The Reality Dysfunction
(aka Emergence and Expansion)
by Peter F. Hamilton
Review by Ann Cecil

This is intended, I think, to be an SF version of Robert Jordan's books. There are 3 more very long books in this series (I own the second 2, but not the last). The signs that Hamilton is trying for the Jordan effect: we have a very large cast, many worlds, many plots, Big Themes, major set pieces (battles, mostly), and clear indications that our cast will all eventually meet and interact.

So much for ambition. Problem is that Hamilton is not Jordan by a long shot. Each chapter introduces a new set of characters; it is something like seven chapters before you get around to a repeater, and by that time you've forgotten who these people are and what their problem was. Towards the end of the first book (some 400 pages in), Hamilton starts using multiple cuts, scenes per character, which makes it a little easier to remember who's who.

It doesn't make you care, though. Many of the characters are introduced just so Hamilton can kill them off, in spectacularly gruesome and ugly fashion. By the end of book 1 he's killed about half his cast, so in book 2 he introduces a whole bunch more people (and new worlds as well, since he also blew up some of the original ones). Book 2 repeated the pattern, so I suspect book 3 introduces yet more newbies.

Jordan-style, Hamilton is recycling. Every character is a cliche, every world, plot, and device a familiar copy of someone else's. Nothing wrong with that - it's been done by the best, but, it has to be done with a fresh twist, a slant that makes it feel a little different. Hamilton hasn't quite learned the difference between adopting and just copying.

Oh, yeah, and when the plot gets a little thin, Hamilton throws in some detailed (if pretty unbelievable) sex. I mean, I can handle one character who can have sex two or three times an hour for days on end, but by the sixth or seventh character... uh, strains my suspension of disbelief a little?

So this is a non-recommendation. Anybody who wants the first four books can have them. Free. And they can buy the fifth from the SF book club fairly cheap.

This book is available in the PARSEC Library.
Return to Review Indexes by author or reviewer.

Click here to return to the SIGMA mainpage.

This page maintained by Greg Armstrong