Mostly book reviews. Very rarely I'll allow William Campbell Powell (author) to write a blog entry on publishing activity, but he's under orders to keep that stuff over on his Facebook page and on http://williamcampbellpowell.com
I approach Peter F Hamilton's books with caution. They're just huge. I picked up the Neutronium Alchemist a long while back and still haven't read it because I realised it was volume 2 and I can't face reading volume 1 first.
But I did enjoy Great North Road, which is a rare standalone. So when I was browsing for my next audiobook I settled on this, which was a volume 1, but one which looked to be readable as a standalone too.
Good narration by Toby Longworth certainly helps. He gives the main protagonist a jaded, world-hardened tone that sets you firmly in a post-ice melt England. At first it felt like technology might have stumbled and fallen, but no. The technology is front and centre. Also prominent on stage is the tension between left-wing politics and high-tech industrial conglomerates.
The protagonist has augmented mental capabilities. Actually the book is teeming with significant characters with psi-glands and augmented brains. Thankfully there are antagonists to match, else it would all be a bit too easy, though the early part of the book does start to look like relentless success for a while.
PFH plays a lot with the world-history, picking up and dropping threads (and hints) about where the book will end up. The one thing I will say is that there weren't many red herrings, and if something looks like a throwaway line it probably isn't. As a result, most of the twists aren't too unexpected. It's like "count 'em out and count 'em back in again" - anything that you think PFH has left unresolved will eventually re-appear, to kick the narrative off in a new direction.
One of the brightest points of the book is Julia Evans, the teenage heiress of the industrial conglomerate. She's far better drawn than most teens in adult SF. She has a brain, and uses it. She's fallible, caring, ruthless, daring, wise, emotional and controlled. There's an airhead best friend and a doting male suitor, but when there are unmitigated villains battling for control of corporations and even countries, teenage manipulations can backfire badly.
My usual grumbles about elastic security. The good guys have great physical security and an overinflated opinion of their electronic security. The bad guys have awesome black hats on their side. Then the good guys team up with an even more awesome white hat. Bah!
It's a complex book, tackling some dark themes, and at times my attention did wane - but usually if I was already a bit sleepy or distracted. This book deserves your full attention.
I'd particularly commend this if you're a YA reader looking to try out mainstream SF and willing to tackle the complexity.