really cool bits that would have made the story better (the Zanth and the cooler Martian tech) were only briefly dealt with, and only passingly towards the end.
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You make a good point as far as the ending as the Night's Dawn trilogy goes, though personally while I felt a bit disappointed by it I gave him a pass because how do you conclude a series thats dealing with something like death that can't really be neatly tied up. I think thats why you had the whole barrier thing with the Common Wealth Saga though, he gave himself a means for neatly tying everything up in a more satisfactory way from the beginning.
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I'm half way throught the book and throughly enjoying it. One possibility is that this is just book one of a series which would allow Hamilton to flesh out the Zanth etc
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Finished reading it not long ago and to be honest I did enjoy it, my only comment is similar to the OP, the Zanth story is fantastic, and an idea which I've never come across in any other book, I wish he had split the book into two seperate story's.Keep the gritty Newcastle detective story as one and then the Zanth fight as another, with the possibility of the sentient forest world as a whole separate sub story, there were just too many plots going on at once it seemed.
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I would consider this book a long "greg mandel" story to be honest. It feels like he sat down to write another detective story, and then it got kinda out of hand.We should write him and demand he expand the timeline for this book. I bet thats usually how he gets started on sequels anyways :)
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I generally enjoy Hamilton's books, but there's no denying that pretty much all of his books contain similar elements arranged in slightly different ways.Mind you, I keep buying them.
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It does feel like that a bit but I felt the Greg Mandel books were a lot better in pretty much every way which was why I was so disappointed with this, we know he can do better.

Great North Road is a standalone novel by Peter F Hamilton that combines movie style science-fiction horror with a crime story. The setting is a 'relatively' near future, where humans have colonised other planets through use of gateways, but remain heavily dependent on bio-oil which is grown principally on the planet of St Libra. Borrowing from an idea loosely explored in Fallen Dragon, St Libra is owned and run by a corporation staffed almost entirely by the Norths, a family of clones that become progressively more flawed with each generation but maintain certain characteristic traits and (for the most part) are like minded in solidarity and resolve.

The murder of one of these North's is what sparks off the events of the book with our main protagonist, Detective Sid Hurst, finding himself in charge of an intensely political murder investigation. Most of the action takes place in the English city of Newcastle, and there are quite a few references that likely only English readers will appreciate. Newcastle, which in the modern world is much reduced in importance from its industrial past, is restored as a major oil distribution point in Hamilton's world, and an English suspicion of European Union bureaucracy is also a minor theme. However, whilst these nods to readers from Hamilton's own country won't alienate those from abroad, there are problematic elements to this half of the story. 

Read enough of Hamilton's books and fairly soon you should start to develop a suspicion that he has a fondness for crime dramas. More or less every book with sufficient room contains a subplot featuring Hamilton's favoured "overworked police officer in over his head" stereotype. This is a fault that can, to an extent, be forgiven; formulaic nature aside, these little mini stories that Hamilton likes to insert are often clever and enjoyable. The problem in Great North Road is that Hamilton blows the crime mini-story up to book length (it's a large book too), and then produces something which is far less intelligent and exciting than usual. This isn't to say that the crime element is bad - in many places its quite enjoyable - but it feels self-indulgent, and the reduction in quality from Hamilton's usual forays into the genre is disappointing.

The other half of the story is composed of the aforementioned movie-style science-fiction horror thread. Humanity in Great North Road is faced by the threat of an extraterrestrial race known as the Zanth, the danger of which has led to the formation of a vast military with sweeping political power.  When the murdered North of the crime element of the novel is found to feature injuries common with those of a potential alien attack, the military decides to launch something approximating an invasion in an act of extremely questionable judgement to ascertain the possible existence of a second hostile alien species. The frustrating thing here: the military and their war with the Zanth is by far the most interesting part of the novel - and is left purely as backstory.

The Zanth invasions are far more akin to natural disasters than any kind of military action, with the aliens seemingly unaware of human existence and their incredible power overwhelming human forces. The military's attempts to delay them long enough for evacuation to take place have something of the character of throwing rocks at waves on the beach. Faced with this overwhelming power, some humans take to worshipping them, whilst much of the military is comprised of a sect of christianity which views them as the embodiment of Satan. There is a great potential story here about how humans react to forces beyond our control and our application of military force which Hamilton seems to toy with, only to say "Nah" and go back to writing something ultimately far less interesting.

What he instead produces is a tale of a military expedition which faces repeated "accidents" which increase in both frequency and level of suspicion generated the longer the supply lines get strung out. Whilst Hamilton does an excellent job of building tension and keeping the question of whether it is really an alien creature or something more mundane in the air for a long time, there is nothing here you haven't seen before in cinema. The cliches are the same to the degree that you could even make an exercise out of picking the near inevitable casting choices for such a film.

Ultimately Great North Road is far from a bad novel: It has an acceptable (if not entirely satisfactory) resolution. There are some good characters, and the plot has some good twists. However, it feels like Hamilton is going through the motions, and the end result is something considerably below his usual standard. The chief crime is that he spends such a phenomenal time doing it; the book is long, and yet not a great deal seems to happen. When I'd finished, I looked back and wondered quite where all my time had gone. A deeply frustrating book by his usual standards, Hamilton seems to have discarded better ideas to produce something self-indulgent, something that's ultimately a waste of his talent, and both his, and your, time.

(No longer!) Perpetually broke pilot for Fidelas Constans. Send me an ingame mail if there's a book you think I should review.