CBRIII Maneuver #16 – The Dreaming Void
Profile: Speculative Fiction, Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Summary: From the back of the book, “The year is 3589. At the very heart of the galaxy is the Void, a self-contained microuniverse that cannot be stopped as it expands in all directions, consuming everything in its path. Even the oldest and most technologically advanced of the galaxy’s sentient races, the Raiel, do not know its origin or its purpose. Then Inigo, an astrophysicist, begins having vivid dreams. Inside the Void, Inigo sees paradise. Thanks to the gaiafield, a neural entanglement wired into most humans, those dreams are shared by hundreds of millions – and a religion, the Living Dream, is born, with Inigo as its prophet. But then he vanishes. A new wave of dreams broadcast by an unknown Second Dreamer serves as the impetus for a massive Pilgrimage into the void which could trigger an accelerated devourment phase that will swallow up thousands of worlds. Thus begins a desperate race to find Inigo and avert catastrophe.”
After Action Report:
While all science fiction is, by definition, somewhat optimistic about the future of humanity, it is rare to see us uplifted to the level that Peter F. Hamilton has. The Commonwealth of 3589 is an essentially post-sustenance society where humans are well on their way to transcending mortality entirely. Even the cloak and dagger political maneuverings of the various factions in The Dreaming Void are basically pro-humanity, even if they all have different ideas of what that means.
At its core, The Dreaming Void is a Ludlum-esque chase novel set in a fabulous vision of the future. Half the cast is hunting for Inigo, the First Dreamer, hoping to either gain his blessing for the upcoming Living Dream pilgrimage, or his support in shutting the pilgrimage down. Another group of people are hunting for the Second Dreamer who appears to be experiencing the point of view of one of the gods of the Void. Everyone else is chasing the first two groups, while trying to figure out who is pulling all the strings.
There are a lot of characters, but I found they never really got confusing. There are references to the earlier novels of Hamilton’s Commonwealth timeline, (Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained) but even a first time reader won’t have a problem, as the author goes to great (sometimes excessive) lengths to explain the history. Despite 1200 years of intervening time, some of the major players of the previous books are still alive and kicking. Paula Myo, in particular, is very active in this book and the book is all the more awesome for it.
Spliced into the rest of the novel is a text record of Inigo’s dreams of the Void. It’s a very interesting first person perspective on the mythology of a scientifically based religion. The protagonist, Edeard, provides us a view of a different sort of human future, where we have become psychic masters of reality itself. His story is what spawned the Living Dream religion, although it doesn’t become obvious as to why until the last segment of his story close to the end of the book. The power of science is often seen as the antithesis of religion, but the closer you get to that unified field theory, the less the differences seem to matter. That key theme underliesHamilton’s entire story.
The main plot and the dreams don’t exactly complement each other, and there is a sense that more things could have happened if the dream sequence hadn’t been there. It is a minor complaint, but the pacing gets a little wonkified by the cuts back and forth. And by the jumps between the various scenes and protagonists for that matter. There are at least seven ‘main’ characters and several of them spend the entire book planet hopping. Sometimes the narrative feels like it was cobbled together by a coffee addict with the jitters.
The real beauty ofHamilton’s novel is the setting. Humans have entered a wonderful phase of post-humanity where we are still fundamentally human, but freed from everything that defines our lives today. No more poverty. No more disease or death. Humans in the outer systems still ascribe to systems of wealth and money, but at no point is homelessness mentioned as a problem. Capitalism has become a playground for the ambitious while it supports the less fortunate. And in this future we have become empathic thanks to the gaiafield.
Isaac Asimov said it best, “Science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the critics and philosophers, but the core of science fiction, its essence, the concept around which it revolves, has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.” It is these optimistic visions of a future where we have overcome our vices that will inspire the innovators and leaders of today to lead us into tomorrow. It may sound like saccharine crap, but I firmly believe that good SF is a cornerstone of our ability to evolve, not as a species, but as a culture.