Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Curled Up Next to the Fire: The Nano Flower

As usual, there's been a slightly lengthy period of silence between my last bout of squeeing (my gushings on the legend that is Peter V. Brett), but it can be argued that this entry is very tangentially linked to that event. For this is, as the title suggests, the literary segment. And this entry in the literary segment concerns the third book in the Greg Mandel Series, authored by Peter F. Hamilton. In addition to sharing the same first name, I had the pleasure to meet both men at the same bookshop.

Anyway, enough random blabbering. Time to get on with the literary critique babbling.

I have previously rambled about the Greg Mandel Series here, talking about the second book, A Quantum Murder. Given that A Quantum Murder took place not too long after the first instalment, Mindstar Rising, I was expecting a similar length of time between the second and third books. To my pleasant surprise, The Nano Flower takes place some seventeen years after the events of A Quantum Murder, placing it circa 2061.

So, some in-universe context. Julia Evans is no longer a tempestuous yet shrewd teenager at the helm of one of the largest companies on the planet. She is a shrewd, level-headed mother of two, whose husband mysteriously disappeared eight months previously. Greg Mandel has long since retired from the private detective game and has four kids of his own, with number five on the way. Now a humble orange farmer, he and his wife Eleanor are quite happy to stay out of Julia's complicated world of corporate espionage.

Until Julia's errant husband manages to have a strange flower delivered to his wife. In the space of one strange delivery, Greg finds himself dragged back into the world he had hoped to have left behind.

Classic premise for the trilogy finale, eh? The quest to follow the breadcrumbs left by Julia's husband bring the old team back together for one last glorious fling, in which they chase down not only the errant husband, but also an astounding new technology that could change the face of humanity's future.

By far, The Nano Flower has the largest scale of all the Greg Mandel novels. It finds our erstwhile hero jetting around the world and even out of this world, to the Crown Colony of New London - an asteroid painstakingly placed in Earth's orbit by Julia's company, Event Horizon. And compared to the previous two books, The Nano Flower is a lot grander in scope. It knows it's the finale and it's pulling out all the stops. For one thing, tekmercs. It's a phrase that had been bandied about since Mindstar Rising and I'll be brutally honest, it had never been fully explained to my satisfaction until the third book, when one of the main characters, Suzi (a friend of Greg Mandel's from his years fighting PSP oppression in Peterborough), turns out to be a tekmerc. Through her and her encounters with rival tekmercs, we finally get a neatly rounded picture of who these people are and what they do.

We also get to see Greg pull off a lot more stunts with his psi abilities. At least I'm fairly certain we were never introduced to the use of eidolonics in Mindstar Rising. Either way, The Nano Flower was the big finish. Even if I hadn't known it was the last of the Greg Mandels, even if I had read at the time of its first release in 1995 (when I was six and so could not have had any hope of grasping a single one of the novel's concepts), the feel of it screams the last hoorah before the curtain drops. And it's a very enjoyable and quite satisfying end to the series. There's no obvious doors being left open, it feels pretty much solidly, 100% resolved. In part this is also reflected by my pet favourite subject of novels, setting. The United Kingdom of the Greg Mandel Series is a broken tropical country, recovering from the brutality of a classically misguided socialist government. And now, circa 2061, it feels more...together. Even with a political backdrop of Welsh secessionism, it feels that Great Britain has adjusted to the effects of the Warming. They've recovered from the PSP and they're dealing with the fact that they're a tropical country. As well as being the big finish, The Nano Flower leaves the reader with the distinct impression that this future Britain, once so battered and fractured, is a whole nation again. And as a wise maiden said in the movie A Knight's Tale, all things should end with hope.

So there we have it. Final verdict summation - The Nano Flower is an enjoyable and satisfying, albeit on occasion a tad outlandish, conclusion to the Greg Mandel Series. The next Peter F. Hamilton offerings in my reading list are Great North Road and The Reality Dysfunction. Two daunting looking tomes. Might take me a good few months to get through them. You'll all just have to stay tuned, dear readers.

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