Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Great North Road

Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton
Random House, 1/1/2013
Hardcover, 976 pages
ISBN-13: 9780345526663


New York Times bestselling author Peter F. Hamilton’s riveting new thriller combines the nail-biting suspense of a serial-killer investigation with clear-eyed scientific and social extrapolation to create a future that seems not merely plausible but inevitable.

A century from now, thanks to a technology allowing instantaneous travel across light-years, humanity has solved its energy shortages, cleaned up the environment, and created far-flung colony worlds. The keys to this empire belong to the powerful North family—composed of successive generations of clones. Yet these clones are not identical. For one thing, genetic errors have crept in with each generation. For another, the original three clone “brothers” have gone their separate ways, and the branches of the family are now friendly rivals more than allies.

Or maybe not so friendly. At least that’s what the murder of a North clone in the English city of Newcastle suggests to Detective Sidney Hurst. Sid is a solid investigator who’d like nothing better than to hand off this hot potato of a case. The way he figures it, whether he solves the crime or not, he’ll make enough enemies to ruin his career.

Yet Sid’s case is about to take an unexpected turn: because the circumstances of the murder bear an uncanny resemblance to a killing that took place years ago on the planet St. Libra, where a North clone and his entire household were slaughtered in cold blood. The convicted slayer, Angela Tramelo, has always claimed her innocence. And now it seems she may have been right. Because only the St. Libra killer could have committed the Newcastle crime.

Problem is, Angela also claims that the murderer was an alien monster.

Now Sid must navigate through a Byzantine minefield of competing interests within the police department and the world’s political and economic elite . . . all the while hunting down a brutal killer poised to strike again. And on St. Libra, Angela, newly released from prison, joins a mission to hunt down the elusive alien, only to learn that the line between hunter and hunted is a thin one.

My Thoughts:

Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton begins as a murder mystery set in the future and soon becomes much more. It is 2143 and a member of the very wealthy and very cloned North family turns up dead in the river at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in northeast England. Police detective Sidney Hurst is on the case with a crew of help from the police as well as other very powerful people. It is apparent that the murder may be related to another murder in the North family from twenty years ago on the planet St. Libra. The only witness/survivor/convicted murderer from that mass murder was Angela Tramelo, who has been in prison since then. Angela always claimed that she was innocent - and that an alien monster was responsible for the horrific crime. Now it seems that she may have been telling the truth and the real murderer is an alien monster that is still on the loose, but now in Newcastle. Angela is released in order to join a mission to hunt down the monster.
That synopsis doesn't quite do Great North Road  justice, but this is one huge space opera combined with an intense murder mystery and alien-contact thriller. All the plots and sub-plots are neatly tied together in the end. The world building itself is exemplary, with plentiful details and descriptions. The main characters are very nicely developed both in personality and backgrounds. Once you get caught up in the story you might begin to forget exactly how long it is (especially if you are reading it on an e-reader. I began to wonder early on what was up when it seemed my Kindle was on 20% forever... then I looked up the actually length of the novel.
At nearly 1000 pages, there are places where Great North Road could have been edited; perhaps some of the details of the investigation could have been tightened up. It becomes apparent that, thankfully due to the length, that there were sections of the novel that I could read quickly in order to get back to some more exciting action. Since it is so long, you might have to throw out the 50 page rule if the opening murder investigation doesn't capture your attention. Try to read quickly along and get to when Angela is introduced. That's when the story really takes off. Not to say that I didn't enjoy the rest of it, but I can see where a reader might begin to wonder where the investigation is going. Don't worry - it goes places. If you enjoy murder mysteries and science fiction then you likely will not have a problem getting absorbed into the details of the narrative

Very Highly Recommended - but know that it will require a time investment
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House and Netgalley for review purposes.


Sunday January 13, 2143
As midnight approached, the wild neon colors of the borealis storm came shimmering through the soft snow falling gently across Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. It was as if nature were partying along with the rest of the city, providing a jade-and-carmine light show far more elegant than any of the fireworks that had been bursting sporadically above the rooftops since Friday. Detective Third Grade Sidney Hurst watched batches of late-night revelers staggering along the frozen pavement, calling out greetings or challenges depending on how toxed up they were. Location 310-315 
Temperature didn’t affect the ring of smartcells around his iris that shone minuscule laser pulses down his optic nerves, overlaying the street with sharp display graphics, correlating what he looked at with coordinate locations for the visual log he was running. As per protocol, Sid’s bodymesh—the interconnective network produced by all his smartcells—quested a link with Ian, making sure they remained in contact. Ian was represented by a small purple icon at the corner of his sight. The bodymesh also downloaded the visual log through the car’s cell and into the police network. Location 364-369
The man’s frozen-white body was naked. Which wasn’t the bad thing. The nasty and unusual deep wound just above his heart wasn’t the career-killer, either. No, the one thing that jumped out at Sid was the victim’s identity. He was a North. That meant there would have to be a trial. One that ended with an utterly solid—beyond legal and media doubt—conviction. Fast. Once upon a time—131 years ago to be precise—there were three brothers. They were triplets. Born to separate mothers. Perfect clones of their incredibly wealthy father, Kane North. He named them Augustine, Bartram, and Constantine. Location 544-549 

“More than ripped, actually. Looks like they extracted the smartcells, too.”
“Aye, man. That’ll be a pro hit, then,” Ian said.
“Yeah. Turn his hands over please,” he asked the divers with their rubber gloves. The skin on the tip of every white frozen finger was missing. Somebody was trying to make identification difficult, which might make sense for a normal crime victim, but a North …? “Okay,” Sid said abruptly. “Get the examiner down here to clear and retrieve the body. I’m now officially reclassifying this case as a one-oh-one. All records to be backed up and forwarded to my case file.” Location 583-588
“A body has been found in the river. There’s a nasty puncture wound on the chest. I suspect smartcell extraction, too.”
“I see.”
 “Sir, our preliminary identification is a North.”
This time the silence really stretched out as grains of snow kissed Sid’s nose and cheeks. “Repeat please.”
“It’s a North clone, sir. We’re at the Millennium Bridge. The examiner’s clearing the body to be brought ashore now. In addition, I have four agency constables with me on scene, two divers and Captain Foy on the boat. The two civilians who found the body are having their statements taken.”
“I want a lockdown on the area right away. Everyone on scene is to be taken up to Market Street station immediately. No external communication, understood?” Location 611-619
“The HDA is taking over for one simple reason,” Elston said. “The murder method, or to be precise the instrument used to shred the victim’s heart.”
“But … we don’t even know what the hell it is yet,” Sid protested.
“That’s exactly what makes this so special. You see, the murder method has actually been employed once before.” Location 1598-1601

The recording started to play. Angela was struggling against the hold the guards had her in, shouting furiously. The camera zoomed in on her beautiful face as it contorted with rage. “No!” she shrieked. “No no no, I didn’t kill anybody. Why won’t you listen, you stupid f*cks. Listen to me! The alien did it. The monster. Do you understand? It ripped them apart. I swear it—” The image froze again, catching Angela’s mouth open, spittle flying.
“She repeats that same claim for five minutes while she’s dragged out,” Vance said. “In fact, she never stopped claiming it.”
An alien monster?” Ian asked quietly.
“That’s what she said. That was her entire defense. Location 1745-1752

He didn’t like the amount of hostility and skepticism building in the office. The team had arrived expecting to be shat on by a grubby little political appointee, courtesy of the Norths; not be totally screwed by a paranoid spook who believed they were facing an alien Armageddon. Location 1808-1810
In fact she was starting to feel angry that they were here, angry that in this day and age old men still coveted and exploited young girls as they always had, that there hadn’t been any social progress since Roman times, how actually opening up new worlds had been a backward step because so much was now beyond the reach of true civilization and accountability. And as they always did, the Norths took the whole scene with girls to its extreme, because they could, because excess defined them, because unaccountability was their god. Location 5697-5701

The Lord’s universe was a lot bigger than the human soul was comfortable with. Music started playing. Location 7792-7793

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