Category Archives: Science Fiction

2001: A Video Review

It’s interesting doing these retro book reviews. It’s been more than four years since I’ve read the book, but the feeling sticks with me. I may not remember all the details, but I can remember pretty well my impression of the book.

This one left a very positive memory for me. I enjoyed it very much, and it was my first five star review. So, I did a video review of it! Enjoy!

The original review is here, if you’d like to read it.

Let me know what you thought of the book in the comments below or on the original review post!

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.


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.

Planet Hopping in Science Fiction

I grew up watching Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation, so they have a special place in my mind. They’ve inspired me, and they’ve made me wish we were living in the future. But I also enjoy reading books with a similar theme, and that is interstellar travel.

Many science fiction novels I’ve read have interstellar space travel, including Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds, Night’s Dawn trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton, Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons, and so on. There are many novels and series where the characters move from planet to planet.

I thought Hyperion Cantos did extremely well in making you feel like you were on the planets. They were so creative and unique. Night’s  Dawn makes it easy for people to travel between planets quickly, but we mostly see asteroids, habitats, and spacecraft.  Revelation Space has an interesting group of planets, but I need to read more.

What novel or series would you recommend that has interstellar space travel and many interesting planets?

Festivals and Music in Fantasy and Science Fiction

On Tuesday, I was treated to this, a very cultural experience. Taiko drums.


A picture isn’t enough? Okay, here’s the video I took.

This was at an agricultural festival, but like many festivals in Japan, it had the staples: taiko drums, traditional dancing, and food stalls. It’s things like these that make Japanese festivals uniquely Japanese.

When developing a world for science fiction and fantasy, culture is very important. Festivals, food, music, dance, clothes, and holidays are all very important in creating a believable and realistic society. It’s something I really enjoy seeing when I read fantasy and science fiction novels.

Considering the books you’ve read, what cultural aspects stand out? Think of specific cases, like the feasts of A Song of Ice and Fire or the music of Lord of the Rings. I look forward to your answers.

Fictional Heroes in Speculative Fiction

Today, my family went an agricultural festival and who appeared? Ultraman! He’s a very popular hero to children in Japan. Many TV series, movies, and public appearances. My daughter wanted to meet him, but we had no time. I got this picture, though.


This had me thinking, in fiction, and particularly in speculative fiction, have there been any instances of fictional heroes in the popular culture of that world? Imagine a superhero story that dwarf children love. He could be called Super Gold Digger. Or an action hero for Vulcans named The Logical Pacifist.

What are some hero names you can think of for popular sci-fi and fantasy novels?

Realism in Speculative Fiction

As a reader of speculative fiction, I get to discover what life is like in worlds that aren’t yet possible or can never be possible.  Science fiction and fantasy are two of the main genres of speculative fiction, and while they’re both looking at life that’s different than what we know, they are very different from each other.

When looking at realism in speculative fiction, you have to think about what is possible and what is impossible.  For what is possible, you’re likely looking at future technology and science that we haven’t quite figured out yet.  For what is impossible, you’d be looking at magic and wildly alien life that we can’t imagine would ever exist.

In science fiction, it’s easier to rely on realism, especially if you have a solid knowledge or background in science.  Or maybe you’re just really good at winging it.  But for people like me, realism in science fiction is quite important.  I feel like it could be real.  I want silence in a vacuum, I want accurately described motion in a spacecraft, I want well-described conditions on planets.  Books that screw around with the science and make it rather unrealistic turn me off.  I read a book that got artificial gravity generation all wrong with a spinning space station.  Unfortunately, the gravity was toward the centre of the station, rather than away from centre.  It was backwards.

In fantasy, realism is less of a concern, especially when magic is a major factor.  However, there are a lot fantasy novels that rely on realism, and in this case, it’s the realism of battle, tactics, politics, and human nature.  There are some great books out there that do this, and as a result, they tend to be quite gritty and dark.  This pulls me into the story so strongly, I feel like I am really there, can smell the air, feel the wind, and see the trees, sand, or sea.  I love that level of realism.

How do you feel about realism in speculative fiction?

Which Science Fiction Series Should I Read?

Moving on to my final question about what I should read, it’s now science fiction.  This is the list of sci-fi series that I have, so don’t choose these ones!

  • Commonwealth Universe (Commonwealth Saga and Void), by Peter F. Hamilton
  • Dragonriders of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey
  • Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert
  • The Ender Saga, by Orson Scott Card
  • The Grand Tour, by Ben Bova
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
  • Humanity’s Fire, by Michael Cobley
  • Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
  • In Her Name, by Michael R. Hicks
  • Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • The Night’s Dawn Trilogy, by Peter F. Hamilton
  • Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Revelation Space, by Alastair Reynolds
  • Ringworld, by Larry Niven
  • The Shadow Saga, by Orson Scott Card
  • Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

I have some or all of the books in these series.  But I’d like to know what you think I should read.  What other series would you recommend to me? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Living in a Fantasy World

As a reader of fantasy and science fiction, I love getting into the worlds and seeing what life could be like in a completely different setting from modern Earth.  It’s fascinating.  As a writer, I can get so into my world that I understand everything about it, it’s like I actually live there sometimes.  I’m sure other writers and readers feel the same way.

If I were to choose a fantasy or science fiction world I’d like to live in, I would of course choose my own.  However, if I chose someone else’s creation, I’d say I would want to live either on Anne McCaffrey’s Pern or in the Star Trek universe, especially during the Next Generation time.

On Pern, it’s like a frontier life, but with advanced culture, very interesting architecture built right into the mountains and caves, and dragons.  Of course, during threadfall, it’s quite dangerous.  But between falls, I can imagine it would be a very interesting, though probably somewhat hard life.  I’d want to join one of the Halls and study something, or even work in one of the Weyrs.  But being a part of a Holder’s family might be interesting.

In Star Trek, you can do pretty much anything you like for a living.  And travel to other planets is quite possible.  There’s no worry about money, you always have a home, food, and a job.  Education is incredible.  Starfleet would be an option, and you could travel around the Federation, but as a regular citizen, it’s unlikely you’d be doing a huge amount of travel like that.  Maybe for the occasional vacation, if you have time to travel long distances to other planets.  But maybe you can’t afford to be away from your job that long.  Anyway, regardless of that, I’d like to live in that kind of society.

How about you?  Which fantasy or science fiction world would you like to live in?

(Note: Yes, I’ve talked about this before, but I want to open this up to TV and movies, as well, not just books)

Religion in Science Fiction

I’d like some opinions. I’m currently writing Journey to Ariadne part 6, and it includes a big monologue about secularism. One character is deeply religious, while the others are more moderate, follow another religion, or follow no religion at all. It’s not shocking, though some may think it’s a bit controversial.

So, my question is, if you see something controversial about religion in a science fiction novel, how do you feel about it? I have read many that take religion on a very wild ride, altering the religions and making their followers more fanatical. Others marginalise religion, saying it serves no purpose. What do you think about this? I look forward to your answers.