Great North Road by Peter F Hamilton, lets get the basics out of the way first. The book is going to be published in September in the UK, and December in the US.
The blurb on the rear cover reads “Newcastle-upon-Tyne, AD 2142, Detective Sidney Hurst is called to a brutal murder scene, the victim turns out to be one of the wealthy North family clones. Disturbingly, a North clone billionaire and his household were horrifically murdered in exactly the same manner over 20 years ago. Then the accused, Angela Tramelo, who repeatedly protested her innocence, was convicted.
Tough and confident, Angela never waivered under interrogation – claiming she alone survived an alien attack. But with history repeating itself, the case is re-opened and a new team is setn to St. Libra. They must find out whether Angela did see an alien, or whether she had other reasons for being there.”
This is a stand-alone novel in which you get very good value for your money. Basically this one book is larger than a lot of trilogies out there, the proof copy that I have just finished reading weighed in at an amazing 1087 pages. Peter does appear to enjoy writing long books. On Peter’s blog, he said that it came in at around 350,000 words - this is rather a large book. You might want to start going to the gym now to get ready for the hardback edition.
The book is set in the 22nd century. In a universe where wormholes have been artifically created, and a large portion of the Earth’s population has migrated around the galaxy. On Earth we have become very dependent on Bio-Oil to keep industries’ wheels turning and to keep cars on the road. A large portion of this is imported from St. Libra. A planet owned and controlled by the North family. The oil is transported back to earth via a wormhole, which terminates in Newcastle, another Great North Road? The North family are however not your average rich family; they are developed from a series of clones, and it’s amusing reading about the effects on the progressive generation of clones.
So, the story spans two planets, Earth and St. Libra. It has quite a small cast of main characters, we briefly meet a large amount of characters, but there is a small intimate team on Earth, and it gets easier to follow everything on St. Libra as events unfurl.
We start off in Newcastle where we meet Detective Third Grade, Sidney Hurst. Back at work after a recent enforced rest after a recent suspension. Whilst he is slowly getting back into the saddle he finds himself thrown straight in at the deep end of a suspected accidental drowning. This turns out to the biggest case of his career. A member of the Hurst family has been murdered. So straight off we come across a good old-fashioned detective story. But, as you can imagine things are not quite as simple as that. When the murder weapon is identified we find that Angela Tramelo, the only possible suspect, is in prison: sentenced to spend the rest of her life there for the grisly murder of another Hurst clone and his household 20 years ago on St. Libra. Incarcerated in prison it seems unlikey that she could have done the second murder, which appeared to use an idential and very unique weapon. Does this mean there is possibly some truth in her claim that she did not take part in the first murder? The authorities were very thorough in their interrogation of her when she was initially arrested, and completely ignored her stories that it was an alien that destroyed the rest of the household, and yet could not manage to kill her, and ran off.
The story pretty much splits into two threads here. We have two possible theories on the murder, one thread revolves around Sidney Hurst who patiently plods along with his murder case in Newcastle and the second thread revolving around the military who rope in Angela Tramelo who is now out of prison on a short leash, and they start a sweeping search across the face of St. Libra more in hope then belief that they might just have missed the fact that there is possibly an alien life form alive and thriving on the planet, and that if it does exist, which seems very unlikely, why would it seem to hold this personal grudge again the Hurst family?
I have barely talked about the characters themselves, but I think that like me you will enjoy getting to know them, and may well come to love or hate a few of them. Angela it turns out is not exactly your average human, as she is a “one in ten” so she only ages one year for every ten years after puberty, which means she’s quite a lot older and a lot more experienced then people assume. Through a series of flashbacks that take place throughout the book we find out more about her history, you need to pay attention and I recommend not putting the book down mid flashback, or like me you might spend a couple of seconds thinking what’s going on when you next come back to it, before you realise your looking back on previous events. Sidney Hurst isn't a squeaky clean policeman himself and uses some unauthordox methods in this case, and then we have the scary army units, that are scouring St Libra. I mean what could possibly go wrong there…
This is exactly what it says on the tin. (Okay, inside front cover to be precise). It’s a sort of Northern high-tech Noir Crime thriller, meets Starship Troopers on a bug hunt. If the book has a tag line then I guess this might be it.
In the hands of most authors I would have though it impossible to fit all of this into one book, but Peter F Hamilton manages it, and it’s fun, it’s huge, and it covers a lot of ground. I’ve tried not to spoil it, so grab the book, (or ebook as it’s going to be a large hardback) and settle back to spend a week lost in the “Great North Road".
Review by Stephanie Gelder
Nancy from Canada
There are interesting ideas in this novel, and the plot moves along with unexpected turns. I have no quarrel with big books, but the clumsy use of language throughout this novel continually pulled me out of the story. Conversations are particularly rife with poorly chosen and extraneous adverbs. The novel is long - 950 pages, and with a good editor, it could have been 800.
7.3/10 from 2 reviews