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  • Written by Peter F. Hamilton
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On Sale: March 25, 2008
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-0-345-50467-8
Published by : Del Rey Ballantine Group
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Reviewers exhaust superlatives when it comes to the science fiction of Peter F. Hamilton. His complex and engaging novels, which span thousands of years–and light-years–are as intellectually stimulating as they are emotionally fulfilling. Now, with The Dreaming Void, the eagerly awaited first volume in a new trilogy set in the same far-future as his acclaimed Commonwealth saga, Hamilton has created his most ambitious and gripping space epic yet.

The year is 3589, fifteen hundred years after Commonwealth forces barely staved off human extinction in a war against the alien Prime. Now an even greater danger has surfaced: a threat to the existence of the universe itself.
At the very heart of the galaxy is the Void, a self-contained microuniverse that cannot be breached, cannot be destroyed, and cannot be stopped as it steadily expands in all directions, consuming everything in its path: planets, stars, civilizations. The Void has existed for untold millions of years. Even the oldest and most technologically advanced of the galaxy’s sentient races, the Raiel, do not know its origin, its makers, or its purpose.

But then Inigo, an astrophysicist studying the Void, begins dreaming of human beings who live within it. Inigo’s dreams reveal a world in which thoughts become actions and dreams become reality. Inside the Void, Inigo sees paradise. Thanks to the gaiafield, a neural entanglement wired into most humans, Inigo’s dreams are shared by hundreds of millions–and a religion, the Living Dream, is born, with Inigo as its prophet. But then he vanishes.

Suddenly there is a new wave of dreams. Dreams broadcast by an unknown Second Dreamer serve as the inspiration for a massive Pilgrimage into the Void. But there is a chance that by attempting to enter the Void, the pilgrims will trigger a catastrophic expansion, an accelerated devourment phase that will swallow up thousands of worlds.

And thus begins a desperate race to find Inigo and the mysterious Second Dreamer. Some seek to prevent the Pilgrimage; others to speed its progress–while within the Void, a supreme entity has turned its gaze, for the first time, outward. . . .

From the Hardcover edition.



Aaron spent the whole day mingling with the faithful of the Living Dream movement in Golden Park’s vast plaza, eavesdropping on their restless talk about the succession, drinking water from the mobile catering stalls, trying to find some shade from the searing sun as the heat and coastal humidity rose relentlessly. He thought he remembered arriving at daybreak; certainly the expanse of marble cobbles had been virtually empty as he had walked across it. The tips of the splendid white metal pillars surrounding the area had been crowned with rose-gold light as the local star rose above the horizon. He had smiled appreciatively at the outline of the replica city, matching the topography surrounding Golden Park with the dreams he had gathered from the gaiafield over the last . . . well, for quite some time. Golden Park had started to fill up rapidly after that, with the faithful arriving from the other districts of Makkathran2 across the canal bridges, ferried in by a fleet of gondolas. By midday there must have been close to a hundred thousand of them. All faced the Orchard Palace, which sprawled possessively like a huddle of high dunes over the Anemone district on the other side of the Outer Circle Canal. There they waited with badly disguised impatience for the Cleric Council to come to a decision—any sort of decision. The Council had been in conclave for three days now. How long could they possibly take to elect a new Conservator?

At one point that morning he had edged his way right up to the Outer Circle Canal, close to the central wire-and-wood bridge that arched over to Anemone. It was closed, of course, as were the other two bridges in that section. Although in ordinary times anyone from the ultradevout to curious tourist could cross over and wander around the vast Orchard Palace, this day it had been sealed off by fit-looking junior Clerics who had undergone a lot of muscle enrichment. Camped out to one side of the temporarily forbidden bridge were hundreds of journalists from all over the Greater Commonwealth, most of them outraged by the stubborn refusal of Living Dream to leak information their way. They were easily identifiable by their chic modern clothes and by faces that obviously were maintained at peak gloss by a membrane of cosmetic scales. Not even Advancer DNA produced complexions that good.

Behind them the bulk of the crowd buzzed about, discussing their favorite candidates. If Aaron was judging the mood correctly, just about ninety-five percent of them were rooting for Ethan. They wanted him because they were done with waiting, with patience, with the status quo preached by all the other lackluster caretakers since the Dreamer himself, Inigo, had slipped away from public life. They wanted someone who would bring their whole movement to that blissful moment of fulfillment they had been promised from the moment they had tasted Inigo’s first dream.

Some time in the afternoon Aaron realized that the woman was watching him. Instinct smoothly clicked his awareness to her location—which was an interesting trait to know he had. From then on he was conscious of her: how she casually wandered in order to keep an easy distance between them, how she never had her eyes in his direction when he glanced at her. She wore a simple short-sleeved rusty-orange top and knee-length blue trousers of some modern fabric. A little different from the faithful—who tended to wear the more primitive rustic clothes of wool, cotton, and leather favored by Makkathran’s citizens, but not contemporary enough to be obvious. Nor did her looks make her stand out, though she had a flattish face and a cute button nose; some of the time her slim copper shades were across her eyes, but often she had them perched in her short dark hair. Her age was unknowable; her appearance was locked into the biological mid-twenties like that of everyone in the Greater Commonwealth. He was certain, with no tangible proof, that she was well past her first couple of centuries.

After they had played the orbiting-satellites game for forty minutes, he walked over, keeping his smile pleasant. There were no pings coming off her that his macrocellular clusters could detect, no active links to the unisphere or any active sensor activity. Electronically, she was as stone age as the city.

“Hello,” he said.

She pushed her shades up with the tip of a finger and gave him a playful grin. “Hello yourself. So what brings you here?”

“This is a historic event.”


“Do I know you?” His instinct had been right, he saw; she was nothing like the placid faithful shuffling around them. Her body language was all wrong; she could keep tight control of herself, enough to fool anyone without his training—training?—but he could sense the attitude coiled up inside.

“Should you know me?”

He hesitated. There was something familiar about her face, something he should know about her. He could not think what for the simple reason that he did not have any memories to pull up and examine. Not of anything, now that he thought about it. He didn’t seem to have had a life prior to this day. He knew that was all wrong, yet that did not bother him, either. “I don’t recall.”

“How curious. What’s your name?”


Her laughter surprised him.

“What?” he asked.

“Number one, eh? How lovely.”

Aaron’s answering grin was forced. “I don’t understand.”

“If you wanted to list terrestrial animals, where would you start?”

“Now you’ve really lost me.”

“You’d start with the aardvark. Double A; it’s the top of the list.”

“Oh,” he mumbled. “Yeah, I get it.”

“Aaron.” She chuckled. “Someone had a sense of humor when they sent you here.”

“Nobody sent me.”

“Really?” She arched a thick eyebrow. “So you just sort of found yourself at this historic event, did you?”

“That’s about it, yes.”

She dropped the copper band back down over her eyes and shook her head in mock dismay. “There are several of us here, you know. I don’t believe that’s an accident, do you?”


Her hand gestured around at the crowd. “You don’t count yourself as one of these sheep, do you? A believer? Someone who thinks they can find a life at the end of these dreams Inigo so generously gifted to the Commonwealth?”

“I suppose not, no.”

“There’s a lot of people watching what happens here. It’s important, after all, and not just for the Greater Commonwealth. If there’s a Pilgrimage into the Void, some species claim it could trigger a devourment phase which will bring about the end of the galaxy. Would you want that to happen, Aaron?”

She was giving him a very intent stare. “That would be a bad thing,” he temporized. “Obviously.” In truth he had no opinion. It was not something he thought about.

“Obvious to some, an opportunity to others.”

“If you say so.”

“I do.” She licked her lips with mischievous amusement. “So, are you going to try for my unisphere code? Ask me out for a drink?”

“Not today.”

She pouted fulsomely. “How about unconditional sex, then, any way you like it?”

“I’ll bank that one, too, thanks.” He laughed.

“You do that.” Her shoulders moved up in a slight shrug. “Goodbye, Aaron.”

“Wait,” he said as she turned away. “What’s your name?”

“You don’t want to know me,” she called out. “I’m bad news.”

“Goodbye, Bad News.”

There was a genuine smile on her face as she looked back at him. A finger wagged. “That’s what I remember best,” she said, and was gone.

He smiled at the rear of her rapidly departing head. She vanished quickly enough amid the throng; after a minute he couldn’t even spot her. He had seen her originally because she had wanted him to, he realized.

Us, she’d said. There are a lot like us here. That didn’t make a lot of sense. But then she’d stirred up a lot of questions. Why am I here? he wondered. There was no solid answer in his mind other than it was the right place for him to be; he wanted to see who was elected. And the memories. Why don’t I have any memories of anything else? It ought to bother him, he knew—memories were the fundamental core of human identity—yet even that emotion was lacking. Strange. Humans were emotionally complex entities, yet he didn’t appear to be. But he could live with that; something deep inside him was sure he would solve the mystery of himself eventually. There was no hurry.

Toward late afternoon the crowd began to thin out as the announcement remained obstinately unforthcoming. Aaron could see disappointment on the faces moving past him, a sentiment echoed by the whispers of emotion within the local gaiafield. He opened his mind to the surrounding thoughts, allowing them to wash in through the gateway that the gaiamotes had germinated inside his cerebellum. It was like walking through a fine mist of specters, bestowing the plaza with flickers of unreal color, images of times long gone yet remembered fondly; sounds were muffled, as if experienced through fog.

His recollection of when he had joined the gaiafield community was as hazy as the rest of his time before this day: it didn’t seem like the kind of thing he would do—too whimsical. Gaiafield was for adolescents who considered the multisharing of dreams and emotions to be deep and profound or fanatics like Living Dream. But he was proficient enough with the concept of voluntarily shared thoughts and memories to grasp a coherent sensation from his exposure to the raw minds in the plaza. Of course, if it could be done anywhere, it would be here in Makkathran2, which Living Dream had made the capital of the Greater Commonwealth’s gaiafield, with all the contradictions that entailed. To the faithful, the gaiafield was almost identical to the genuine telepathy the citizens of the real Makkathran possessed.

Aaron felt their sorrow firsthand as the day began to wind down, with several stronger undercurrents of anger directed at the Cleric Council. In a society where one shared thoughts and feelings, so the consensus went, an election really should not be so difficult. He also perceived their subliminal wish slithering through the gaiafield: Pilgrimage, the one true hope of the whole movement.

Despite the regret gusting around him, Aaron stayed where he was. He didn’t have anything else to do. The sun had fallen almost to the horizon when there was some movement on the broad balcony along the front of the Orchard Palace. All across the plaza, people suddenly smiled and pointed. There was a gentle yet urgent movement toward the Outer Circle Canal. Security force fields along the side of the water expanded, cushioning those shoved up against the railings as the pressure of bodies increased behind them. Various news company camera pods zoomed through the air like glitter-black festival balloons, adding to the thrill. Within seconds the mood in the plaza had lifted to fiery anticipation; the gaiafield suddenly crackled with excitement, its intensity rising until Aaron had to withdraw slightly to avoid being deluged by the clashing storms of color and ethereal shouts.

The Cleric Council marched solemnly out onto the balcony, fifteen figures wearing full-length scarlet-and-black robes. In their center was a lone figure whose robe was a dazzling white edged in gold, the hood pulled forward to obscure the face inside. The dying sun glowed against the soft cloth, creating a nimbus around him. A huge cheer went up from the crowd. Camera pods edged in as close to the balcony as their operators dared; palace force fields rippled in warning, keeping them back. As one, the Cleric Council reached out into the gaiafield with their minds; unisphere access followed swiftly, making the grand announcement available across the Greater Commonwealth to followers and nullifidians alike.

In the middle of the balcony, the white-robed figure reached up and slowly pushed back the hood. Ethan smiled beatifically out across the city and its adulating faithful. There was a kindness about his thin solemn face that suggested he was attuned to all their fears; he sympathized and understood. Everyone could see the dark bags under his eyes that could come only from the burden of accepting such a terribly high office, of carrying the expectations of every Dreamer. As his face was exposed to the rich sunlight, the cheering down in the plaza increased. Now the other members of the Cleric Council turned toward the new Cleric Conservator and applauded contentedly.

Without conscious intervention, the ancillary thought routines operating inside Aaron’s macrocellular clusters animated his ocular zoom. He scanned along the faces of the Cleric Council, designating each image with an integral code as the ancillary routines slotted them into macrocellular storage lacunae ready for instant recall. Later he would study them for any betraying emotion, an indicator of how they had argued and voted.

He had not known he had the zoom function, which piqued his curiosity. At his request the secondary thought routines ran a systems check through the macrocellular clusters enriching his nervous system. Exoimages and mental icons unfolded from neutral status to standby in his peripheral vision, lines of shifting iridescence bracketing his natural sight. The exoimages were all default symbols generated by his u-shadow, the personal interface with the unisphere that instantly would connect him to any of its massive data, communication, entertainment, and commerce functions. All standard stuff.

However, the mental icons he examined represented a great deal more than the standard physiological enrichments that Advancer DNA had placed at the disposal of a human body; if he was reading their summaries correctly, he was enriched with some extremely lethal biononic field function weaponry.

I know something else about me, he thought. I have an Advancer heritage. It was hardly a revelation; eighty percent of Greater Commonwealth citizens had had similar modifications sequenced into their DNA thanks to the long-ago genetic visionaries on Far Away. But having biononics as well narrowed the scope fractionally, putting Aaron closer to his true origin.

Ethan raised his hands in an appeal for silence. The plaza fell quiet as the faithful held their breath. Even the babble from the media pack was stilled. A sensation of serenity coupled with steely resolution issued out of the new Cleric Conservator into the gaiafield. Ethan was a man who was sure of his purpose.

“I thank my fellow Councillors for this magnificent honor,” Ethan said. “As I begin my tenure, I will do what I believe our Dreamer wanted. He showed us the way—nobody can deny that. He showed us where life can be lived and changed until it is perfect, however you choose to define that as an individual. I believe he showed us this for a reason. This city he built. The devotion he engendered. It was for one purpose: to live the Dream. That is what we will now do.”

There was cheering out on the plaza.

“The Second Dream has begun! We have known it in our hearts. You have known it. I have known it. We have been shown inside the Void again. We have soared with the Skylord.”

Aaron scanned the Council again. He no longer needed to review and analyze their faces for later. Five of them already looked deeply uncomfortable. Around him the cheering was building to an inevitable climax, as was the speech.

“The Skylord awaits us. It will guide us to our destiny. We will Pilgrimage!”

Cheering turned to a naked, violent roar of adulation. Inside the gaiafield it was as though someone were setting off fireworks fueled by pleasure narcotics. The burst of euphoria surging through the artificial neural universe was awesome in its brightness.

Ethan waved victoriously to the faithful, then gave a last smile and went back inside Orchard Palace.

Aaron waited as the crowd wound down. So many cried with joy as they departed, he had to shake his head in dismay at their simplicity. Happiness here was universal, obligatory. The sun crept down below the horizon, revealing a city where every window glowed with warm tangerine light, just as they did in the true city. Songs drifted along the canals as the gondoliers gave voice to their delight in traditional fashion. Eventually even the reporters began to drift away, chattering among themselves; those with doubts were keeping their voices low. Out in the unisphere, news anchors and political commentators on hundreds of worlds were beginning their somber doomsday predictions.

None of it bothered Aaron. He was still standing in the plaza as the civic bots emerged into the starlight and began clearing away the rubbish the excitable crowd had left behind. He now knew what he had to do next; the certainty had struck him as soon as he had heard Ethan speak. Find Inigo. That was why he was here.

Aaron smiled contentedly around the dark plaza, but there was no sign of the woman. “Now who’s bad news?” he asked, and walked back into the jubilant city.

From the Hardcover edition.
Peter F. Hamilton|Author Q&A

About Peter F. Hamilton

Peter F. Hamilton - The Dreaming Void
Peter F. Hamilton is the author of numerous novels, including The Dreaming Void,Fallen Dragon, Judas Unchained, Pandora’s Star, and the acclaimed epic Night’s Dawn trilogy (The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist, and The Naked God). He lives with his family in England.

Author Q&A

Conversation with Peter Hamilton

Question:Over the past few years, there has a been a resurgence in space opera, led by writers like you, Iain M. Banks, Stephen Baxter, Greg Egan, and others. Just last month, for example, an eagerly anticipated anthology, The New Space Opera, edited by Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan, was released here in the States–containing, fittingly, a story by you. What distinguishes the “new” space opera from the old?

Peter Hamilton:If you classify “old” space opera as pre-1960s, then there was quite a large gap before people started writing it again. So the sheer development of technology in that time allowed for a degree of not so much realism to creep in but more theoretically acceptable concepts of a far-future civilization. By the nineties we could start to project developments in computing and wormhole theory and cultural trends with a lot more confidence. The futures we wound up writing about aren’t predictions, but because they are more firmly rooted in today, they make that kind of tomorrow more acceptable again.

Q:Why has space opera found fresh favor with critics and readers?

PH:I think because people realize that you can have fun with it and at the same time blend in more serious issues. The ability to explore ideas is limitless. That makes for an exciting genre.

Q:Do you see any significant differences between the way American and British writers approach space operas?

PH:Not really. If you do a blind reading the way they do blind tasting for wines, when you’re don’t know the nationality of an author, I bet most people wouldn’t be able to tell. Having said that, people who live here in the midlands around me would probably have a good guess purely because of the number of local names I sneak in.

Q:Your new novel, The Dreaming Void, is set 1,000 years after the events of its predecessor in the Commonwealth universe, Judas Unchained, so I suppose it can’t really be considered a sequel . . . even if it does feature some of the same characters. Can you set the stage for us?

PH:Sequel is wrong. It’s an examination of what happens next. Again a big development of technologies and political ideals have allowed for a very different culture to evolve from the victorious Commonwealth that existed at the end of Judas Unchained. Death has effectively been abolished, and the big question for humans is what kind of route to immortality to take. Then an alien version of evolution is discovered at the heart of the galaxy; the massive black hole lurking there is actually another universe. So naturally, some people believe it is their absolute right to go on pilgrimage there, no matter the damage that it will cause to the rest of the galaxy. In order to keep functioning, the Void consumes stars and converts their mass to energy. So this influx of pilgrims will necessitate a huge expansion phase, eating up a large portion of stars.

The question then is; do they have the right to pursue this goal at the expense of others?

Q:Is this book the first in a trilogy, or a duology like its predecessors?

PH:Definitely a trilogy.

Q:Why the 1,000-year gap?

PH:To allow time for various technologies and cultures to mature. The Commonwealth in this time has pretty much reached a plateau in just about every area, technological and social. The only thing left for it now is transcendence to a post-physical level. Though not every one wants that to happen.

Q:Back to the Void, a kind of self-contained micro-galaxy at the heart of our galaxy that is slowly devouring our galaxy in order to fuel its own existence and expansion. Is there hard science behind this idea?

PH:It’s more like a hijacking of hard science. We know there is a massive black hole at the center of the galaxy. And it was recently postulated that it may be possible for “information” to escape from an event horizon. I simply shifted the notion around to form the Void.

Q:The story in the anthology I mentioned above, “Blessed by an Angel,” introduces the character of Inigo, who plays a central role in The Dreaming Void. Tell us a bit about Inigo. Should readers find that story before they begin the novel?

PH:It’s not essential at all; however, it is interesting for anyone following the Commonwealth closely. The short story tells you a little about the big cultural shifts that were going on at that time in the Commonwealth universe. As to Inigo himself, he was the recipient of advanced nanotechnology that gives him an extremely sophisticated body and abilities. Unfortunately for him, he’s brought up on a planet that rejects this type of cultural evolution. The guardians of the planet’s culture are self-appointed, yet covertly assisted by the authorities, and they’re trying to stop the opposing culture from “contaminating” their world.

In the trilogy, you find out what kind of effect growing up a stranger within his own family and world has on him, and why he always feels isolated.

Q:What makes Inigo, out of all human beings and aliens, able to “tune in” to events within the Void?

PH:That will be referred to more in the second and third volumes of the trilogy.

Q:Your portrayal of religions in this novel, both the Living Dream, which exists outside the Void but is obsessed with what lies inside it, and the religion of the humans within the Void, is largely a negative one. Do you see religions in general as dangerous and inevitably at odds with science?

PH:It’s questionable if Living Dream is a religion. There are arguments either way. I see it as more of a cult, but we’re talking semantics now. It’s an organization with a vast number of devout followers who believe in a new kind of life it can make available. Define that as you wish. The one in the Void is a very low-level religion that doesn’t dominate its culture. I don’t see it as negative; its teachings are relevant to the Void and what happens to human souls within that universe. So in that context it’s a force for good. As to religions in general, some can be very detrimental to science. Fortunately, science seems to be holding its own these days, though sadly not in every part of the world.

Q:Ozzie, who played such a central role in Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained, is offstage in this novel, perhaps dead, perhaps not . . . but his presence is still felt, especially through the gaiafield, which has made the religion of the Living Dream possible. I do get the feeling that you’re far from finished with Ozzie. . . .

PH:Ozzie certainly isn’t dead. We do get to catch up with him in volume three. Whether he wants people to catch up with him is another matter.

Q:There are two narrative lines in the novel: the first outside the Void, driven by the search for Inigo as the Living Dream’s plans to enter the Void accelerate, the second within the Void, focusing on a boy named Edeard, who possesses unusual psychic abilities. Are the events of the second narrative, within the Void, the dreams that Inigo has shared by means of the gaiafield? Are they the dreams of the mysterious second dreamer? Or are they something else entirely?

PH:Inigo dreams Edeard’s life, and those dreams are the foundation of the whole Living Dream movement. The second dreamer is starting to connect with a Skylord inside the Void.

Q:Your books are densely plotted, with many vibrant characters, and filled with intricate backstories. How deeply do you plot everything out before you sit down to write, and how much room do you allow yourself (and your characters) to improvise?

PH:Plotting something like this can take me anything from six to nine months. As well as plot lines, I do the inevitable world building, and generally getting my universe in order. At the end of that process, I produce chapter outlines–Each of which tells me where the characters are at the start, and where they have to finish. How they cover that distance is down to me on the day.

Q:What can you tell us about the next book in the series?

PH:Volume two focuses more on Edeard’s life in the Void and his struggle to bring law and order to the city. It also shows the true nature of the Void, which the reader hasn’t seen yet. Volume three will then go back to concentrate on the Living Dream pilgrimage and the human politics surrounding it.

Q:Of all the technologies currently being researched and developed, which do you think will have the most radically transformative effect on humanity within the next hundred years or so?

PH:I’m fascinated by genetic therapy, which finally seems to be making some big strides toward active medical treatments.

From the Hardcover edition.



Praise for Peter F. Hamilton

Judas Unchained

“An interstellar suspense thriller . . . sweeping in scope and emotional range.”
–San Antonio Express-News

“Bristles with the energy of golden age SF, but the style and characterizations are polished and modern.”
–SF Site

“Richly satisfying . . . wonderfully imagined.”
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“You’re in for quite a ride.”
–The Santa Fe New Mexican

Pandora’s Star

“Should be high on everyone’s reading list . . . You won’t be able to put it down.”
–Nancy Pearl, National Public Radio

“An imaginative and stunning tale of the perfect future threatened . . . a book of epic proportions not unlike Frank Herbert’s Dune or Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy.”

“Recommended . . . A large cast of characters, each with his own story, brings depth and variety to this far-future saga.”
–Library Journal

“Complex and engaging.”

From the Hardcover edition.

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