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Peter F. Hamilton – Mindstar RisingMindstar Rising is/was Peter F. Hamilton’s first published Novel, he has now 14 books to his name (or quite a few more, depending on how you count books broken in two instalments, omnibus editions etc). This here is the first book in a trilogy, set on a roughly contemporary Earth with a slightly alternative recent history, following the fortunes of a psi-enhanced, demobbed ‘Mindstar’ soldier. And, just to be up front, this is a book which, in large parts, didn’t work for me.

The story plays in an England which has just been returned to proper Conservative rule (under the Monarchy) following the ‘2nd Restoration’, which swept away the clueless, cruel, bungling, socialist/communist PSP Regime. Yes, he nails his colours to his mast from the word go – the good guys are Multinational Entrepreneurs and Individuals who show initiative and use their skills to go up in the world. The bad guys are foreign financiers with perverse sexual tastes, and of course the aforementioned overthrown leftie government.
The country has also been through what is, repeatedly, referred to as ‘the energy crisis, the warming, the credit crash’ – there is coastal flooding, which led to refugee populations moving inland, and the climate is quite a bit warmer than it used to be.

The story itself follows Greg Mandel (who gives the series his name), a Mindstar soldier who rises in the (restored) world (here’s the title of the book, then). An insidious attack on the Event Horizon corporation, led by the patriarchal Philip Evans, and his young protégé and heir, Julia Evans, required Greg and his ‘Espersense’ to track the personnel involved on the inside. Things escalate from here, as he gets wrapped up in a battle between the Evanses and one of their foreign financiers, and with the fate of young Julia Evans especially.

The story rolls along quite nicely as long as there is something going on, ie any kind of action, or at least activity. As soon as things to to internals, reflective thoughts, or, #deity forbid, social interactions (loads thereof, especially for Julia Evans), never mind sex scenes then I found the book to be toe-curling, and frequently rather repulsive. I was, several times, severely tempted to give up and throw the book into a corner, and read something I enjoy. And that's a rarity for me.
The characters are not all the well developed – Greg himself is a walking cliché of an ex-soldier (nothing wrong with that if you use the character for this, and not for other purposes), Julia is inconsistent, changes a lot (and no, this is not character development), and Kendric di Girolamo is a cartoon-book, cut-out platitude baddie.
The plotting, in contrast, was rather good in my opinions. Things line up, where there are twists they (mainly) surprise, frequently make sense in retrospect (I don't mind being led down the wrong path with a character for a while), there really isn't much here I could criticize. The same applies to the  handling of the psi-ability to see into the future (or, rather, set of possible futures) – this appeared to be well thought through, made sense, I (without a deep analysis, I confess) can't really see a break in the logic, so well done here.
There are other bits in the environment which don't gel, like the fact that the UK infrastructure is badly run down, whilst the IT capacity and network seems to be top grade. Not believable, I'd say. The same applies to IT security and hacking, as depicted. If things really were that rubbish and vulnerable then I wouldn't think there would be anything left standing to be usable still. These are minor quibbles, he clearly needed these elements for the story he was telling, it just puts another dent into the consistency of the world the story plays in.

Overall I have to say, as indicated at the beginning, that this book did not work for me. There's lots of promise in this, yes, and I think the 14+ subsequent books over the intervening 17 years, and the nomination for an AC Clarke award indicate that Hamilton indeed made good on at least some of that promise. Still, after Mindstar Rising it will be a good long while before I might be tempted to read something else by him... sorry.

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Title: Mindstar Rising    
Series: Greg Mandel
Series Number: 1
Author: Peter F. Hamilton
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL:
Publisher:  Pan/MacMillan
Publisher URL:
Publication Date: 1993
Review Date: 110128
ISBN: 9780330323765
Price: UKP 7.99
Pages: 438
Format: Paperback
Topic: SF
Topic: Dystopia


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