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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

The Neutronium Alchemist

The Neutronium Alchemist - Peter F. Hamilton I read the The Reality Dysfunction is out of the question. I considered reading up summaries in Wikipedia or some other web sites but then I decided to throw caution to the wind and just dive into this second book and see what happen. It is a testament to [a:Peter F. Hamilton|25375|Peter F. Hamilton|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1235123752p2/25375.jpg]'s writing skill that he manages to bring me back to speed without a prologue chapter that summarize what went on in the previous book. The little details and characters’ names gradually fell into place as I read on. Funny how the brain archives these details in some dusty storage places and they come out when the memory is jogged.

As with all the Peter F. Hamilton’s books that I have read so far The Neutronium Alchemist is a long book but a quick read. His prose is always clear, his pacing is good and never grind to a halt. Most of the main characters are fairly engaging and his “Confederation Universe” is always full of wonder. The only difficulty I tend to have is the large cast of characters, there are so many minor characters that I find it impossible to remember who they all are and whose side they are on. There is, however, a “Cast of Characters” appendix at the end of the book if you don’t mind jumping back and forth to that as you read. I personally could not be bothered so I just figure them out from the context of the chapters.

The Neutronium Alchemist of course continues where [b:The Reality Dysfunction|45245|The Reality Dysfunction (Night's Dawn, #1)|Peter F. Hamilton|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1331274659s/45245.jpg|747250] left off. In the first book we are introduced to the Confederation Universe and what happen when the souls of the dead start coming back to possess the living. Obviously that doesn’t sound very sci-fi, more like some ridiculous “exorcist in space” silliness you may get in an episode of Family Guy, but leave it to Hamilton to come up with some pseudo-science to make the concept somewhat believable within a sci-fi setting*. The major difference between this second volume and the previous one is that the return of the dead through possession is now and an established fact and the readers are spared the dull process of each character being skeptical to begin with until their jaws drop when the dead come calling. The struggle between the living and the dead was too uneven in the first book, in this one at least the living have found some way of coping but not defeating the enemy.

Characterization is also much more interesting in this book as many chapters are told from the possessed characters’ point of view, some of whom are even decent people. The usage of historical characters like Al Capone and Fletcher Christian as major characters also piles on the fun. Hamilton’s plotting skills is second to none, I cannot imagine how he manages to juggle all the numerous plot strands and gradually weave them into a cohesive story. He also has a great eye for minutiae, like this little scene from a possessed character’s view point: “Once he’d actually thrown up after transforming sachets of bread into chocolate gateau – he hadn't removed the foil wrapping first.”

The Neutronium Alchemist, like [b:The Reality Dysfunction|45245|The Reality Dysfunction (Night's Dawn, #1)|Peter F. Hamilton|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1331274659s/45245.jpg|747250] before it, is not a book to read for edification. It is just a fun romp. A book this length is bound to have themes you can glean from but why not just give yourself a well-earned break and just kick back and enjoy.

The final volume [b:The Naked God|45260|The Naked God (Night's Dawn, #3)|Peter F. Hamilton|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1316548289s/45260.jpg|1396625] is just as long as The Neutronium Alchemist. Damn you Peter F!
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*There is a good discussion of whether The Night Dawn Trilogy is science fiction or science fantasy here

Note: I intended to mention the phrase “massive epic space opera” somewhere in the review, but I can’t find a place to shoehorn it in so I’ll just stick it here.