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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Peter F. Hamilton on Life, Death, & Purgatory

As an example of the kind of people you’ll meet in Peter F. Hamilton’s novel The Reality Dysfunction, allow me to introduce you to Joshua Calvert.  He’s a typical Adamist in the twenty-sixth century, only he’s more fortunate than most.  He has a knack for finding things of value, which proves useful as he spends his days scavenging for Laymil artifacts in the Ruin Ring that surrounds the gas giant Mirchusko.  His geneered physique has adapted him to life in space, and with retinal implants and neural nanonics, he can study objects a great distance away, save what he sees, and datavise his spaceplane to compare the images in his brain to those in the onboard computer. 

One day he makes the discovery of a lifetime: a module stack of Laymil circuitry that contains five times more memory crystals than all those scavenged from the Ruin Ring in the century-and-a-half since its discovery.  He takes his find back to Tranquility, a custom-grown habitat that orbits Mirchusko, where the proceeds from the auction sale make him rich.  Rather than spend his life in luxury, he invests the funds in refurbishing his father’s old spaceship, the Lady Macbeth.  He envisions a life of discovery and interstellar trading.  Little does he suspect that he will soon be leading his vessel and crew into the war with the possessed souls invading our universe.

Now that you've met Joshua Calvert, allow me to introduce you to Ione Sandana.  She is the Lord of Ruin, the sovereign ruler of Tranquility.  Generations previously, the Kulu Kingdom excommunicated her family for integrating the Edenists’ bitek into their bodies.  Along with the Adamists' implants such as Joshua’s, she has an affinity gene, which bonds her to Tranquility’s consciousness.  She is not an Edenist—she isn’t in constant mental contact with the other inhabitants of Tranquility, nor can she benefit from communing with the habitat's previous residents.  But she is mind-mated to the sixty-five kilometer-long habitat, which means that, no matter how close she grows to any human, that relationship could never compare to the closeness she feels with Tranquility.  This poses a problem for Ione, as when she buys the Laymil artifact so that her researchers can discover why seventy thousand alien habitats suffered near-simultaneous destruction, she unexpectedly finds herself in a relationship with Joshua that transcends ordinary friendship.

In The Reality Dysfunction, Peter F. Hamilton explores human belief systems, and how embracing them differentiates us from others.  Adamists, such as Joshua and the Kulus, are defenders of the Christian Faith.  Edenists, who are linked with each other and their habitats, deny such concepts as Salvation, Divine Entities, and Human Souls.  They transfer their thoughts and personalities into the habitat consciousness when they die, and can exist as individuals in the multiplicity for as long as they wish, sharing thoughts and feelings with the living and the dead.  But regardless of one's conception of life after death, and the different ways they all live, everyone takes note when millions of souls pour into our universe and possess the bodies of the living.  An answer to the realities of the afterlife must be found.  For not only do the living wish to banish spirits of the deceased, but no one wants to end up in Purgatory.

I hope you enjoyed this brief introduction to Joshua and Ione, Adamism and Edenism, and Life, Death and Purgatory in the twenty-sixth century.  For Peter F. Hamilton’s story doesn’t end with The Reality Dysfunction, but continues in the accompanying volumes The Neutronium Alchemist and The Naked God.  Should you decide to take this voyage of discovery with Hamilton, know that you have opted for a long journey.  Pack adequate provisions, and plan your future carefully. Then sit back, and prepare to not just be entertained, but also to be required to think about what you read. 

Ultimately, that is what we seek from all great stories, is it not?  Surprise, delight, and enlightenment as to whom we are, how we live, and our place in the grand scheme of things. 

Dragon Dave

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