In Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton humanity has discovered the ability to travel around the galaxy through “portals”. The North family has found great riches as the discoverers and exploiters of the technology. The Norths are special, though: each generation is a clone of the last. Generations of this has created genetic mental and physical flaws, with each branch and generation in an escalating rivalry with the rest of the family. But even with all this, the family is huge and powerful. So when one of these clones is murdered, it’s a huge, public scandal.
Detective Sidney Hurst trying to understand the killing and why it’s so similar to a murder 20 years prior for which a young woman was convicted. Despite the scope of the crime, the politics and power of the North family makes the investigation a complicated quagmire.
Angela Tremelo is the woman charged with the old murder and has now been released from prison. She insists on her innocence and is convinced a malevolent alien force is responsible for new murders. She’s now working with an expedition to the wild lands of the North world of St. Libra, but danger is following them as members are being picked off one by one.
Peter F. Hamilton’s world building is very thorough. Every facet of the universe is deliberately plotted, each little detail is created explicitly to tell part of the story, even if it doesn’t actually contribute to the plot. Compare it to the set dressing in films like Blade Runner or Minority Report. Everything you see (or read, as in this book) is there to give you a feeling, a sense of the world, one that colours the story and steers your imagination where Hamilton wants it to go.
One thing to remember about Peter F. Hamilton: he doesn’t know how to write a short book. This is not a criticism, mind you. If you are a fan of space opera it’s part of the appeal. It’s a compelling mystery in a richly detailed universe. Think in terms of the scope of Game of Thrones and the sci-fi of The Expanse mixed with the gritty (and moral questionable) police of Luther.
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