THE REALITY DYSFUNCTION (PETER F. HAMILTON)

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Zombies have been part of popular culture for awhile now and while the creatures of fantasy have taken on a renewed popularity with Vampires, Wizards and Witches abounding wherever you turn to look, the Nights Dawn Trilogy combines the elements of horror and science fiction in a new and very interesting fashion.

In another throwback review, the Reality Dysfunction published in 1996 is the first book in Peter F. Hamilton’s amazing Nights Dawn Trilogy.  This is actually my second or third go around with this series as it is extremely engrossing and the characters in the book are very well written and enjoyable.

The series takes us to humanity’s far future – the 27th Century – where humans are split into two quite distinct cultures – the Adamists or normal humans utilize some genetic improvements to increase their life span and certain key skills with nanotechnology being a key component of how their society works.  The other culture known as the Edenists utilize a technology called “bitek”  and affinity which allows them to not only communicate with each other, but also in some ways to cheat death as they can transfer their memories, thoughts and personalities into one of their bitek ships or habitats where they are able to live on for many more centuries.  The Edenists while not a perfect society definitely have a more egalitarian one and most of their citizens live in luxury compared to the Adamists.  Earth – the biggest Adamist colony – has over 30 billion citizens and in the Confederation if a citizen is not in compliance, Earth’s government deports them to one of the many newly settled planets in the fringes of the Confederation territory.

On one such planet, Lalonde a group of deportees – Ivets – and colonists travel to the hinterland to create their own little colony.  Amongst the Ivets though is Quinn Dexter – a gang member from a particularly vicious cult on Earth, he quickly infects the rest of the Ivets amongst the colonists with his brand of religion and starts planning a way to destroy them all.

While Quinn is planning his imminent coup, we are introduced to Joshua Calvert.  Joshua lives on Tranquillity which is a giant living habitat in close orbit around a gas giant.  Tranquillity was created and built to investigate the death of an unknown civilization – the only remnants of which are floating ruined debris in space.  Joshua along with others are scavengers looking through the Ruined Ring for any artefacts that might be salvageable after being exposed to the rigours of space for thousands of years.  Fortunately for Joshua he is extremely lucky and not only makes a find, he makes an immense one and is able to refit his ship – the Lady Mac – which he inherited from his father.  With the Lady Mac, Joshua sets out to make his way as an independent trader and one of his stopping of points is Lalonde!

On Lalonde, Quinn has completed his subversion of the Ivets and they are conducting gruesome ceremonies and torturing the colonists – into this scene an alien entity, the Ly-cilph (a group of explorers for want of a better word, they are incorporeal and able to travel between galaxies.  A ly-cilph is the next thing to immortal and their purpose in being is to experience life and learn about different cultures and races) arrives and observing the torture, it notices that a stream of “something” is departing the person being tortured and going into the ether.  Moving closer to find out what it is and where it is going, the Ly-cilph gets caught in the stream and trapped between the worlds of the living and the dead.  With this gap now open the dead can transfer themselves over which they immediately do, firstly taking possession of Quinn’s body and then the rest of the remaining Ivets.  Extremely quickly this first infestation extrapolates and the hinterlands of Lalonde are under attack by a strong and growing stronger army of the dead as in addition to not fearing death – they know they can come back now – the returned also seem to have some sort of energetic power that not only lets them withstand most gunfire, but also allows them to throw balls of burning fire hundreds of yards.

With the dead now at large, the Confederation itself is at risk while this all happens quite early in the book, the tension and pressures just ratchet up from that point onwards.  The Reality Dysfunction is a “must read” book for anyone that is interested in Science Fiction.  The fact that the dead are walking around in it (making for some really interesting characters in the subsequent books) is just an added bonus!

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