From the Parallel Worlds Magazine archive.
If you’re a regular of Parallel Worlds, you’ll know that we’ve been following Peter Hamilton’s new series — the Salvation Sequence — with some interest. Stephen Baxter has called it “a modern classic” while noted author Gareth L. Powell has called Hamilton “one of the finest writers the genre has produced”. I’ve been reading his books pretty much since he started publishing them in ‘93 with Mindstar Rising. His stories are always expansive, intelligent and thoughtful, but the Salvation Sequence is on another level. It has all the things you’d expect from Hamilton, but is more focused and relatable, and yet at the same time deals with the biggest threat you can imagine: the very end of the universe itself.
Saints of Salvation is the third book in the series, and things are really heating up. As mentioned before, this series is more a story in three parts and it makes sense to read the previous two books before this one. I’ll try to avoid spoilers and not mention anything you can’t see in each of the book’s summary, but some spoilers are inevitable.
Humanity has spread out to the stars and, in doing so, have met a seemingly friendly race called the Olyix. At first the Olyix seem harmless, and helpfully provide humanity with access to some of their advanced technology. This includes some pretty big stuff: most illnesses have been wiped out, allowing people to live a long, healthy life. Access to a network of stargates (leveraging quantum spatial entanglement) allows people to travel across the galaxy in a matter of moments, making deep space travel largely obsolete. All good so far. But like Laocoön alluded to when he spoke of “Greeks bearing gifts”, not all is as it seems when it comes to the true motives of the Olyix.
Micro-black holes, bio-engineering, hacking a Neutron Star, raised consciousness, quantum temporal theory and even time travel paradoxes are just a few of the things this series explores
They follow a strange religion that posits God exists at a far future point at the end of time (known as the Omega Point), along with the expected rapture moment — and it seems that they might just be trying to bring forth just such an event. Predictably it all hits the fan and the Olyix show their true colours.
The series so far has seen some big changes, cliff-hangers and events on a bigger and bigger scale. The ideas are just tremendous. Micro-black holes, bio-engineering, hacking a Neutron Star, raised consciousness, bootstrapped civilisation, quantum temporal theory and even time travel paradoxes are just a few of the things this series explores.
At this point in the story, the Olyix have cocooned billions of humans, stored in the holds of their ‘Arkships’, and set to join their God at the end of time. It isn’t just humanity at stake here though; the Olyix want all sentient life to be present at the rapture. It’s crisis point and no strategy is off the table, from ultra-secret spy missions to battles on a scale never before seen.
Within this huge scope of universe-ending proportions, we have a number of threads, offering personal perspectives and individual journeys of torment and triumph. I enjoyed how the author has this universe-sized story with huge, cosmic events that bring about some pretty big changes, and yet there is still a story on a personal level. There are still characters to engage with and relate to — something that can often get cast aside with large-scale science fiction epics.
Saints of Salvation is modern fiction at its finest
The author does an admirable job of weaving all these threads together towards a clever, breathtaking finale. Lots of action, huge battles and fast pace combine with some really touching, individual moments. It’s some impressive writing and features one of the most satisfying endings I’ve encountered in some time (Benioff and Weiss could learn a lot here).
Saints of Salvation is modern fiction at its finest: it packs a cornucopia of ideas into an epic story that spans galaxies and millenia. It retains the author’s visions of future society and future technology that evokes feelings of wonder and excitement and yet feels accessible. There isn’t a wasted word or page, and the energy doesn’t let up for a minute. It has surpassed my expectations in every way — simply sublime.
Saints of Salvation is available from Pan Macmillan.
Title: Saints of Salvation
Author: Peter F. Hamilton
Formats: hardback, paperback, audiobook, ebook