Doorstopper—not that Hamilton writes anything else—first entry of a new two-book saga set in his popular Commonwealth universe (The Evolutionary Void, 2010, etc.).
The Void, an enigmatic space-time construct at the core of the galaxy, is difficult to penetrate and—apparently—impossible to escape from. Worse, at any moment it may expand uncontrollably and swallow all life in the galaxy. The Void’s boundaries are guarded by the elephantlike Raiel in a million-year-long vigil. In the year 3326, Nigel Sheldon, 1,000 years old and one of the founders of the Commonwealth, receives a visit from Vallar, a Raiel, who persuades him to help develop a scheme to infiltrate the Void. The only knowledge of conditions inside the Void comes from the Dreamer, Edeard of planet Querencia, who unfortunately is dead. Once the Raiel punch Nigel through into the Void, a Skylord, one of a space-going alien race that act as conductors of souls inside the Void, leads him to Bienvenido, a planet whose human civilization derives from a colony expedition that vanished from the Commonwealth 200 years ago. He learns several crucial facts: Here in the Void, mental powers such as telepathy work, a limited form of time travel is possible, and the planet suffers relentless assaults from the Fallers, a cannibalistic alien species of biological mimics. In order to test his theories of how the Void might be destroyed, Nigel needs to learn what the locals know. Unfortunately, their civilization is corrupt, sclerotic, totalitarian and, understandably, paranoid about the Faller threat. The characters, always Hamilton’s strength, remain as distinctive as ever, even when the book’s taken over by what at first glance seems only a subplot. And even when the ideas are shaky, there’s always the time-travel gimmick to iron out any wrinkles.
Solidly engrossing fare for the series’ faithful.