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The Neutronium Alchemist
Part 1: Consolidation and Part 2: Conflict

Peter F. Hamilton
Warner Aspect Books, 596 pages and 576 pages

The Neutronium Alchemist
Peter F. Hamilton
Peter F. Hamilton was born in Rutland, UK in 1960. In addition to the three Greg Mandel novels, Mindstar Rising, A Quantum Murder and The Nano Flower (all from Tor), he is the author of the UK bestseller, The Reality Dysfunction, which, along with The Neutronium Alchemist, form volumes 1 and 2 of Night's Dawn trilogy.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Greg Mandel Trio
SF Site Review: A Quantum Murder
Mark/Space: The Nano Flower
Peter F. Hamilton Tribute Page
Info on Peter F. Hamilton

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Stephen M. Davis

Mr. Hamilton tells an excellent story here, though he is hampered by two major problems. First, the two volumes which make up this middle piece of a trilogy are almost intolerably long. [Editor's Note: The Neutronium Alchemist was published originally in the UK as one book and split in two for the US and Canada with the additional titles Part 1: Consolidation and Part 2: Conflict.] Second, Warner Books faltered in their copy-edit of the book when converting it from the English version to the American format.

The story here concerns the return of souls from the Beyond -- souls that essentially snatch the bodies of people who are undergoing extreme physical distress. Mr. Hamilton does an excellent job of keeping this from getting silly, and the possessors act in a generally logical fashion, with a bit of localized mayhem thrown in to keep things interesting.

In The Neutronium Alchemist, three subplots unfold.

One of these concerns the machinations of Al Capone, who returns from the dead -- sans syphilis -- to begin an organization of Possessed, bent, essentially, on galactic domination. Mr. Hamilton succeeds in making Capone more than a cartoon character, though he insists on providing a scheming love interest for him that comes off rather lame.

The second of these subplots is the attempt by the Possessed to take over the habitat run by a sentient identity named Rubra. The attempts by Rubra to defeat the Possessed inside Valisk, and his amusing means of keeping his remaining un-Possessed inhabitants free, is highly entertaining.

The third subplot which concludes in this part of the trilogy is the fate of the device known as the Alchemist -- a weapon with the power to extinguish a sun.  Dr. Alkad Mzu, whose entire planet was destroyed in a war, has vowed to use the Alchemist as vengeance.  Mr. Hamilton succeeds here as well in putting together a taut conclusion to this storyline.

As I mentioned in the introduction, the two volumes together are long. The writing is generally good, but the storyline is, after all, rather depressing -- people all over the civilized galaxy are being possessed and there doesn't seem to be any hope. Every time the reader thinks: Ah! Now the people will be able to fight back!, something horrible happens and they're unable to succeed. To top it off, we have to wait until 1999 to see the final volume in this series.

Perhaps by that time, Warner's copy-editor will have mastered the period as a mark of punctuation. That is, if we're not all possessed by then.

Copyright © 1998 by Stephen M. Davis

Steve is faculty member in the English department at Piedmont Technical College in Greenwood, S.C. He holds a master's in English Literature from Clemson University. He was voted by his high school class as Most Likely to Become a Young Curmudgeon.

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