Saturday 3 December 2011

Manhattan in Reverse - Peter F. Hamilton

Title: Manhattan in Reverse
Author: Peter F. Hamilton
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2011
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

I will admit straight away that I love Peter Hamilton; I think the Epic Space Opera he creates is superb and I am always quick to try and pick up his books. So, when "Manhattan in Reverse" was released I made sure that it was right at the top of my reading pile. This is a collection of some of his short stories and as I haven't actually read any of his short stories before I was really looking forward to seeing what he could do in this format, especially considering he is an author who normally writes massive door stop style novels.

In regards to the stories, the first one called "Watching Trees Grow" is actually the longest. I found it rather interesting in that it traced a murder investigation across several centuries in an alternate version of Earth. Basically, in this world, the Romans never lost their empire and therefore technology continued to develop at a much faster pace than reality. As the years pass we follow the investigator utilise new technologies as they appear to ensure that the perpetrator of the murder is finally brought to justice.

The second story is "Footvote" which was quite a quick read, especially compared to the previous story, "Watching Trees Grow". It takes a slightly satirical look at the contemporary politics of the UK which did bring a little bit of a smile to my face at times. The story itself looks at how the Britain copes with a wormhole to a new planet being opened. The wormhole's creator has allowed a short period for people to immigrate and has implemented stringent regulations on who can and can't actually pass through. I did find it to be one of the more limited stories in the collection though, mainly due to the fact that the ending is based around a rather chance encounter. Either way though, out of everything in this collection, I think this is the story that I would most like to see expanded out into a full novel as there is a great basis here.

Following this we have "If at first..." which was probably my favorite story in the collection outside those that were based on the author's Commonwealth Universe. This is a rather amusing story in which we follow a Detective who accidentally ends up chasing a time traveler back in time, where he then tweaks history for his own benefit. Of course, this doesn't go as well as he hopes which leads on to an ending that I found to be rather clever and well fitted to the story.

"The Forever Kitten" is the forth story in the collection and it is incredibly short at only 1000 words long. It basically deals with the quest for 'forever youth' and involves a rather disturbing finale that I could see coming even though I hoped I would be wrong.

The next story in the collection is the first of those set in the Commonwealth Universe and it is a nice little story detailing some of the history of Inigo who was a character in the Void Trilogy. I would say that it doesn't really tell the reader much more than you would actually learn in the Void Trilogy but it was nice to see the Inigo's history fleshed out a little. It does still work as a standalone story but I think it is something that will really appeal more to those who have read the trilogy.

The final two stories in the collections follow another character from the Commonwealth Universe, namely Investigator Paula Myo who is the scourge of criminals everywhere. I will admit that I always found her to be an intriguing and enjoyable character to follow so these were probably the stories I was really looking forward to.

The first of these is "The Demon Trap" which is set prior to the events of "Pandora's Star" and follows Paula as she investigates the terrorist activities being conducted by a group trying to enable a planet to become Independent. The story really brings out how relentless Paula is in ensuring that justice is done and I really enjoyed the political intrigue that was brought out during the investigation. This was probably my favorite story in the entire collection, but this may have been biased by the fact that I am aware of aspects of Peter's other works which really enhance the enjoyment of this story.

The final story is "Manhattan in Reverse" which is a new story created for this collection and is set after the events of the Starflyer War in "Judas Unchained". However, I do not think having read the other books really makes any difference to this story as it is very standalone with only a few references to the other novels. In this story we follow Paula and she travels to another planet to investigate why a supposedly non sentient alien species has started attacking colonists. The story itself is rather enjoyable although I am not sure Paula really adds much to this story really and I think the real stars of the show are the alien creatures themselves.

Overall, I have to say that this is an enjoyable and varied collection of thought-provoking stories that showcase many of Hamilton's strengths and skill as an author. It does show that if he puts his mind to it he can create focused and intimate short stories that still capture some of the grand ideas he infuses into his larger novels. The one weakness is minor and it is that to really appreciate some of these stories you need to be aware of the other novels Hamilton has written. I think newcomers to his work probably won't gain the same level of enjoyment and interest from the stories as longer time fans may do. So, in conclusion I would say that any current fan of Peter Hamilton's works will probably love this collection, but there are probably better books for someone new to his writing to start with.


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