Peter F. Hamilton’s superbly imagined, cunningly plotted interstellar adventures are conceived on a staggeringly epic scale and filled with fully realized human and alien characters as complex as they are engaging. No mere world builder, Hamilton creates entire universes–and he does so with irresistible flair and intelligence. His previous novel, the acclaimed Pandora’s Star, introduced the Intersolar Commonwealth, a star-spanning civilization of the twenty-fourth century. Robust, peaceful, and confident, the Commonwealth dispatched a ship to investigate the mystery of a disappearing star, only to inadvertently unleash a predatory alien species that turned on its liberators, striking hard, fast, and utterly without mercy.
The Prime are the Commonwealth’s worst nightmare. Coexistence is impossible with the technologically advanced aliens, who are genetically hardwired to exterminate all other forms of life. Twenty-three planets have already fallen to the invaders, with casualties in the hundreds of millions. And no one knows when or where the genocidal Prime will strike next.
Nor are the Prime the only threat. For more than a hundred years, a shadowy cult, the Guardians of Selfhood, has warned that an alien with mind-control abilities impossible to detect or resist–the Starflyer–has secretly infiltrated the Commonwealth. Branded as terrorists, the Guardians and their leader, Bradley Johansson, have been hunted by relentless investigator Paula Myo. But now evidence suggests that the Guardians were right all along, and that the Starflyer has placed agents in vital posts throughout the Commonwealth–agents who are now sabotaging the war effort. Is the Starflyer an ally of the Prime, or has it orchestrated a fight to the death between the two species for its own advantage?
Caught between two deadly enemies, one a brutal invader striking from without, the other a remorseless cancer killing from within, the fractious Commonwealth must unite as never before.
This will be humanity’s finest hour–or its last gasp.
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Peter F. Hamilton is the author of numerous short stories and novels, including Pandora’s Star, Fallen Dragon, and the acclaimed epic Night’s Dawn trilogy (The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist, and The Naked God). Hamilton lives in England.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Right from the start, there was something about the investigation that made Lieutenant Renne Kampasa uneasy. The first little qualm came sliding up out of her subconscious when she saw the victim’s loft apartment. She’d been inside loft apartments just like it a hundred times before. It was the kind of plush metropolitan pad that a group of funky TSI soap characters usually lived in: beautiful single people with well-paying jobs that gave them most of the day off so they could enjoy a floor space of around five hundred square meters as they lounged around in an extravagant decor provided by overpriced interior designers. The kind of scenario completely divorced from real life but full of dramatic or comic potential for the scriptwriters. Yet here she was, a day after the Guardians’ shotgun message that denounced President Elaine Doi as a Starflyer agent, being shown into just such an apartment on the top ßoor of a refurbished factory block in Daroca, the capital city of Arevalo. The massive open-plan lounge had a wide sunny balcony that looked out over the Caspe River which flowed through the heart of the city. Like all the capitals of successful phase one space planets, Daroca was a rich montage of parks, elegant buildings, and broad streets stretching away to the horizon. Under the planet’s bronze-shaded morning sunlight it glimmered with a sharp coronal hue, adding to the panorama’s graceful appeal.
Renne shook her head in mild disbelief at the fabulous view. Even with the decent salary the navy paid her, she could never afford the rent on this. And it was currently being paid by three first-life girls, all under twenty-five.
One of them was showing Renne and Tarlo in: Catriona Saleeb, a small twenty-two-year-old, with long curly black hair, wearing a simple green dress with strong geometric lilac stripes–except Renne knew the dress was a Fon, which put its price tag over a thousand Earth dollars, and the girl was using it as a casual housedress. Renne’s e-butler printed up Saleeb’s file in her virtual vision; she was a junior member of the Morishi Grand Family, working at a bank in Daroca’s large financial district.
Her two friends were Trisha Marina Halgarth, who had a product placement job at Veccdale, a Halgarth subsidiary that designed chic domestic systems, and Isabella Halgarth, who’d taken a job at a contemporary art gallery in town. They fitted the whole profile: three bachelorettes sharing a place in the city, having fun together while they waited for their true careers to launch, or husbands of equal wealth and status to materialize and carry them off to a merged trust fund mansion to produce their contracted quota of children.
"This is one great place you’ve got here," Tarlo said as they made their way into the lounge.
Catriona turned and gave him a smile that was a lot more than simple politeness. "Thanks, it’s a family place so we get it cheap."
"Plenty of wild parties, huh."
Her smile became teasing. "Maybe."
Renne shot him an exasperated look; they were supposed to be on duty, not hitting on potential witnesses. He just grinned back, perfect white teeth gleaming out of his handsome tanned face. She’d seen for herself just how successful that grin could be in the clubs and bars around Paris.
Catriona took them over to the kitchen section, which was separated from the lounge by a broad marble-topped breakfast bar. The kitchen was ultramodern, equipped with every convenience gadget possible, all built in to swan-white egg-shaped wall modules. Somehow, Renne couldn’t imagine it being used for much actual cooking, not even by the complicated-looking chef bots.
The two other girls were sitting on stools at the bar.
"Trisha Marina Halgarth?" Renne asked.
"That’s me." One of the girls got to her feet. She had a heart-shaped face and light olive skin with small, dark green butterfly-wing OCtattoos flowing back from each hazel eye. She wore an oversize white toweling robe like defensive armor; she kept clutching at the fluffy fabric, pulling it tighter around her. Her bare feet had silver rings around each toe.
"We’re from navy intelligence," Tarlo said. "Lieutenant Kampasa and I are investigating what happened to you."
"You mean, how gullible I was," she snapped.
"Easy, babe," Isabella Halgarth said. Her arm went around Trisha’s shoulders. "These are the good guys."
She stood to face the investigators.
Renne found herself having to look up slightly; Isabella was several centimeters taller than she, almost Tarlo’s height. She was dressed in very tight jeans that showed off her legs. Her long blond hair had been gathered into a single tail that reached down to her hips. It was an image of casual elegance.
Tarlo’s grin had broadened. Renne wanted to push him against a wall and shout a warning about professional conduct, wagging her finger in his face for emphasis. Instead, she did her best to ignore the mating dance appraisals going on all around her, and said, "I’ve investigated several similar cases, Ms. Halgarth. In my experience, the victim is rarely gullible. The Guardians have developed a very sophisticated operation over the years."
"Years!" Catriona snorted. "And you haven’t caught them yet?"
Renne kept her polite expression in place. "We believe we are close to a resolution."
The three girls exchanged doubtful looks. Trisha sat down again, gripping at her robe.
"I know it’s unpleasant for you," Tarlo said. "But if you could start by telling me the man’s name." His grin mellowed to sympathetic encouragement.
Trisha gave a reluctant nod. "Sure. Howard Liang." She smiled feebly. "I don’t suppose that’s his real name?"
"No," Tarlo said. "But that identity will have created a lot of data within Daroca’s cybersphere. Our forensic software teams will pull out a great many associated files. We can check on the false identity information, where it was inserted, possibly who was involved forging it. Every little bit helps."
"How did you meet?" Renne asked.
"Party. We get to quite a lot of them." She glanced at her two girlfriends for support.
"This is a great city," Isabella said. "Daroca is a wealthy planet; people here have the money and time to play." Her eyes gave Tarlo an amused glance. "Trish and I are Dynasty, Catriona is a Grandee. What can I say? We’re highly desirable."
"Was Howard Liang wealthy?" Renne asked.
"He didn’t have a trust fund," Trisha said, then colored. "Well, he said he didn’t. His family was supposed to come from Velaines. He said he was a couple of years out of his first rejuve. I liked him."
"Where did he work?"
"On the commodities desk at Ridgeon Financial. God, I don’t even know if that’s true." She pressed her free hand against her forehead, rubbing hard. "I don’t know how old he really was. I know nothing about him at all. That’s what I hate most about this. Not that he stole my author certificate, not that he gave me a memory wipe. Just . . . being taken in like that. It’s so stupid. Our family security office sends us enough warnings. I never thought they applied to me."
"Please," Tarlo said. "Don’t blame yourself. These guys are very professional. Hell, I’d probably get taken in by them. Now, when did you last see him?"
"Three days ago. We went out for the evening. I’d been invited to the Bourne club, there was some event, a new drama series launch. We had a meal afterward, then I came home. I think. The apartment domestic array says I got in at five in the morning. I don’t remember anything after dinner. Is that when they did it?"
"Possibly," Renne said. "Did Mr. Liang share his apartment with anyone?"
"No. He lived by himself. I met a couple of his friends; I think they were from Ridgeon. We only went out for a couple of weeks. Enough for me to drop my guard, I guess." She shook her head angrily. "I hate this. The whole Commonwealth thinks I believe the President is an alien. I’ll never be able to face anyone at work again. I’ll have to go back to Solidade and get my face changed and use another name."
"That would probably help," Tarlo said gently. "But before that we need to run some tests on you. There’s a medical forensic team waiting down in the lobby. They can do this in a clinic, or here, whichever you’re comfortable with."
"Do it here," Trisha said. "Just get it over with."
"Of course. Another team will sweep his apartment."
"What do you expect to find there?" Isabella asked.
"We’ll pin down his DNA, of course," Renne told her. "Who knows what else we’ll uncover, especially if they used it as their base. And we’ll pull his files from Ridgeon Financial’s personnel records, which I’d like you to verify. It would help to have a picture of him."
"Won’t he have had reprofiling by now?" Catriona asked.
"Yes. But it’s his background we’ll be focusing our investigation on, his past. That’s where the clues to his origin are. You must understand, we have to crack the whole Guardian organization open; it’s the only way to bring Liang to justice. We’re not pursuing him singularly."
They spent another twenty minutes in the loft apartment, taking statements from the girls, th...
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