Manhattan in Reverse by Peter F Hamilton
This is Peter F Hamilton’s second collection of short stories. This book contains seven stories that he has written since 1998. The shortest of these stories is very short under 1,000 words, with the longest Watching Trees Grow, which is around 25,000 words.
The blurb on the cover of the book says that: This is a collection of short stories from the master of space opera. Peter F Hamilton takes us on a journey from a murder mystery in an alternative Oxford in the 1800s to a brand new story featuring Paula Mayo, Deputy Director of the Intersolar Commonwealth's Serious Crimes Directorate. Dealing with intricate themes and topical subject this top ten bestselling author is at the top of his game.
You can find out more about Peters books, and the different universes his characters inhabit on his website www.peterfhamilton.co.uk
Now, on to the stories themselves; the first story is the longest; ‘Watching Trees grow’. This is a very unusual story tracing a murder investigation over a 200 year period, set in Britain based on an alternate history where the Romans did not lose their powerbase, and as a result technology has developed and is continuing to develop at a much accelerate rate. We meet Edward Raleigh based in Oxford, an investigator for one of the “old” families who will not give up and does everything including invading people’s memories to find out who murdered a junior member of his family who was studying at Oxford. We follow him through the Solar System as he takes every opportunity given by new technology to stop at nothing to find the killer.
Secondly we have ‘Footvote’. In the introduction to the book Peter says that his has been updated to bring it up to date. In this book we look at how England copes or fails to cope with a wormhole being opened to a new planet, and the owner of the Wormhole has given those that want to 2 years to move through the wormhole before he closes it. Being Peter this of course isn’t quite that simple and it’s a quick fun read, following one family and their different attitudes to the wormhole.
Next comes ‘If at first...’ We follow Chief Detective David Lanson as he first gets to grip with a stalkers tale that he is stalking a time traveller. Chasing the traveller he ends up going back in time himself, and tweaks history, but he’s not quite as clever as he thought...
The fourth story is the very short story ‘The Forever Kitten’ that Peter says in the introduction was written for a magazine and he was limited to 1,000 words. These days I am used to reading long novels from Peter so the idea of squeezing a whole story into 1,000 words is interesting. It feels like it’s based on a similar level of technology as his full length book Misspent Youth. It’s got a nasty sting in the tale.
I don’t want to say much about the next story ‘Blessed by an Angel’ as it’s difficult to talk about this without giving away any spoilers, it’s a nice little story about the history of Inigo. You can read this as a standalone story, but it has added depth when you know Inigo’s story from the Void Trilogy.
We finish with two Paula Mayo stories, which is a pleasant surprise. I enjoy reading about her and her very single minded attitude to solving crimes. In the first, ‘The Demon Trap’ we see how utterly remorseless she is in carrying out her duties. In anyone else, what she does may be considered cruel, but in her it’s just the desire to execute the letter of the law. At times I do feel pity for the criminals who try to take on Paula Mayo.
The book concludes with the title story ‘Manhattan in Reverse’ - the one story written especially for this collection. In ‘Manhattan in Reverse’ we find Paula recently rejuvenated and having to live with the fallout from one of the events of Judas Unchained (one of the Commonwealth Universe novels). Paula finds herself pretty much press ganged by Wilson Kime into going to a recently colonised planet known as Menard, where the native inhabitants, have started to turn on the colonists.
It’s difficult to say anything about a short story without feeling that I am giving to much of the story away so I will stop there, just giving a brief teaser about the stories. If there is a slight disappointment with this collection it is that I would have liked a couple more stories in the book, but that is probably me just being greedy as I always want to read more of Peter F Hamilton words.
So what do I think about this book. I had great fun reading these stories. I think at the moment my favourites amongst the stories are The Forever Kitten and Watching Trees Grow. When I started reading these stories I was thinking there is no overall theme for this collection, but in actual fact they just about all too some extent are related to Law enforcement, or lack of, in one way or another.
I enjoyed reading this collection. It’s quite a while since I have read any short stories. So it took me a little while to get into the flow of the stories. I have learnt one thing that I have forgotten over the last few years, and that is that I should read more short stories. The first thing I did when I finished the book was to turn back to the beginning of the book and re-read the stories. It’s a pleasure being able to dip in and out of a book, thinking I just fancy a quick read of a short story. A good fun book, its only problem is that I’d love it to be about twice as long.
This Manhattan in Reverse book review was written by Stephanie Gelder
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