Book Review – The Neutronium Alchemist

theneutroniumalchemistThe Neutronium Alchemist

Author: Peter F. Hamilton

Series: Night’s Dawn #2

Genre: Science Fiction

Published 1997

Review Copy: Paperback bought new

Overall Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

Goodreads Description

Not every fallen angel comes from heaven…

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 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 ideas about how to use the ultimate doomsday device.

Review

The Neutronium Alchemist, the second book in the Night’s Dawn trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton is an epic space opera that I devoted an incredible amount of time to read. It’s a massive 1,273 pages long, the longest book I have reviewed yet, and perhaps the longest book I’ve ever read. And it is also one of the most difficult to review.

The book starts where The Reality Dysfunction left off. The possessed are now a force to be reckoned with, and who is likely to be the most important character in an ensemble cast, Joshua Calvert, is going to be the guy to get in the middle of everything. Or so that’s what I’m led to believe. It’s actually a lot more complex than that. There are so many story lines that run parallel to each other and occasionally intersect. It’s like a web of stories, to be more exact. So now, the main focus of the story is the race to find the Alchemist, the most dreaded weapon ever created. The possessed want it, Dr. Alkad Mzu wants to find it and exact revenge, and everyone else wants to prevent either group from using it. The universe is vast, the cast of characters is incredibly extensive, and the number of pages just keep going and going. The story was very difficult to predict, which was a great thing. Amazing action, filled with so much you could never know what was going to happen or who was going to be killed, and so many twists that it was hard to put down.

I can’t effectively describe the characters in this review, as it would result in an incredibly long review. I don’t want to bore you. But I’ll say that Joshua Calvert has shown some incredible character development. I’ve grown to like him more and more as the book went on. Syrinx, on the other hand, has become a shell of her former self. She’s not in the book nearly as much as I’d hoped, as she was a strong character from the previous book. Ione Saldana also takes a less central role, but still very important. Alkad Mzu is a major character in this book, and a very compelling one. The possessed Marie Skibbow is wild. And Dexter Quinn is our big possessed antagonist who wants to change the universe. And then probably one of the biggest surprises, and one of the more interesting characters is Al Capone. That’s right! I enjoyed reading his part of the story, as well. Of course, there are far more characters than this, and several story lines that I haven’t even touched. You just have to read it.

The worldbuilding is extensive. No longer on Lalonde, we spend most of our time in spaceships, space stations, space habitats, and asteroids now. It’s truly a space travel novel, and we get to see many places. This is the kind of book I’m a sucker for. I always loved Star Trek and traveling vast distances in space to explore the galaxy, and that’s what we get. But in this case, it’s war. It’s dangerous everywhere. We’d established the setting in the first book, now we get to see it really come alive. And it feels like a busy universe. I could feel the huge populations, the intense activity in space. Very good job on this part of the novel.

This book is science fiction, of course. However, it has a supernatural and horror theme to it, as well. Although the main story is to capture the Alchemist, one of the biggest elements hunting the Alchemist is the possessed, the undead, the spirits of dead people come back to take over living people’s bodies. I think we need an exorcist. And all through this story, there’s a little bit of a mystery. I won’t say what it is, but it hints at what’s to come in The Naked God, the final part of this trilogy. I’m definitely looking forward to that book.

Overall, The Neutronium Alchemist was a roller coaster ride. A very long roller coaster ride that lasted several months for me. It’s dense, it’s full of action, it’s complex. At times, I was wondering when I would finish reading it, because it felt like it was a never-ending story. I did reach the end, which was a cliffhanger, by the way. I was satisfied, but it felt like it had one of those book two curses that trilogies often get. It was a bridge between the exciting and new first book and the currently mysterious (though I guess explosive and exhilarating) third book. You can’t read it on its own, because you’ll be totally lost. It does have a conclusion of sorts, but sets up the third book very well. But it just has that lull that second books often have. I felt like it dragged on too long. I’m really hoping The Naked God feels a bit faster.

So, despite all of that negativity in the paragraph above, I would still give it 4 1/2 stars. It truly was a very good book, but you have to have endurance to get through it. I would recommend it to any epic space opera fans who have no qualms with reading long books. Fun, but very long.

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