Let me start the book review in the way others who have reviewed this book have, with wow this is one big book!. At 1,087 pages it has to be one of the longest pieces of fiction I have ever read. It should also be mentioned this book is written for adults and contains no pictures. So each of those pages is text. That said this book is not a read that is a hard slog by any stretch.
“Great North Road” tells a tale of a world where human cloning is well established, the human genome is manipulatable to age slower and be rejuvenated. a real and present danger from a seemingly invincible extra-terrestrial entity exists, and instantaneous space travel is made possible via a gateway. The story begins as a murder investigation when a clone of the most powerful family, the North’s, in the city of Newcastle (UK) is found murdered and floating in the river Tyne. There is though something very odd about the murder method, a method used once before 20 years ago on one of the colonial world’s St Libra. The convicted suspect, Angela, is still under lock and key in prison. She had held firm that she was innocent and another sentient extra-terrestrial species had been responsible. A bug hunt begins on the planet.
The story is told through the intertwining of the murder investigation, the bug hunt, and the characters back stories. There are a lot of flashbacks and pointers to technology that currently does not exist. The flashbacks are pertinent to the story and adds to the stories layers building a rich view of the world and it’s citizens. Hamilton thankfully also does not get too technical when describing the technology. He focuses on the function, not the details, of the devices in use. The technical details that are shared are pertinent to the story.
Back to the raw and undeniable length. Could this be addressed? I think the answer is yes, but should it. Unquestionably Hamilton could have split the narrative into two smaller books. One could focus on the police investigation into the murder of the North. The other the bug hunt on St. Libra. However, I could be argued that this would detract from the overall story. I would go so far as to claim that the two stories in isolation would not have been compelling. When combined into this singular entity they are, in fact never have I been so compelled to read on.
This truly was a pleasure and the story well balanced. I will be looking for more Hamilton in the future. Any reccaaommendations?
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