Last week I finished Peter Hamilton’s Fallen Dragon. It’s a fun read, although it’s not as ambitious (or as successful) as his Night’s Dawn trilogy, and it’s not a start of a new trilogy (I don’t think) like Pandora’s Star (not as promising as P’s Star, either).
It’s especially fun because of the way the future military/corporate/imperialist forces work in the book as an echo of what’s going on now. The book was written, it seems, just as (or before) our occupation of Iraq was getting started, so the echo may not be directly intended, but that occupation is far from unique, and it’s obvious that Hamilton had exactly the kind of contemporary imperialism we’re practicing in mind when he wrote the book. In Fallen Dragon, hugely powerful multi-national corporations own colonies, most of which they obtain by assuming the debts incurred by other corporations. And when they own a colony, they expect a return…so the way they get it is to send in a military force to invade, occupy, and loot. Then they go away and come back a decade or so later to loot some more. They’re essentially pirates, and they act like pirates, and they excuse their piracy with very blatant commercial/economic reasoning.
Of course, because it’s Hamilton, there’s also quite a bit of pseudo-spiritual deus ex machina wonder-working. But that’s OK, since (also because it’s Hamilton) the engineering and scientific explanations work quite plausibly, and the violence is fast and furious, and the gadgetry (especially the “skin”–the best powered armor for military uses since Starship Troopers) works to full effect.
And the characters are (mostly) believable and worth following. This is primarily important in the case of the protagonist. He’s an occupier, an invader, a pirate–but with morals. We get to see (many flashbacks) why he is who he is, and how (like, I’m sure, Americans in Iraq) he’s not a pirate, not a villain, in his own mind (although many of his superiors are). Hamilton’s clearly got a lot to say. The religious/philosophical/spiritual side of that was clear in Night’s Dawn, and here we see the political, too.