08 October 2016

BOOK REVIEW: A Second Chance At Eden by Peter F. Hamilton

A Second Chance at EdenA Second Chance at Eden by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the author of the bestselling 'Night's Dawn' trilogy, a novella and six stories set in the same brilliantly realized universe.

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A truly superb collection of shorter works from an equally superb author. This is one of those books which took me a long time to getting round to reading. It's been literally sitting on my bookshelf alongside my other Peter F Hamilton volumes for a couple of years. Each story adds a little extra to the awesome spectacle that is the Night's Dawn trilogy, whether it's to further explain a particular facet of the Confederation universe, or to give background to a certain plot element. I was forced by circumstance to read this compilation in a rather start-stop fashion, but this proved to be no problem due to the quality of the stories, and I was always eager to get back to it. Any fan of Hamilton and/or the Confederation universe will totally adore this, and I reckon it could be read with no problem at all by a reader with no previous experience of the series or the author. The Confederation universe is a masterful science fiction creation that will go down in sci-fi literary history as one of the best (well it should do!) and this collection is integral and wonderfully complimentary to it. I hugely recommend it.

Following are my thoughts and rating of each story:

Sonnie's Edge:
I didn't think that I'd enjoy this one as much as I did, it's exactly what I like which is a simple and engaging story. It's about a genetically-spliced girl involved in the gruesome blood sport of "beastie-baiting", fighting soulless biologically engineered creatures in front of baying crowds. It's introduces and describes the biological technology (bitek) and "affinity" bonds that play a huge part in the Confederation Universe and Night's Dawn trilogy stories. It's a tad brutal, for sure, but fun and interesting with a cool ending. [4/5]

A Second Chance At Eden:

The main novella length story in this collection is classic PFH, a whodunnit murder mystery told in the first person from the perspective of a policeman/security chief who has just arrived at the awe-inspiring 10km long living space habitat Eden which orbits Jupiter. This habitat, as well as couple of others being developed nearby, has been seeded and grown from a special type of bitek polyp analogous to coral, and is essentially a huge living organism.Eden is home to a burgeoning society of industrial and philosophical idealists who are relishing life away from Earth's restrictions and prejudices. Eden can be communicated with via "affinity" bonds, and affinity is introduced in some detail in this story. As the story progresses we see how this is central to what will eventually become the "Edenist" society of the Confederation Universe novels.Throughout the story, there are subtle and not so subtle attacks on current established religious thought and practice which are also present in the Night's Dawn novels, and make me wonder about PFH's motivations in this regard. Does he have a particular dislike for religion, with an axe to grind with religious institutions, Christianity in particular? Whatever the case, this does add depth to the story which is as much about philosophical ideas as it is about technological and biological advances.The story itself is an easy read and kept me interested the whole way through, because of both the great story line and also the world building aspect of the bitek habitats and Edenist society. It's a crucial read for fans of the Confederation Universe. [5/5]

New Days Old Times:

There's a definite darkness that hovers over the events of the Confederation universe stories, and this shows this with a tale that will sound all to familiar to most. It shows that human self-imposed boundaries and prejudices have no barrier in the vastness of space. Set on the planet Nyvan, seventeen light-years from Earth which is part of a rapidly expanding human expansion outward to numerous colony planets. While most of these colonies were begun with noble intentions, it appears that those prejudices eventually rise to the surface. Again, this story pokes an accusing finger at faith institutions and spiritual belief which is a hallmark of this collection and the Night's Dawn series as a whole. A sobering short story that introduces us to another facet of the Confederation universe along with more information in a world-building sense that I enjoyed in one sitting. [4/5]

Candy Buds:

I had a little trouble getting my head around this one at times, but it's a fine enough story and easy to get into. I needed to re-read portions to fully grasp the twist at the end. If I had any advice for someone who is about to read this story, that would be to pay extra close attention to the details or you may miss things as I did. Again, there are some really cool depictions of affinity bonds and also of Confederation colony world society. Not a favorite of mine, it lacked the "bigness" that I like in scifi but it's typically well written and the plot good enough to keep me on the hook. [3/5]


Very good and very engaging story in which we closely follow a man on a quest driven by emotion to slay an unusual alien creature with which he appears to share a sort of connection. It's set on a world which has not quite lived up to expectations for the man, and this adds to his disillusionment and fanatical devotion to his goal. A story that moves along at a good rate, and has a very intense ending. [4/5]

The Lives and Loves of Tiarella Rosa:

One of my definite favorites of this collection, which I'm actually surprised about, but most of the sci-fi boxes are ticked for me somewhere along the way in this story. Essentially a tale of a man on the run from his former employers, who arrives on a planet to hide and ends up living with the unusual woman Tiarella and her daughter on an idyllic island. The story that follows is quite an interesting one, in that things are being manipulated toward certain ends. There's plenty of bitek and affinity stuff in these pages and it's a very good expose of a typical Confederation society, which makes it a great part of this collection. [5/5]

Escape Route:

An excellent story, again ticking most of the sci-fi boxes. The Lady Macbeth and her crew are central elements of the Night's Dawn trilogy and here we're introduced to them in a great yarn. Her captain and crew are hired to head out to a remote system to recover minerals from a debris field, but all is not as it seems (as you'd expect). While prospecting, they discover a derelict alien vessel which turns out to be ancient, and inside is some interesting technology. This changes the stakes entirely. The story also gives us a possible clue to the background of the Sleeping God and the methods employed in the epic conclusion of the Night's Dawn trilogy. A well-paced story that was for me the the easiest read of this collection, the balance of character, plot and action is spot on for my tastes. [5/5]

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