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Manhattan In Reverse Novel Review

6 min read

Stories from the Confederacy and elsewhere populates this short story collection from Peter Hamilton.

What They Say:
A major collection of short fiction from Peter F. Hamilton, New York Times bestselling author of Pandora’s Star, The Dreaming Void, and many other epic science fiction novels—including a brand-new novella starring detective Paula Myo

The Review:
There are few science fiction authors I can get behind these days as so many go for the ecological cliff angle, looking at the immediate problems of the world and extrapolating from there. While there are certainly good works to be had there, it’s not where I want to read, which is why i’m such a fan of Peter Hamilton’s works as he touches on such things but often deals with the world far beyond that time. With such massive works behind him involving the dead coming back across the galaxy in the Commonwealth books to the varied stories to have had in his Confederacy series, I’ve enjoyed his standalone works before as well. This collection gives us a few short stories he slid in between the recent massive works he’s done with two trilogies, though some of these populates side stories within there as well, similar to what he did years ago with Second Chance at Eden. While these Confederacy stories dominates the second half of this book, it’s not a bad thing as they’re thoroughly engaging Paula Myo stories.

The book offers a couple of short stories, some too short when you get down to it, but they offer up different views of the world that are quite engaging. The longest of the non-Confederacy stories is the first one though, as it deals with the world from 1832 into a distant future where mankind took a very different turn. It’s not steampunk, though it might feel that way at first, as we see how science progressed well over a hundred years earlier and had different social mores to it as everything was introduced. The main focus on it is on that of a murder that happens among one of the greater Families in England and we see that as the tie that binds for an investigator that works through it over the decades, finding new clues, re-interviewing suspects and those that knew the man who died while trying to close the case as the world very much changed around him. It took a bit to settle into what this world timeframe was like, but once it moved along by a few years and then a few decades, it became hugely engaging and made me wish for a much longer story, something few short stories do.

The Footvote story is really fun as it deals with the world going through a radical change when a short term wormhole is opened and people are offered the chance to escape to another world. But it’s a world with specific terms to live by due to the man that has control of the wormhole and we see the way one particular family has to deal with the choice of going and the general stresses of the world itself as well. It feels like a lot of ecological cliff material that’s out there but it does a nice twist on it by keeping it on the family and a look at the rules for the new society that they may escape to.

Another really fun little story deals with a particular brand of time travel that’s a little convoluted but it has a sense of fun about it as it, like the first story, deals with a murder but goes in reverse. If At First… has a good narrative to it as it’s told by the investigating officer as he unravels the clues and works through the mystery but also ends up becoming a part of the case. Time travel in its many forms is always intriguing and this one provides a good blend to it. The same can be said of The Forever Kitten, another story that’s really just a handful of pages but could be a full length novel of its own with plenty to flesh it out as it deals with immortality and the kinds of issues that comes up with it.

The majority of the second half of the book deals with the Confederacy stories though, focusing on Paula Myo as the Investigator everyone loves to hate and love because of how singleminded she is in her goals. It’s a recurring theme in Hamilton’s work and getting a trio of stories around her at different pointsin her life, humanizing her and dealing with some of the fallout of the war and the Lost23 worlds, resettling and more is great. Hamilton has created a rich world that many authors could play in and when he does it he ends up giving us some fascinating little side stories. Whether it’s dealing with an assassination attempt that’s layered in what memory really means or focusing on a world that’s looking to escape from the Confederacy to pursue their own goals, Myo is the one that doesn’t stop until it’s all done and over with. The first two stories are excellent works, very engaging to read, but I really found the last story a bit different and more interesting because of it. The focus of having her dealing with a xenibiological issue on a recently settled world reminded me a bit of his Commonwealth works, but it gave Paula a chance to ge away from a lot, but not all, of the technology she’s used to and to try and understand a potentially protosentient alien mind. It’s a bit wild west in its way and it was a fun frontier to put her on.

Release Notes:
This Kindle edition of Manhattan in Reverse comes with the main cover as released with the print edition and no other extras beyond a preview of The Great North Road.

In Summary:
My general rule is to avoid reading works of authors that are alive because it’s always frustrating to wait for new books. But Peter Hamilton is one of my exceptions because even though the wait is horribly painful, the end results are fantastic. After his last three volume series, which was build upon another three volume series, I was really glad to read something smaller, simpler and in a way a bit more fun. It’s got its serious side to all of it but because of the length and the way things close, it doesn’t have the same scale and intensity that the other works do. Only the Paula Myo stories feel like more and that’s simply because if you’ve read the other works, you already have years worth of a connection with her. Manhattan in Reverse is a good look at some of Hamilton’s short works, some previously released and others not, and there’s a lot to like here and more than enough that could easily be fleshed out to more, richer and fuller works.

Grade: A-

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