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Manhattan in Reverse
Peter F. Hamilton
Subterranean Press, 272 pages

Manhattan in Reverse
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.

Peter F. Hamilton Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Evolutionary Void
SF Site Review: The Temporal Void
SF Site Review: The Dreaming Void
SF Site Review: Judas Unchained
SF Site Review: Misspent Youth
SF Site Review: The Reality Dysfunction
SF Site Review: A Second Chance at Eden
SF Site Review: Greg Mandel Trio
SF Site Review: A Quantum Murder
SF Site Review: The Neutronium Alchemist

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Richard A. Lupoff

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Until this collection landed on my desk, I must confess, I was unfamiliar with Peter F. Hamilton and his works. Not his fault. He sold his first short story in 1988 and his first novel in 1993. He's been pretty prolific, too. By my rough count he's published something like fifteen novels.

What I've been missing!

Manhattan in Reverse contains nine stories of varying lengths. The longest of them is "Watching Trees Grow," is actually a short novel -- it runs the better part of 100 pages of rather small type. It's an alternate history story, and in an era when these things are as common as lying politicians, I must say that it's the most fascinating, and convincingly written example since Ward Moore's Bring the Jubilee (1953).

The story begins at Oxford University in 1832, but it isn't the 1832 that you and I are familiar with. In this version, as far as I can determine, the Protestant Reformation was either stamped out pretty quickly and pretty thoroughly, or it never took place at all. Hamilton is not overt in explaining his uchronia, the reader can pick up clues and construct a pattern from them. Rather than finding this frustrating, I believe that it adds to my pleasure as a reader.

There are a good many automobiles around. They don't go very fast by "our world" standards. They're electric powered and part of a generally eco-friendly, non-polluting industrial base. That's good.

What's not so good, the Borgia family (the Kardashians of their day, I suppose) has a strangle hold on the Catholic Church, which in turn has something close to a strangle hold on legal and social institutions. Paradoxically, the sexual revolution has taken place and young adults (e.g., Oxford students of both genders) seem to cohabit quite freely and happily.

As a consequence, there's a huge growth in population, which in turn is pushing technology to develop space travel so that surplus people can be shipped off to become interplanetary colonists.

Into this mix Hamilton dumps a murder. Wow!

I won't go on about the other stories in this book, except to say that several of them interlace, turning Manhattan in Reverse into a story-cycle, almost an episodic novel, rather than a simple collection. The title story refers to the legendary purchase of Manhattan Island by the Netherlands, led (if memory serves) by one Peter Minuit.

Hamilton proposes that, rather than exploit and cheat aliens after First Contact, a truly ethical space-faring civilization will respect the integrity of any native races and their societies.

Enough, enough of my blather. If anyone reading this is as inexcusably unaware of Peter F. Hamilton as I was prior to discovering Manhattan in Reverse, my advice is to Get Thee to the nearest science fiction bookstore and head straight to this man's books.

My only problem at this point is which one shall I start first?

Copyright © 2012 Richard A. Lupoff

Richard A. Lupoff reports that his long-delayed cop novel, Rookie Blues, is on the verge of publication and should actually be available in July, 2012. Publisher is Dark Sun Press. His two most recent short story collections, Visions and Dreams, previously published only in very limited hardcover editions, will shortly be reissued as trade paperbacks by Hippocampus Press. Each volume contains a new story that was omitted from the previous editions.


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