by Hamilton, Peter F.
The acclaimed Peter Hamilton's standalone SF adventure Fallen Dragon sees him taking a breather after the immense, galaxy-spanning Night's Dawn trilogy, with a tauter story of future skirmishing in a mere few solar systems.
Centuries hence, despite faster-than-light travel, human interstellar exploration is stagnating. There's not enough money in it for the vast controlling companies such as Zantiu-Braun, now reduced to extracting profits via "asset realisation"--plundering established colonies that can't withstand Earth's superior weapons tech.
Lawrence Newton's childhood dreams were all about space exploration. Now he's just another Z-B squaddie, trained to use the feared, half-alive "Skin" combat biosuits, which offer super-muscles, armour and massive firepower, all queasily hooked into the wearer's bloodstream and nervous system. Commanding a platoon in Z-B's raid on planet Thallspring, Lawrence has secret plans to make off with a rumoured alien treasure.
But Thallspring resistance is unexpectedly tough, thanks to locals such as Denise Ebourn who have mysterious access to neuro-electronic subversion gear far subtler and perhaps more dangerous than Skin. Meanwhile, how fictional are the stories Denise tells her school pupils, about a fabled Empire that ruled our galaxy for a million years before becoming... something else?
Hamilton excels at violent action, but not with the dreadful simplicity of space opera. Despite his role in the explosive Thallspring situation, Lawrence genuinely hopes to avoid bloodshed--while Denise's lofty idealism results in chilling atrocities, and even Z-B may be less cruel and monolithic than it seems.
A breakneck interstellar chase leads to a satisfying finale and an unexpected romantic twist. This is solid, meaty SF entertainment. --David Langford
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