Book Book Book Book
Commentary Commentary RSS Reviews Podcasts_Audio Podcasts RSS Blog Links Archives Indexes

Peter F. Hamilton
Manhattan in Reverse
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2011

Pan Macmillan
UK Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-0-230-75030-2
Publication Date: 10-07-2011
260 pages; £17.99 / $26.95
Date Reviewed: 11-06-2011

Index:  Science Fiction  Mystery  Horror

Reading memories have a strange quality to them because readers can experience the events in the best books as memories at the same time we can recall the actual times and places we read the books. For me, a perfect example of this is Peter F. Hamilton's first short story collection, 'A Second Chance At Eden.' In the same moment I can immerse myself in visions of the planets visited by Hamilton's characters and my own memories of this planet when I was reading that book. It's easy to think of Hamilton as the author of weighty tomes. He's good at that.

But 'Manhattan in Reverse' shows that he works well in the short story and novella format as well. It also displays his strengths not just as a science fiction writer, but also as a mystery writer. He may set his mysteries in his various universes, or in alternate timelines, but the appeal of many of his stories is the appeal of a good mystery.

That's true from the start here, with his PS Publishing novella, "Watching Trees Grow," which starts out with a murder in an alternate Oxford in the early 19th century. In Hamilton's timeline, progress is much faster, and the protagonist pursues the perpetrator through centuries, thanks to an extended lifetime. There's a bit of the current steampunk feel to this novella, written well before the current deluge, but the plot and character drivers are firmly rooted in the mystery genre, with the science fiction backdrop offering Hamilton some great opportunities to spin the mystery and play with our perceptions.

PS Publishing also brought readers the first spin of "Footvote" (via Postscripts, their magazine), a dark political satire that has been revised for this collection. Like all political satire, it's tied to its time, and that can be jolting, but it is nonetheless humorous and written with the sort of details that make Hamilton's SF work so appealing. "The Forever Kitten," a 1,000 word thought experiment written for Nature, harkens back to Hamilton's earlier work for Fear magazine. He's quite adept at SFnal horror.

The remaining stories; "If At First," "Blessed by an Angel," "The Demon Trap," and "Manhattan in Reverse," are all effective science fiction mysteries, with the last three set in the Commonwealth Universe, featuring the ever-more-endearing Paula Mayo. Hamilton gets up a real head of steam here, creating complicated mysteries, great characters and toe-tapping plots that are rich in detail. There's no shortage of wildly imaginative science fiction ideas percolating at any instant, but Hamilton uses mystery tropes to keep us engaged as well. This is smart, fun reading in a great package. Macmillan has always done right by Peter F. Hamilton, this time around with great Steve Stone cover. If mystery, science fiction and short fiction sound appealing, shockingly, Peter F. Hamilton is here to deliver a slim volume that should not get lost when shelved amidst his megaliths.

Review Archive
All Reviews alphabetized by author.

General Fiction
Non-Genre, general fiction and literature.

Supernatural fiction, supernatural horror and non-supernatural horror.

Science Fiction
Science fiction, science fantasy, speculative fiction, alternate history.

Fantasy, surrealism and magic realism.

Crime, thrillers, mystery, suspense.

Non-Fiction, True Crime, Forteana, Reference.


Archives Indexes How to use the Agony Column Contact Us About Us