Fallen Dragon, by Peter F. Hamilton

Fallen Dragon, by Peter F. Hamilton book coverGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Warner Books
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: three stars
Book Review by William Shaw

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Lawrence Newton’s childhood dream is to be a star ship captain like his heroes on TV. In his early teens he is seduced and then betrayed by girl paid by his company CEO father to keep him at home and studying. When he discovers the manipulation, he leaves his colony planet home and goes to Earth to fulfill his dream.

Earth is crowded, people live on processed protein, only the very rich have medical care and space flight has become too expensive. 20 years later he is an experienced company mercenary soldier paid for ‘asset realization’. He is disillusioned by his failure to become a star ship captain (he passed the tests but did not have enough company shares to jump the queue, hence the soldier status). The few big corporations left are the only ones running star ships; they make money by stripping colony worlds of useful items without paying (traditionally called theft), the justification being that they paid for the colony setup.

Resistance to asset realization on the colony worlds is usually weak and ruthlessly suppressed with the help of mercenaries in invulnerable ‘fighting suits’. This time it’s different: the Resistance, in the shape of a woman Newton has met before (and rescued her sister) has powerful high-technology support. Newton thinks he has discovered their secret and sets out with his platoon to realize this asset. When the rest of his platoon is eliminated, Sergeant Newton is forced to join the Resistance to uncover its secret. He helps the ‘Dragon’ return home and gains a valuable tool for humans to begin saving the Earth.

Hamilton is an English writer whose stories are always replete with believable technology. The fighting suits the mercenaries wear are not a new concept, but these suits also recirculate and rejuvenate the soldier’s blood. It is these little extra touches that make his story credible and authentic. He also does not shy away from life, especially sex. His characters have very normal desires despite their bizarre settings. He presents a view of the future that is not uncommon: the rise of large multinational corporations controlling governments and humans disillusioned by space flight’s small benefit and enormous costs. The few colony worlds struggle against the strange biology of their otherwise earth like planets.

The Dragon, despite being a child, is a ‘been there, done that’ type of alien with a history of a long dead galactic empire in his memory. It has a lot of very useful advanced technology too. Newton is an anti-hero, likable but selfish, who experience personal growth up in the book. Fortunately, Hamilton resists the defeats-the-evil-enemy, falls-in-love-with-the-girl-from-the-resistance-and-everyone-lives-happily-ever after ending. Unfortunately, the ending he chooses is not much better.

Overall great SF story telling told at the perennial fast pace.

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