First of a projected alien-contact trilogy from one of the leading purveyors (A Night Without Stars, 2016, etc.) of doorstopper space operas—although this one squeezes in at a positively emaciated 576 pages.
Early in the 23rd century, when a wrecked alien ship turns up on a remote planet, the all-powerful Connexion Corp, which provides instantaneous travel via quantum-entangled, step-through portals, organizes a team to investigate: security chief Feriton Kayne; Connexion bigwig Yuri Alster; Callum Hepburn, who works for the Utopials, an independent human civilization; Alik Monday, an FBI operative from Corporate Earth; and various assistants. What’s aboard the alien vessel proves both difficult to fathom and extremely unnerving. The actual investigation moves at glacial speed, though, interspersed as it is with backstories involving team members plus chapters in an independent thread set in the far future, where child soldiers train to meet a mysterious and all-conquering alien enemy. In the present, meanwhile, we hear about two sets of aliens. The nonhuman Olyix have stopped off at Earth to refuel on their endless voyage across the universe, where, at the end of time, they expect to meet their god; they seem benevolent, but not everyone agrees. The Neána, whom readers know about but none of the characters may, arrived secretly some years ago, grew some human bodies, and sent them out to do—what? So, readers will contend with a choppy narrative, obvious delays and sidebars, and long stretches that read like an editor’s advice to a first novelist on how not to introduce your characters or propel the storyline and veer dangerously close to dull. It’s a yarn, however, that packs a teeth-rattling wallop when it finally gets there.
Not altogether satisfying, but Hamilton expertly keeps his audience coming back for more.