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A Night Without Stars is the latest from space-opera expert and best-selling British science fiction author Peter F Hamilton. The second book in the increasingly rare duology format, A Night Without Stars picks up generations from where The Abyss Beyond Dreams ended. A fantastic story with or without the larger context of the several other series taking place in this same world. A fascinating society, engaging characters, fantastic plot, and one major unexpected turn that made me need to flip back to the start of the book to make sure I couldn’t have been stupid enough to miss it coming. A great conclusion to an equally great first book, and a strong entry into the Space Opera genre and the overall bibliography of Hamilton’s Void Universe books as well.

The planet of Bienvenido is on its own, isolated from the rest of the universe. And it’s waging war against the ruthless Fallers, aliens which have evolved to conquer whole worlds. Kysandra is leading an underground resistance, aided by biological enhancements that give her a crucial edge. But she fears she’s fighting a losing battle. This is especially as the government hampers her efforts at every turn, blinded by crippling technophobia and prejudices against enhanced ‘Eliter’ humans. However, if the resistance and government can’t work together, humanity on this planet will face extinction – for the Fallers are organizing a final, decisive invasion. Bienvenido badly needs outside help. But the Commonwealth, with all its technological expertise, has been lost to them for generations. Desperate times will call for desperate measures, or humanity on Bienvenido will not survive.

I think if I had to pick one thing I enjoy the most about the universe that Peter has created, it’s that it’s one of the few long-running science fiction universes where humans have accomplished many great and amazing things, and reached new heights of technological prowess and yet nevertheless can still get smacked around, and deal with species we still barely understand and whose abilities we can’t even begin to match. Humanity has reached functional immortality, created something arguably even greater than the singularity, beaten aging, sickness, mortality, created interactive collective consciousness, and then end up in a place with an alien species that still metaphorically pats us on the head and tells us they’ll be around when we grow up. I get increasingly sick and tired of humans getting to space to find that space is crowded full of alien species, but nevertheless we manage to end up on top almost immediately.

This is rarely more highlighted than in the story of A Night Without Stars. Generations after being ejected from the Void and left out in the interstellar middle of nowhere, the people of Bienvenido are pretty much dedicating their entire society to trying to avoid being completely wiped out by the Fallers, a species that has the humans of the world on the back foot for hundreds of years. While their technology is definitely not up to the snuff of the rest of the Commonwealth, they’ve actually created a fascist society that is actively resisting that technology because they blame the Commonwealth for getting them in their mess in the first place. This creates a lot of great character and plot conflict between the characters who have a genuine desire to protect and save humanity seeing a system that is holding them back warring with centuries of cultural stasis telling them it is that way for a reason. That level of philosophical conflict added a lot to the story.

While I do think you could actually read A Night Without Stars without reading An Abyss Beyond Dreams, because Hamilton does a great job putting in just enough background to keep you on track without exposition dumping on you, you really ought to at least start with the first book in this duology. Coming chronologically last, and given the extremely long lifespan of several of the major characters, these novels do contain spoilers for The Void Trilogy (which starts with The Dreaming Void), and The Commonwealth Saga (which starts with Pandora’s Star). A few of those spoilers are actually fairly significant, so if you are somebody who wants every surprise to be a surprise, start at Pandora’s Star for sure, but no matter where you start, these books are deeply engaging and seriously fascinating. Highly recommended.

Dan received an Advance Review Copy of this book from Del Ray via NetGalley

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