Where to start with Peter F Hamilton books
Peter F Hamilton is one of only two authors that I started reading in my teens, and am still reading today more than two decades later. In that time my reading tastes have changed a lot, and become much more varied, but I’ve enjoyed his books throughout. He writes epic science fiction novels or space operas as they are often known, mostly set a few hundred years in the future and spread across a sprawling galaxy spanning canvas.
The links on this page are to the Goodreads page for the books mentioned.
The Reality Dysfunction, the first book in the Night’s Dawn Trilogy, and is still a really good place to start on his books. On a remote new colony far from Earth, a chance encounter with an utterly alien entity unleashes an unimaginable horror. The souls of the dead start coming back to take over the bodies of the living (incidentally Chapter Two, which relates the alien encounter that starts the whole thing off, struck me as a brilliant stand alone story on its own). This is a great premise for a lot of fun storytelling, and eventually we have a few well known historical figures resurfacing too which is really interesting. The Night’s Dawn Trilogy continues with The Neutronium Alchemist and concludes with The Naked God. Each book is about 800+ pages though, so be prepared for lots of sleepless nights as you need to read just one more page! There’s also a companion book of short stories, Second Chance at Eden.
You might think the Night’s Dawn Trilogy is big, it is eclipsed by his next series, the Commonwealth Saga. This starts off with a duology, Pandora’s Star followed by Judas Unchained. This is set in a different universe from his previous books, again a few hundred years in the future. Whereas the Nights Dawn Trilogy had faster-than-light travel via starships, the Commonwealth has trains! This seems improbable, but it is because in these books wormholes have been developed. The trains travel from planet to planet through these artificial wormholes. This is a good, more unusual idea for interstellar travel. In Pandora’s Star, an astronomer discovers a star in an uncharted part of the galaxy that simply disappears inexplicably. The powers that be are sufficiently worried about what could cause a star to instantaneously disappear that they decide to mount a mission to investigate. This is only one of many intertwining plots in the book.
The plot of this duology is arguably not as cool as in Night’s Dawn Trilogy, but the world Peter F Hamilton creates is simply brilliant, with a huge cast of great characters you come to know so well, and dozens of fully realised worlds that it ultimately eclipses the Nights Dawn Trilogy in more than just word count. The first two books are followed my two trilogies that are set further in the future but featuring many of the same characters, as well as another book of short stories. You really need to start with Pandora’s Star though.
Fallen Dragon is the first, which was written in 2001 and features mercenary Lawrence Newton who seeks to capture a fabulous treasure but finds something much greater… The second is Great North Road, written in 2012. It may be a standalone novel, but it is over 1000 pages long and has lots of characters and multiple plot strands. It’s also science fiction combined with murder mystery which I don’t always love, but in this book it works really well.
It would be remiss of me to not mention here that Peter F Hamilton has now started a new series, the Salvation Sequence. The first book, Salvation, is out now. It’s the only one of the books mentioned here that I’ve not read so can’t say much about it, but I’m excited to read it. Is it a good place to start? Well if you like the anticipation of having to wait a year or more for each book in the series, then maybe yes. Otherwise, start with one of the other series first and work your way towards this one. Maybe by the time you get to it more books in the series will have been published!
If you want to find out more about Peter F Hamilton or his other books, check out my author profile of him that I wrote a while ago. It also has links to other websites about him and his books.