Publisher: Pan MacMillan
Genre: Space Opera
Publication Date: 2001
Lawrence Newton has given everything to the Zantiu-Braun company, and has received nothing in return. Finally growing tired, he sets off on a rogue mission to make himself the richest man in the galaxy . . .
Peter F. Hamilton is one of the biggest names in British science fiction. He has a lot of books to his name, and one thing they all have in common is length. Most of these books take place in sprawling space opera universes, but Fallen Dragon is a standalone. And with eight hundred pages, there is plenty of room for a massive story. Room, it turns out, that isn’t really used. Honestly. The plot mentioned on the back cover doesn’t become apparent until around the two-thirds mark of this novel. What we get for the first sixty percent is a rambling mass of flashbacks and tangents.
Now, Peter F. Hamilton is the master of tangents. He will take a dozen pages to describe the terraforming history of a planet in rich scientific detail. These are the parts of the books that I adore. I could read this sort of infodump for days on end. Hamilton is great at the harder edge of science fiction. But not all of these tangents are as interesting. I don’t want to sit through two pages of a taxi driver talking about Manchester United football club ever again. Fallen Dragon is the textbook definition of bloated, but a lot of this bloat is more interesting than the actual story. How much you enjoy this book depends on how willing you are to let Hamilton indulge himself on various topics.
The life story of Lawrence Newton is what makes up the majority of this book. He’s the main character, after all, but most of his scenes take place in flashbacks. The flashbacks and present day sections roughly alternate (and the chapters are as long as you’d expect in a book of this size) and that’s my main problem with this book. Newton’s background is not very interesting. The earliest scenes are the best, with a young Newton learning about the history of his planet. My love of terraforming as a concept definitely plays in here, but it is a real highlight. Unfortunately, Newton soon meets Roselyn, and it’s all downhill from there.
From the moment Roselyn turns up in the text, everything in Newton’s life comes down to one of two things: anger and sex, often at the same time. Chapter after chapter shows Newton’s sexual conquests and dalliances in far too much detail. The pages of endless sex become tedious the moment they start, and the book never recovers. Every female character in this book is in some way sexually linked to Newton, and I hated it. Then there’s the chapter where Newton moves to Scotland, only to have a mental breakdown when he unknowingly eats real meat and vegetables. I don’t know who we are supposed to sympathise with in this scene, but the militant vegan future Hamilton portrays in Fallen Dragon strikes me as incredibly dystopian.
All in all, Fallen Dragon is a book that stumbles along for far too long. There are moments that I really enjoyed, but those moments are too rare for me. I’m not saying I won’t read Hamilton again, but I’m certainly in no rush to do so.