BOOK CLUB: The Saints of Salvation

“The Saints of Salvation” by Peter F. Hamilton is the third in a sprawling science fiction saga. Readers of the earlier novels will fall on this with pleasure, finding a satisfactory conclusion to the story. Readers who try to enter the story here will probably spend a lot of time wondering what the heck is going on.

Please note it’s impossible to provide a plot summary for this novel without including some spoilers for the first two novels – although I’ll try to minimise them.

Earth has been invaded by the Olyix, an alien race which is on a quest to “collect” all intelligent races it comes across. The Olyix plan to take them to the end of time and present them to the Olyix’s god.

The human race has adopted a three pincered approach. Some humans are attacking the Olyix directly and immediately. Some have fled to establish worlds where they can breed and train humans specifically designed to battle the Olyix. And some have fled further, hoping to hide between the stars, and preserve the human race in hidden enclaves.

This is hard science fiction, with an extremely large cast spread over multiple timelines and multiple locations. And I don’t just mean different timelines for each group; I mean past and future too, which becomes increasingly complex as time moves faster or slower for different groups due to space travel and some neat manipulation of physics.

I have read the first novel in the trilogy (“Salvation”), but not the second. With this gap in my knowledge, I found it a little hard to keep track of some characters. I suspect that without the grounding of the first novel, I wouldn’t have had a clue who many people were, and the timelines would have left me completely confused. This is not a stand-alone novel; not only will you benefit significantly from starting with volume one, but you may also find this close to incomprehensible if you try to read it by itself.

Despite the large cast, Hamilton’s characters are distinctive, and I had no trouble recognising each as individuals. Some of the relationships were challenging to grasp, due mostly to not having read the second novel and the multiple timelines. It’s hard to keep track of who’s related to who. Not all of the humans are likeable, but most are empathetic and engaging. In particular, I found myself really involved in the quest of the “Saints” of the title – five humans who were among the first to grasp the threat, set out to deal with it very directly, and through a quirk of time became heroes of distant history while still on their mission.

The science is detailed and credible. I didn’t understand all of it, but then I didn’t try too hard either. Nevertheless, it adds important detail to the plot and underlined the strong worldbuilding.

Despite the complexity of the plot, the density of the science, and the sheer length of the novel, I found it quite an easy read. Hamilton’s prose flows smoothly, and engagement with the characters will have readers turning the pages.

This is excellent hard science fiction, entertaining but thought-provoking too. It provides a satisfactory conclusion to the main story, while leaving open the possibility of investigating this universe more in future novels. It is not, however, for readers who haven’t read at least one of the preceding two novels.

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading The Saints of Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

ISBN: 978-1509844647 / Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia

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