First, Hamilton is no stylist: the book suffers from a terrible use of language. Wrought sentences, tons of exposition, cheapo images (“if the ship would have had lungs, it would have sighed”), tedious descriptions of things, etc. This is not a standalone novel, so there’s 3000 pages of that in the entire series?
A so-so writing style would have been something I could have overcome, but then the content has to be good. As you might have guessed, this wasn’t the case either, and that’s the second problem of The Reality Dysfunction. While the first chapter still held some promise, the second chapter is a description of the evolution of life on a moon surrounding some planet, but on top of the bad prose, it features factual mistakes (it boldly claims that all first life everywhere in the universe are algae) and yet pretends to be knowledgeable by heaps and heaps of pseudo-scientific English.
Brace yourself for what happens next. Said life on that moon evolves to be sentient slugs that store their memories “chemically” into seeds eaten by their offspring, offspring that becomes instantly sentient because of that eating. Then, due to very extreme weather (energy storms, the works) every 9 years (because of “4-moon-alignment”) the slugs, by the energy lightning, are transformed into transcendent immaterial life forms, floating into space without a body, on a path to furthermore colonize the entire universe. What?? There’s a lot more of very elaborate, highly artificial ideas like this. They might seem original at first, but fall flat when you look through the seemingly scientific prose and think about it for 2 seconds.
Furthermore, to illustrate the level of the ‘depth’ of Hamilton’s social analysis, here’s a conversation between a ship mind and an organic newborn:
But you said there are lots of different religions; how can there be many gods? There can’t be more than one Creator, surely? That’s a contradiction.
A good point. Several of the largest wars Earth has known have been fought over this issue. All religions claim theirs is the true faith. In actuality, any religion is dependent solely on the strength of conviction in its followers.
Really? 1996, and we’re not past stuff like that? Okay, this ship is talking to a child, but do we as readers have to be bored with this? Or is Hamilton writing for teenagers?
I didn’t finish it. If a writer can’t hook me after about 100 pages, and even manages to irritate me about every other page of those pages, I cut my losses. I rather spend my time with a book that doesn’t feel forced.
originally written on the 2nd of December, 2014