Wednesday 2 January 2013

Great North Road - Peter F. Hamilton

Title: Great North Road
Author: Peter F. Hamilton
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2012
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

“Great North Road” follows the usual Peter F. Hamilton format of being absolutely massive in length with it coming in at just above 1,000 pages. The story itself however is set in a 22nd Century Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and initially kicks off like a futuristic police procedural with the reader following Detective Sid Hurst as he begins to investigate a brutal murder of a rich clone. However, as the investigation progresses it becomes clear that the murder is similar to one committed 20 years ago that occurred on another planet named St. Libra. Angela Tramelo, the woman convicted of the previous murder has been in jail for all those years but always maintained that the deaths had actually been caused by a violent and dangerous alien. Now, with the crime in Newcastle perhaps proving that her story may have been correct, she is released in order to help an exploration team try to track down the creature on the very world where the first murder took place.

The novel really is an amalgamation of various storylines coming together to create a mysterious and enjoyable drama. The two main plotlines are of course the murder-mystery investigation in Newcastle and the adventurous survival drama in the jungles of far off St. Libra. However, there are plenty of other smaller storylines woven around this which are used to link in with various flashbacks to ensure the full truth is kept hidden right up until the end. This jumping between differing time periods and characters can of course be a little off putting at times but I think it helped to enhance my enjoyment of the story as I was always trying to deduce what was really going on.

I found the main characters to be fantastic and well developed although I did find of the supporting characters to be a bit surplus to requirements at times. In regards to the main characters, Sid is a flawed but hard working cop whose heart is in the right place and you can’t help but hope he will find a way to solve what appears to be an impossible case. Angela however is the real gem within the story and her past is full of secrets, betrayal, intrigue and revenge that go way beyond the murder she was convicted of. She was used really well to provide a wonderful insight into the world that Hamilton has constructed.

There were also some nice touches in regards to the local Newcastle dialect that Hamilton used within the book such as the way several people were referring to each other as “pet”. However, I will admit that the constant use did begin to irritate me after a while as it almost became like a stereotype that Hamilton was using just to emphasise that his story was set in Newcastle. Overall though it was still nice to see a novel set a story in a city like Newcastle rather than just utilising the standard of London, New York, etc.

The main issue I did have with the novel though is the length and I am just glad it was an ebook version I was reading and not the hardback as I suspect my arms may have fallen off if I had to lift that up every evening. In all seriousness though, Hamilton could easily have removed a fair portion of the police investigation which was presented to the reader in stunningly high detail. I do understand that police work can be full of various monotonous and tedious elements but filling a book up with them doesn’t really lead to the reader being entertained. I suspect a fair few Science Fiction readers may find the earlier elements of the story to be a bit of a chore which could be a shame if it makes them give up on what does turn into a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Overall, this is another stunning Science Fiction novel from one of Britain’s best Science Fiction authors that should appeal to most of his fans. The length is definitely an issue and it can at times feel a bit monotonous but the ambition, ultimate conclusions and new universe that Hamilton has created are quite simply brilliant to behold.


  1. My husband loves police procedurals, and I am always trying to push him more into science fiction, so maybe I will try this one on him.

    I first encountered the name "Great North Road" in a Lord Peter Wimsey story. I always thought it was the most romantic name for a road I ever heard of, except possibly for El Camino Real (The King's Highway). But I would never have thought of using a name set so firmly in the past in a science fiction title. Does the title actually relate to the story?

  2. @Carmen Webster Buxton

    Your husband may enjoy it but the length is probably the biggest issue it may cause with someone using it as a way to "bridge the gap".

    As for the title, it relates to the fact that a rich family known as the North's set up an interstellar wormhole in Newcastle which of course is the road to the new world of St. Libra. At least, that is how I interpreted the title after I started reading the book.