Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton is at its core a detective story about the murder of a member of Newcastle’s foremost families – the North family – but soon expands to a planet spanning search for a serial killer.
From the book
In Newcastle-upon-Tyne, AD 2142, Detective Sidney Hurst attends a brutal murder scene. The victim is one of the wealthy North family clones – but none have been reported missing. And the crime’s most disturbing aspect is how the victim was killed. Twenty years ago, a North clone billionaire and his household were horrifically murdered in exactly the same manner, on the tropical planet of St Libra. But if the murderer is still at large, was Angela Tramelo wrongly convicted? Tough and confident, she never wavered under interrogation – claiming she alone survived an alien attack. But there is no animal life on St Libra.
Investigating this alien threat becomes the Human Defence Agency’s top priority. The bio-fuel flowing from St Libra is the lifeblood of Earth’s economy and must be secured. So a vast expedition is mounted via the Newcastle gateway, and teams of engineers, support personnel and xenobiologists are dispatched to the planet. Along with their technical advisor, grudgingly released from prison, Angela Tramelo.
But the expedition is cut off, deep within St Libra’s rain forests. Then the murders begin. Someone or something is picking off the team one by one. Angela insists it’s the alien, but her new colleagues aren’t so sure. Maybe she did see an alien, or maybe she has other reasons for being on St Libra …
The plot gets a little complicated along the way of this epic read (it is a long book!), as the family tree of the Norths is explained, and as the murder investigation continues.
Beginning with a simple mugging, Sid is quickly called in to investigate a body found floating in the Tyne river, thanks to cloning technologies the body is identified as a ‘North’ though the exact identity is not initially clear.
Soon it’s realised that this murder has huge political ramifications, and planet spanning consequences as a similar murder took place 20 years earlier; One that implicated Angela Tramelo.
Was she wrongly convicted?
Thus ensues a romp around Newcastle, an expedition around the unexplored areas of the planet St. Libra, some light political manoeuvring, corporate wrangling and a mystery to solve…
Did I mention that this book was long? Well it is – very! The paperback version is about 1,100 pages long, though to be fair it doesn’t feel like it.
Though this does get a little tedious at times, particularly when trying to explain the topography of the North’s family tree (one father, three clones and their subsequent offspring all names beginning with A, B or C), which I found quite confusing at times.
The pace is fairly good beyond that, and will regularly drop in clues, though some of which passed me by.
I also liked the explanation of the technologies involved, especially the inclusion of ‘Smart Dust’, ‘Smart Cells’ and the techniques used to hack them – a good depiction of the usual security/hacking arms race in my opinion.
The revelations along the way were very well done and had me guessing until they were dropped in, something I found refreshing; I usually get there long before the big ending and disappointment abounds.
Worth reading, I’ll give it 9/10