Peter F. Hamilton’s _Night’s Dawn_ trilogy has been likened in epic scope to fictional universes like Frank Herbert’s Dune and Dan Simmons’ Hyperion. And in terms of size, the universe that Hamilton has built in this series is huge. ((It’s so big that the three books had to be further subdivided into six volumes.))
In terms of pace, I would liken this series to a chess game. In chess you have the opening game, which is slow but sets the tone and development for everything that is to follow. Then you have the middle game, where the pieces are set in their places and begin to make their moves toward specific objectives in order to set up a crushing endgame. And of course, then comes the endgame, where everything reaches the climax and the game is resolved, for better or worse.
Hamilton’s opening 2-volume novel, broken down into The Reality Dysfunction Part I: Emergence and The Reality Dysfunction Part 2: Expansion, introduces many of the pivotal characters in this series (though not, by any stretch of the imagination, all of them). We pay witness to a humanity that has spread throughout over 800 planets across the galaxy. There is also a group of humans who have branched off from the main body of humanity and have embraced biotechnology to become the Edenist culture. They dwell in living habitats, each of which has its own personality.
In these two volumes, humanity is forced, through a chance accident, to face the fact that each human being has an immortal as the souls of billions of those who have died begin to invade and possess the bodies of the living. The possessed spread like wildfire and begin taking entire planets out of the universe. Humanity is faced with a crisis, though none yet know just how dire the situation actually is.
In The Neutronium Alchemist Part 1: Consolidation and The Neutronium Alchemist Part 2: Conflict, humanity and the possessed alike rush headlong in search of a rumored doomsday weapon. The possessed want to use it against the humans, and the humans simply wish to destroy it. All the while, the possessed gain a stronger foothold and one possessed in particular wishes to bring about the complete destruction of all – human and possessed alike – for the sake of his bloodthirsty lord.
Meanwhile, the records of one alien race make mention of an all-powerful entity that may provide the solution to the possession crisis, and a handful of individuals gather together in preparation to seek out this god. Events heat up and the action starts to kick into high gear in Part 2 of The Neutronium Alchemist.
The last book in the trilogy, The Naked God Part 1: Flight – Part 1 and The Naked God Part 2: Faith, proves to be the most exciting and breakneck book of the three. A small bands of non-possessed humans go in search of the Tyrathca god, hoping that it will be able to shed some enlightenment or help on the crisis. In the meantime, the rest of humanity wages war against the possessed, at great cost to both sides.
The back cover of The Naked God Part 2 provides a hint to the conclusion of this series: deus ex machina. Joshua Calvert and company find a being powerful enough to provide resolution to the crisis, giving humanity a reprieve from the possessed and sending the lost souls on into what afterlife awaits. _Deus ex machina_ is appropriate both in the literary mechanic of a being that provides a solution to an insoluble difficulty as well as in the literal translation, _god from the machine_ – in this case, god _is_ the machine and provides the only solution that will save humanity from utter destruction.
This trilogy requires some patience to read through. As stated above, it starts out rather slowly as Hamilton introduces multiple story arcs and develops the backstory for each of his main characters. The plot trudges along for the book three volumes and doesn’t really start to really get rolling until the beginning of _The Naked God_. But then, the ending is so breathtaking that it makes the long wait well worth it, as Hamilton piles more action, intensity, and plot twists into that last book than in the first two combined. If you can hold on through that first half, you will greatly enjoy the series as a whole.
Hamilton’s universe is a fascinating one of technology and cultures, as several alien races interact with one another and with humanity. It is a broad, comprehensive look at a possible future, dire in its predictions yet hopeful in its conclusions. This series has seemingly religious undertones to it at points, but ultimately, nearly every facet of the story is explained in some sort of scientific terms. The hard sci-fi adherent will probably take Hamilton to task for some his creative liberties, but for the sci-fi fan who simply desires good fiction, this trilogy comes well-recommended. ((I still think Hamilton wrote too much sex into the books, though nothing overly graphic, but that’s almost par for the course with science fiction.))