The Abyss Beyond Dreams (Peter F. Hamilton, Random House/Del Rey) is a sequel set in the author’s Commonwealth universe, which earlier included one duology (Pandora’s Star, Judas Unchained) and a trilogy (The Dreaming Void, The The Temporal Void, The Evolutionary Void). It brings back one of the major characters (the scientist/leader Nigel Sheldon) on a mission to discover the true nature of the Void at the heart of the Galaxy.
The Void is a pocket universe which threatens to enter an expansion phase that would destroy everything. It is a gigantic artifact of some kind, but neither its builders nor purpose are known. Castaway cultures of humans live inside it, gifted with psionic powers in life and harvested by the enigmatic Skylords in death. And Nigel Sheldon wants to know why.
This is space opera and planetary romance pulled off with almost Hamilton’s usual flair. I say “almost” because the opening sequence, though action-packed, comes off as curiously listless. Nigel Sheldon’s appearance rescues the show, and we are shortly afterwards pitched into an entertaining tale of courage and revolution on a Void world. But things are not as they seem, and the revolutionaries are being manipulated for purposes they cannot guess…
The strongest parts of this book show off Hamilton’s worldbuilding imagination and knack for the telling detail. Yes, we get some insight into what the Void actually is, and an astute reader can guess more. But the final reveal will await the second book of this duology.