Peter F. Hamilton,
The Naked God, Part 2: Faith
(Aspect/Warner Books, 2000)

The Naked God, Part 2: Faith is the culmination of a six-volume trilogy in which each of the nominal books spans two long volumes. I'm sure that anyone who's been following the series will want to see how it all comes out, and the ending does seem to tie up a vast number of loose ends in a satisfying and final way. I haven't read any of the previous books in the series, though, and Faith hasn't interested me in starting the series and reading it through. Certainly the length of all the volumes makes it a daunting task, even for a quick reader. I can finish an average paperback in a day or two, and this volume -- 778 pages -- took me almost a week.

I'm not a big fan of either space opera or grandiose universe-saving plots, and this series is both. I read science fiction to visit places and people who can't exist in my world, and to learn about how they live and think. Space opera and wide-ranging plots skip over the aspects that interest me in favor of grand events. Some of Peter F. Hamilton's societies and aliens are intriguing, but visited only briefly. And for me the situation at the end of the novel, where important things have been learned and human society situated in such a way that these lessons must be incorporated into society's evolution, is a more interesting base for a novel than the details of how it all came to be.

Still, as space opera goes, it's a good one. The length allows lots of subplots to be fully realized, and Hamilton keeps things moving at a brisk and exciting pace. The character development is about average for space opera -- basic but adequate, at least in the featured players. I'm reluctant to judge the plotlines since I missed all the backstory and spent the first hundred pages or so orienting myself. While most aspects seemed plausible enough for a space opera, I question what would motivate someone to work very hard to bring about the death of the universe. What could he hope to gain? There was no answer in this book, even as the goal seemed to be within reach. An author can cite madness, to be sure, but madness does not usually come hand-in-hand with the personal and political skills and savvy to bring about an outcome against the active resistance of almost everyone else in the universe -- except in this sort of fiction.

I'd certainly recommend this book to anyone who's read the other volumes. Apart from that natural audience, though, my recommendation is more mixed. I can't recommend starting with this volume. It's too hard to figure out what's going on, and keeping the characters and their alignments straight is a challenge for someone jumping in. Based on this volume, if you like exciting, eventful space opera with easily-determined heros and villains, and some people in the middle, you might enjoy this series -- especially if you like diving into a good long read. I'm not planning on doing so, since I prefer a smaller scale, more comprehensively realized.

[ by Amanda Fisher ]

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