My life in outer space

The Neutronium Alchemist (Night’s Dawn #02) – Peter F Hamilton (1997)

The Neutronium Alchemist (Night's Dawn, #2)


The ancient menace has finally escaped from Lalonde, shattering the Confederation’s peaceful existence. Those who succumbed to it have acquired godlike powers, but now follow a far from divine gospel as they advance inexorably from world to world.

On planets and asteroids, individuals battle for survival against the strange and brutal forces unleashed upon the Universe. Governments teeter on the brink of anarchy, the Confederation Navy is dangerously over-stretched, and a dark messiah prepares to invoke his own version of the final Night.

In such desperate times the last thing the galaxy needs is a new and terrifyingly powerful weapon. Yet Dr Alkad Mzu is determined to retrieve the Alchemist – so she can complete her thirty-year old vendetta to slay a star. Which means Joshua Calvert has to find Dr Mzu and bring her back before the Alchemist can be reactivated.

But he’s not alone in the chase, and there are people on both sides who have their own ides about how to use the ultimate doomsday device.’

Blurb from the 1998 Pan paperback edition.

One can only stand in complete awe of Hamilton, who manages to juggle several storyline threads, encompassing dozens of characters, planets, habitats, sentient ships and aliens, during which (presumably just because he can) he throws in the resurrected souls of Al Capone and Fletcher Christian
And so Hamilton’s Magnum Opus moves into its second volume.
The possessed are moving out into the galaxy and becoming organised. Al Capone has teamed up with the Mood Fantasy artist Jezibella (who seems to be the Madonna of five hundred years hence; a shrewd performer and business strategist and who turns out to be the ideal mate for the resurrected gangster).
Louise Kavanagh escapes from the possessed-occupied planet of Norfolk with a resurrected Fletcher Christian.
Meanwhile, the elderly Dr Alkad Mzu arranges a daring escape from her enforced exile in the habitat Tranquility.
Mzu is one of the few survivors of a planetary genocide and the creator of the almost mythical Alchemist, a device capable of converting a stable sun into a supernova.
Her plan is to reclaim the device and seek revenge on those who destroyed her planet and people.
The possessed, however, having learned of her escape, wish to capture her in order to gain control of the device. It is up to Captain Joshua Calvert to recapture Mzu before the possessed claim her.
We also learn a little more about the enigmatic Elder Race, the Kiint, and follow the insane Quinn Dexter as he slowly but surely makes his way back toward Earth and his revenge on Banneth, the woman who had him deported.
Hamilton entwines all these threads (and more) so effortlessly and entertainingly that the 1200 plus pages seem to fly by and one is left wanting more.
It is difficult to say exactly what it is about Hamilton’s Confederation that is so seductive, but it is a Universe one would be happy to live in (though perhaps not on Earth or one of the Frontier planets). It has been meticulously constructed which is evinced by the fact that the author has brought out a supplementary ‘Confederation Handbook’ which tells you all you need to know (or for most of us far more than we need to know) about the star-systems and races of this trilogy. I wouldn’t go as far as buying it, but I did spend a pleasant twenty minutes in a bookshop having a good browse through it, which was quite a hermeneutic experience.


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