Monday, 27 November 2000

Peter F. Hamilton: The Nano Flower (1995)

Edition: Pan, 1995
Review number: 691

The third Greg Mandel novel is, like its predecessors, obviously flawed; unlike them, it is more a thriller than a mystery. It is set the better part of two decades later, when Greg and his wife Eleanor have teenage children, and Greg's friend and employer (billionaire industrialist Julia Evans) has a husband and children of her own. Had a husband, I should say, for he has gone missing before the start of the novel. The story begins when a flower is delivered to Julia along with a message from her husband; the flower, it turns out, is not from earth but contains alien genetic material. Julia asks Greg to track down her husband and find the source of the flower, which appears to be connected with rumours of an incredible new technology - also possibly of alien origin.

As a thriller, the plot amounts to a race between Greg and Julia on the one hand and unscrupulous unknown rivals on the other to gain control of this new technology. This would be fine, and has obviously been the basis of quite a large number of enjoyable thrillers. However, The Nano Flower has several flaws. The characterisation, particularly of Julia, is inconsistent. Greg's psychic powers are rather different from those he has in the earlier novels, with intuition emphasised rather than empathy. Most seriously, The Nano Flower has a poor beginning, the first fifty or so pages almost completely failing to grip the imagination even for a reader who has already read both Mindstar Rising and A Quantum Murder. Though it picks up in the middle, the ending is also something of a disappointment. The poorest in the series.

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