Cookie Warning

Warning: This blog may contain cookies. Just as cookies fresh out of the oven may burn your mouth, electronic cookies can harm your computer. Visit all kitchens and blogs (yes, including this one) with care.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Peter F. Hamilton: The Reality Dysfunction

Prepare yourself for The Reality Disfunction.

Given my love of “Star Wars,” it seemed only natural that I would also fall in love with Peter F. Hamilton’s novel The Reality Dysfunction.  It embodies the finest traditions of Space Opera, and features interstellar conflicts involving not only humanity, but all the alien races they have come in contact with.  And it comes with a unique ingredient that I’ll get into later.  But the story begins, fittingly enough, with a space battle.

With the discovery of 387 Dorados, both Garissa and Omuta rush to claim them.  Each planet intends to exploit the large asteroids’ high metal content for their industries.  Instead of deciding the matter in a courtroom, the disagreement spills over into space.  So-called accidents evolve into skirmishes, and then into downright attacks.  Then Omuta deployed an antimatter bomb against a Garissan asteroid settlement.  The explosion killed 56,000 Garissans, and left the 18,000 survivors in intensive care.  Suddenly, it became clear to the Garissan government: the next attack would be planetary bombardment.  So they set out to end the threat to their homeworld by building a superweapon.

In the first chapter, Dr. Alkad Mzu travels aboard the Beezling.  The attack cruiser is loaded with her very own creation: the Alchemist, a device that can destroy Omuta’s sun.  But before they can deploy it, the Omutan Navy sends several Blackhawks (sentient space creatures that humans can utilize like spaceships) that damage the Beezling and destroy her support ships.   Six months later, Omutan ships drop fifteen planet-buster bombs on the Garissan homeworld, destroying the planet’s ecosystem, and killing most of its 95 million inhabitants.  

But there’s more to The Reality Dysfunction than the battle between the Beezling and the voidhawks, just as there's much more at stake in "Star Wars" than the capture of the Rebel Blockade Runner by the Imperial Star Destroyer at the beginning of the film.  Consider, for example, the planet Lalonde, which the Confederation has recently opened up for settlement.  People move there for a variety of reasons.  Global Warming has destroyed Earth’s climate, and the humans can only survive on their home planet inside crowded domes.  Some of Earth's billions yearn for a simpler life, a small town existence.  Some wish to plant crops and raise animals.  Still others want to get away from an ever-pervasive technology and culture, and teach the next generation the values they hold most dear.  Criminals may choose to travel there as indentured servants, and work off their debt to society by helping the settlers build their communities. And then there are those who aren’t supposed to be there: rebels and outcasts who also travel to worlds like Lalonde because the frontier offers them innumerable places to hide, to regroup, and forge new beginnings.

This is also The Reality Dysfunction.

This may sound like the typical dramas, wars, and societal differences, both human and alien, that underpin your typical Space Opera, but Hamilton does more in the novel than merely contrast philosophical and cultural outlooks.  To this rich mix of characters, plots, and themes, he adds one additional element: the destiny of the human soul.  An alien species called the Ly-cilph inhabits a moon orbiting a super gas giant, a planet many times larger than Jupiter.  As the species mutates and changes, something happens which translates it into another dimension.  Unlike the wormholes created by spaceships and Blackhawks, which allow them to travel vast interstellar distances, this event causes a rip in the fabric of the universe.  This allows departed human souls to flood back into our realm, where they take over the bodies of the living.  The possessed enjoy fantastic powers to transform matter, such as the shape and appearance of their bodies.  They also wield energistic power that can overwhelm most conventional weaponry.  Killing the possessed presents a perplexing dilemma.  For every one you kill, you free two souls to possess more of the living.

In The Reality Dysfunction, Peter F. Hamilton introduces us to a large cast of heroes and villains, some of whom are living, and others who possess the bodies of others.  In the worlds of the Confederation, he suggests the infinite and varied ways in which human society may evolve and mature.  He offers up interstellar and planetary wars that would reduce George Lucas, the director and creator of “Star Wars,” to tears.  And he presents us with conundrums that lie at the heart of human existence. 

Ask yourself these questions.  What if destroying the body proved insufficient to halt the actions of our most hardened criminals?  What if armed conflict proved incapable of resolving the thorniest conflicts that fester within and between societies?  Those factors being the case, what might we do to preserve our values, our cherished way of life?  And what kind of people would we have to become?

Yeah, you're right.  Such questions boggle the mind, don't they?  No wonder they call it Space Opera.

Dragon Dave

No comments:

Post a Comment