Salvation Lost by Peter F Hamilton

November 7, 2019

Please note, Salvation Lost is a direct sequel to Salvation. It is possible, if you have not read the first book in this trilogy, what follows might contain some minor spoilers. Consider yourself warned.

Fight together – or die alone . . .

In the twenty-third century, humanity is enjoying a comparative utopia. Yet life on Earth is about to change, forever. Feriton Kane’s investigative team has discovered the worst threat ever to face mankind – and we’ve almost no time to fight back. The supposedly benign Olyix plan to harvest humanity, in order to carry us to their god at the end of the universe. And as their agents conclude schemes down on earth, vast warships converge above to gather this cargo.

Some factions push for humanity to flee, to live in hiding amongst the stars – although only a chosen few would make it out in time. But others refuse to break before the storm. As disaster looms, animosities must be set aside to focus on just one goal: wiping this enemy from the face of creation. Even if it means preparing for a future this generation will never see.

Events pick up almost immediately from the point where Salvation left off. The Olyix have been revealed to be not nearly as benign as they first appeared. Their master plan involves the invasion of Earth and every human outpost, followed by the enslavement of every single one of us. Not to worry though, from their perspective it is all for our own good. Unsurprisingly, the various factions that make up our future society are not hugely keen on that idea.

This story has such a vast scope it contains a large ensemble of characters. From drug addled gang members to near immortal corporate oligarchs, all are drawn into this universe spanning conflict. At the heart of events are the tech augmented security forces trying, perhaps in vain, to save us all. These multiple viewpoints help to illustrate just how all-encompassing the situation has become. I particularly enjoyed the chapters set in future London. You can’t beat a bit of British stiff upper lip in face of overwhelming odds, and the prospect of every human becoming a cocooned slave transported to the end of the universe by a race of alien religious fundamentalists*.

The narrative continues in a similar vein as book one, with two streams of the story interweaving with one another. There are chapters set in the twenty third century, and dotted throughout, other chapters set much further in the future. It’s really only in this second novel where you start to see how events in one time period have come to affect events in the other. I’ll not say any more than that for fear of revealing too much. Even I wouldn’t spoil that surprise.

I’ve been reading Peter F Hamilton’s work for years now, and I’m always struck by the same thought; he is a master when it comes to portraying escalating tension. The Olyix have been planning their harvest for many years. When humanity uncovers the truth, we’re left with just days to try and mitigate the fallout from the impending disaster. That moment of realisation and then the sense of panic that sets in immediately afterward perfectly captured. There is a sense of quiet resignation by some while others steadfastly refuse to accept that they are in a no-win situation. By 2204 the human race had reached the point where they are on the cusp of a golden age. Technology has ensured cheap, safe power, robust economies and instantaneous transportation but the Olyix threaten to destroy all that in a matter of days. Perhaps the only option is escape, but at what cost?

As I expected, it happens every time I read one of Hamilton’s novels, there were moments where things get a little to science heavy for my puny brain to comprehend. I’m sure there are those far more intelligent than I who lap this up, but it’s not for me. When the old grey cells spot phrases like quantum entanglement they know that “science is happening™” and disengage briefly. Joking aside, I do sometimes struggle with the science part of science fiction but, to my eternal relief, Peter F Hamilton writes such compelling stories it doesn’t diminish my enjoyment in the slightest.

I’m firmly of the opinion that the second book in a trilogy is the trickiest to deliver. An author has to successfully up the ante, move the overarching plot forward and ensure characters evolve in an engaging manner.  Salvation Lost ticks every box in that regard. I’m sure fans of Hamilton’s work have probably rushed out and bought this already. I can’t blame them. If you haven’t, and this sounds like your sort of thing, then I strongly urge you to please read Salvation first. If you don’t, then I can guarantee that you are missing out. In fact, I’d advise you go and buy all of this author’s books, they are some of the best science fiction novels I have ever read.

My soundtrack recommendation to accompany Salvation Lost is Captive State by Rob Simonsen. It has a modern sci-fi vibe, but also manages to be more than a little bit sinister. Seems like a perfect fit when we’re talking alien invasions, sleeper agents and deadly betrayals.

Salvation Lost is published by Macmillan and is available now. The conclusion of the The Salvation Sequence, Saints of Salvation, is set to follow in 2020. I can’t wait to see how this is all going to play out. The third book promises to be something quite special.

*I’ll be honest, that is not a sentence I ever thought I would write but there you go. Peter F Hamilton goes and defies my expectations once again.

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