Peter F. Hamilton: Salvation Lost (English review)

Peter F. Hamilton: Salvation Lost (English review)

Szolgálati közlemény: még nem sikerült időt találnom a magyarra visszakonvertálásra, tudom, tudom, shame on me. Addig is itt van angolul.

---------------------------------— English review --------------------------------
Pssst...Netflix...shhh...Yepp, you, the streaming mogul...are you listening? Look no further, here is your next big thing!

First, lemme tell you how PFH influences my life...

It hurts my family life...because, when I read his books, I stop properly looking after my family: I get home after work, sit down, tell everyone to leave me alone and go on reading. My wife sometime talks to me, but I perceive only distant noises, something that must not be too important.

It hurts my professional life...because I stay up in the night until 3am, and next day I obviously call in to my boss, that I take a day off.

It hurts my social life...because when I go out with my friends to play a boardgame, I just grab my kindle unobtrusively, when it is not my turn, and read few pages....much to the dismay of my buddies. Quite frankly, getting the next PFH book is like getting prison time: I am not allowed to do anything else. And when I finish the book, then - and only then - I can go on probation and resume my regularly scheduled programme. It is that addictive.

Worst of all, it hurts my reading hobby...because I care a lot less about other books. Sure, I read an Alaistar Reynolds here or a Neil Asher book there, but I am just treading water until waiting for the good stuff. Don't come to me with the Three-Body Problem fellas, that is a massive disappointment and can't comprehend how that actually got that Hugo (prolly geopolitics), while PFH does not even get a nod. Bleh, wandered off a bit...

So, all the above feelings skyrocketed to a whole new level this spring, when I finished Salvation. Man, I just can't tell you how painful not to be able continue reading right away. Luckily, I just hit a stroke of good fortune, and received an advance copy of Salvation Lost (thanks!) in exchange for generating some noise about it. Now, if you haven't read the first book of the trilogy, you must know that you really should not read further. I will be spoiler-free of the 2nd book, but can't review this without spoiling the 1st one. Also, this being a detailed review, if you are clever, you may be able to work some details out. You have been warned.
Dude...I told you not to continue. Just get the first book, read through, get shocked and come back.
Still here? Cool.

Salvation Lost is very different from the first book. Salvation was a "whodunit" story, with elaborate world building and a slowly unraveling mystery, sprinkled with a tiny bit of paranoia. That book ends on a cliffhanger that explains the events before and at the same time outlines a very grim future, a future - as we already know - that changes humanity forever. On the other hand, this book is about escalation of the conflict, desperate actions (and counteractions) to achieve survival, and witnessing the disaster that is unfolding, all these happening at a breakneck speed. It is also a middle book of a trilogy, with all the baggage that means: it continues the story from the first book, but does not really conclude. Really, this is one big story split into three volumes.

Gone are the flashbacks of the first book, the time of worldbuilding is over, but we still have present and the far-future storylines. In the present we get to see the overwhelming catastrophe that humanity facing through the eyes of multiple characters. Very cleverly, these people are from different classes, so rotating between them gives us a glimpse of personal sacrifices they are going through - and, in general, the disaster that falls on humanity. The present-time pacing is very tight, and so is the timetable: the unfolding events are covering only few days, where high-risk-high-reward missions are only about to get us a few more. And when the Olyix start to utilize there KCells to aid them in their invasion, certain chapters gets a real horror vibe to them.

My favourite character this time is Ollie, a lowlife criminal unwittingly entangled into affairs no humans ever wants to be involved with. Ollie's motivation is very relatable, despite all his misgivings you will come to like him. He is a byproduct of the society he grew up in, he ended up with wrong people, but he is not an evil person. He gives us the viewpoint of lower classes, how everything about the invasion is just a rumor on the internet and how they are the first ones to be abandoned by the higher-ups. Their drug-induced conversation with his friend, while watching television broadcast of the invasion, is one of the most hilarious things I have ever read.

Next up is Gwendoline, who appeared in Salvation as a frightened little girl. This time she is an upper echelon middle-aged woman, doing important work in Connexion. Despite being family of Zangaris, she represents the hard-working executive who is just outside of the inner circle: Her eyes are the window we can use to peek into the life of rich, whose fortune will mean nothing in few weeks.

We get back Yuri, Callum, Kandara, Alik and - of course - Jessika, our friendly neigbourhood alien spy/diplomat. Out of all of them Alik gets the least spotlight, she is mostly off-screen to manhandle some Washington DC politicians. Yuri is still the no-nonsense security man, he is calling the shots and is making all the right (and hard) decisions, while Callum is still the resourceful creative troubleshooter he always was...both of them is having a considerable role in formulating a response during the invasion, and it is a joy to read their - usually action packed - chapters. Kandara is also getting a decent role, we get a better glimpse into her personality, because well...she understandably has trust issues.

Jessika becomes a major character who has to overcome human mistrust to get humanity very quickly where we need to be in order to ensure survival. It is a main theme, that we may not want to hear and accept what she tells us. She and her colleagues also has some neat technology brought with them, that will help us to survive, but let's stay spoiler free here. I was very impressed with how the different timelines are subtly connected: in one of the present chapter a certain virus is mentioned, that is coming back almost immediately in the far-future chapter, but not before. I found these small and subtle pieces fascinating, how they are connecting the different storylines, yet none spoils the another.

Speaking of far-future, if you read the publicly available prologue, you will have a very good idea where those chapters take us. I have a bit less to say about these, they are very spoiler-prone, but we still have the same core characters, Dellian and Yirella. We get to experience how the "Lure" - that was hinted at in the first book - pans out. Now I'll be very careful here, but still, here's some teasing: in Salvation it was emphasized that in order to be safe, humans must be silent. Thus, we do not know anything which is beyond the knowledge of our characters. But rest assured, stuff happened in the galaxy in that 10.000 years, even if we do not know about them yet. We also get a very little teasing about some previously unseen aliens, who I expect to have a greater role in the final book.

We also have a new character in this timeline, almost from the start, though neither its allegiance, nor its origin will be apparent at first. It has a major - even "deus exish" - role in the final part of the book, which is a little bit unexpected, but I am 100% certain his presence and origin will be explained in the final installment. The way it was written also reminded me very much of Gore Burnelli from the Void trilogy.

One aspect I extremely like about this trilogy is the "hard scifiness" of it. Sure, there are portals, but, first you need to get to the destination the hard way. In the Commonwealth series, especially from the Void trilogy onwards, humans travelled between stars - and later, between galaxies - with a relative ease. That part did not feel very "hard" to me. Here, however, distances are vast, and there is no way to cheat around them. There is an explanation how travel between galaxies (nearest is 2.5 million light years) is totally out of reach, and I actually felt there is no escape from the Olyix. Our galaxy is a prison, where they are the top dogs, and there's no such thing as leaving for greener pastures. We either fight, hide...or die. No other options.

I also was amazed by the depiction of Olyix. It becomes very clear real quick, that Olyix are not stupid, and they are not stagnant, either. Yepp, they are in charge, but they are not sitting back and becoming complacent. Both in the present and in the future we witness that they are advancing. Mostly technological changes, yes, they may not evolve as a species, but some stuff the Neana know and tell us about them is out-of-date. We may outmaneuver them once, but the same trick will not work again. They are not waiting patiently for us to grow and defeat them. Humans must be really on top of their game. These touches make them even more menacing, more real: It is not coincidence they have been able to persecute their campaign for eons.

I am happy to inform everyone that the ending is great, it is intriguing and sets up questions that will leave you thinking until the final one arrives. I am double happy to tell you it will not consume you like the ending of the first book did: if you have heard, that ending of Salvation will render you an incoherent mess mumbling about "how can I survive a whole year until next book" heard that right:) But the 1st and 2nd book together will leave you in a more relaxed state: you will still want more, but you will be able to go ahead with your life until 2020 October.

Back to the first line of my review: I never could imagine how a Commonwealth or Night's Dawn TV series would be doable (scope, characeters, locations, budgets). This however...this screams for television. Smaller cast of characters, basically everything happens at Earth, action, twists and dread. It has it all. Can't even comprehend how Amazon scooped up Three-Body Problem and not this again.

Long story short: Salvation Lost is absolutely mind-blowing. Goodreads should introduce the 6th - and maybe 7th - stars and reserve it for PFH. This trilogy sticks with you: you will go out, watch the stars, and say "Hey, this METI thingy may not be such a good idea after all...perhaps we should just listen quitely for a good while and compare notes before shouting out loud into the unknown that we do not understand."