Salvation (The Salvation Sequence book 1) by Peter F. Hamilton (book review).

September 12, 2019 | By | Reply More

‘Salvation’ by Peter F. Hamilton is the first book in an alien inclusive space opera trilogy, where the mode of space travel based on quantum spatial entanglement and the all too human need to extend healthy lives drives humanity and the story in interesting ways.

The Neána aliens travelling through interstellar space pick up signals of an emerging intelligent race: us. Our progress is so aggressively fast that it stops them from fully helping us like they would normally do. Instead, they send four human-like ‘biologics’ who are carefully shielded from knowing where their home base is to infiltrate our society, their purpose only becoming clear towards the end of the novel.

The humans’ space travel method is to use portals to instantaneously go from place to another, but first people have to reach the destination to set up the arrival portal. This means using sub-light-speed ships to first reach neighbouring stars and it is one such that finds a crashed alien artefact on Nkya in the Beta Eridani star system. The Alpha Defence alien contact protocol is activated and an expedition of eight people are taken to the quarantined spaceship to assess the aliens’ likely intentions towards humans.

Feriton Kayne leads the expedition and has secondary mission to discover which of the other seven is an alien in a human body. He is sure one of them has poisoned the humans’ attitude to the friendly alien Olyix race who have already given humans valuable biological Kcells to extend their lives. While travelling to the alien artefact in the old-fashioned very slow way, he encourages them to tell their stories that give him explanations for anomalies in their pasts and allows him to eliminate some of the suspects. The surprising denouement comes after they explore the alien spaceship.

A second thread story is set in the far future where a class of biologically modified children are learning to fight the enemy that has sent humans into hiding. Each child has a group of ‘muncs’ based on the Neána biologics technology that they learn to control by subtle minute signals. The children form teams where the girls are the clever tacticians and strategists giving the orders to the boys doing the fighting. Their story is about how they grow up, what strengths they will bring to the forthcoming battle and what price they have to pay. This far future highlights the reliance on the attributes that those in the expedition to the alien artefact had to rely on to discover the truth.

This novel has all the hallmarks of a space opera romp through the ages. It has some wonderful worlds (yes plural) building and some of the main characters are very human and believable.

However, I found the varied pace of the story irritating. On the one hand we were taken through Callum Hepburn’s techno-thriller story at a steady build up the tension pace and, on the other, we were rushed through the complex crime scene of Alik Monday’s story. This crime scene was in a portal-linked home spread over New York, the Moon, Mars, Ganymede, Beijing, Paris, a tropical isle in the Indian Ocean, a luxury liner and the Antarctic and included 8 bodies killed by varying means over 19 pages, which makes an average of one scene and one body per 2 and a bit pages.

The ending of the near future thread had only a partial lead up to it. We ended up having some new important information to justify the actions of one the characters, which left me with the bad deus ex machine aftertaste.

In my view, the far future thread failed to find a sufficiently robust anchor in the near future thread to justify its place in the novel. It is an interesting story in itself though not as dramatic and a worthwhile read in its own right.

Despite these gremlins, this is a tour de force of imagination, credible world history development and coherence across complex story arcs that only a master of Science Fiction can produce. A darned interesting novel that makes me want to read the sequel.

Rosie Oliver

September 2019

(pub: Del Rey/Random House, 2018. 565 page hardback. Price: $30.00 (UK), $40.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-399-17876-4)

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