This is space opera on an epic scale, with dozens of characters, hundreds of planets, universe-spanning plots, and settings that range from wooden huts and muddy villages to sentient starships and newborn suns. It's also the first part of a two-volume book that is itself the first book of a series. There's no question that there's a lot going on here (too much to even begin to detail the plot), but Hamilton handles it all with an ease reminiscent of E. E. "Doc" Smith. The best way to describe it: it's big, it's good, and luckily there's plenty more on the way.
First published in 1996, this behemoth opening to the Night's Dawn trilogy takes humankind across the galaxy on a quest for profit that becomes a desperate battle for survival. Space scavenger Joshua Calvert begins shipping wood from the primitive planet Lalonde to the pastoral patrician planet Kulu despite a revolt among the prisoners who serve as Lalonde's forced labor. A greater threat lurks within Lalonde's intensely claustrophobic jungle: an energy virus that turns people into zombies and that even 27th-century biotechnology can't cure. Hamilton succinctly uses strong visual imagery to bring each culture and civilization to life. Only this relative economy of language allows so many plots, subplots and characters to be squeezed into over 900 pages. Elements of space opera, Straubesque horror and adrenaline-laced action make this a demanding, rewarding read.
The Reality Dysfunction 2 - Expansion:
This second volume of Hamilton's two-part book The Reality Dysfunction is as fast paced and densely packed as the first. It picks up the many plot threads left hanging in Emergenceand runs with them, ending some subplots and beginning other more interesting ones. Joining the large cast of characters is Graeme Nicholson, a reporter stuck on the backwater planet of Lalonde, where mud and wood seem to be the only things in great abundance. But Lalonde is fast becoming the focus of an invasion that seems to defy time and logic, and soon Nicholson will regret ever learning about the biggest story to hit the galaxy in a thousand years.