Salvation Lost is the second book in a planned trilogy, following on from the somewhat cataclysmic events of the first book, Salvation. I’ll try and recap what happened without going into too much detail in case you haven’t read book one. It has to be said, though, that the Salvation Sequence is more a story in three parts than three individual stories, and it’s advisable to read the first before this one.
Over 180 years in the future sees a wealth of technological advancements that have catapulted humanity into space, allowing them to meet a friendly alien race known as the Olyix. Although the Olyix appear to follow a strange religion that posits that God exists at a far future point at the end of time (known as the Omega Point), along with the expected rapture moment, they seem otherwise harmless. Humanity’s progress combined with the Olyix’ friendly offer to share technology results in humankind finally freeing themselves of the confines of one fragile planet, and colonising other worlds through the use of Stargates, a network of portals throughout the galaxy which makes travel by spaceship pretty much obsolete — somewhat ironically, given the amount of effort taken to achieve it.
Advances in biotechnology (thanks again to the Olyix) mean longevity and freedom from illness for most. If you think that all sounds somewhat Utopian, you’d be right. As you might expect though, not all is as it seems. Salvation follows two timelines: the nice Utopian vision and one much darker, 600+ years later. Clearly something quite serious and game-changing must happen between these two time periods, and at the end of the first book there is a big reveal that propels the story forward and explains just what that might be.
Salvation Lost picks up right after this revelation and deals with the aftermath, providing a tighter focus by concentrating on just one timeline. This is an Empire Strikes Back moment, as Salvation Lost builds on the story and avoids the sludge that often affects ‘book two of three’ by providing good momentum and not too much exposition. If anything, this feels like a stronger book than the first (again like The Empire Strikes Back!)
Hamilton is one of the science fiction greats. He was once described by Ken Follett as “the owner of the most powerful imagination in science fiction” and here he shines. He has a talent of dreaming vast ideas of plausible futures but then offering an individual, microscopic journey through these spectacular visions. This is especially true of the Salvation sequence. Unlike his Commonwealth (set in the late 24th century) and Nights Dawn series (27th century), Salvation is set close enough that it features people from this time — thanks to the life-extending treatments provided by the Olyix. This is an interesting departure from many of his previous stories, and it provides a nice anchor to our turbulent present.
The book shifts between a number of different characters who inhabit a range of social levels. There is the CEO of the Stargate company (Ainsley Zangari), moving to soldiers on the battlefront, and then to a more street-level view with people who call themselves the “Southwark Legion”: a bunch of toe-rags and criminals, providing some light-hearted relief. There are a dozen or so different perspectives, but the two main protagonists can be seen as Dellian and Yirella, who come up with the idea of a trap by creating an entirely fake civilisation as bait.
Fans will know that Hamilton’s books are often the size of a small fridge, but those of the Salvation Sequence are slimmer than much of the author’s previous work. Salvation Lost comes in at a relatively svelte 480 pages, although there doesn’t appear to be anything missing from this weight-loss regime.
A swift pace, filled with plenty of action, combines with Hamilton’s unique grand vision of the future to create a stunning story. This is top-drawer science fiction from one of the greatest living minds of the genre. I can’t wait to read the conclusion, set to be released later this year.
Salvation Lost is available from Pan Macmillan.
Title: Salvation Lost
Author: Peter F. Hamilton
Formats: Hardback, paperback, audiobook, ebook