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Manhattan in Reverse by Peter F. Hamilton

Manhattan in Reverse

by Peter F. Hamilton

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The stories may be short, but Hamilton still manages to use most of the same ideas and types of plots that his bricks of novels do.

So, we get detectives and wormholes, immortals and genetic engineering (but no room for sex).

Three of the seven stories are set in Hamilton’s Commonwealth universe.

The title story is original to the collection and features Paula Myo, everybody’s favorite police investigator, dogged and utterly inflexible when it comes to punishing wrongdoers. Taking place just after Judas Unchained and beginning with the sentencing of terrorist and savior of humanity, Oscar Monroe, Paula takes on a xenobiology puzzle to keep her mind busy while on vacation. The plot is reminiscent of one of those old “why are the aliens acting so funny” stories. Here the aliens are the Onid, supposedly “proto-sentient”. They are mounting co-ordinated attacks on refugees who have settled on the planet Jevahal after the devastation of the Starflyer War. It’s an all right story, but I liked it the least of any in the book and thought its main appeal was the background details of life after the war. I also prefer Paula in her usual police role.

Police investigation is exactly what we get in another Paula story, “The Demon Trap”. It seems to take place before Pandora’s Star. A terrorist group, tired of having to continue to pay on the loans necessary to colonize Nova Zealand and wanting to be disconnected from the Commonwealth network of wormholes, kills some scions of the Grand Families – and a few innocent bystanders. The identity of the assassin and his capture is quickly accomplished. Sure the crime was a bit unusual in its methods – both a memory wipe by the assassin and the implant of totally fake memories recorded by someone else, but that’s not what has Paula puzzled. It’s the motive for risking such severe and certain punishment. Her quest to get answers takes her back to the organization that created her and Huxley’s Haven, her home.

“Blessed by an Angel” is another origin story of sorts but for Inigo, leader of the Living Dream movement which figures in the Void Trilogy of the Commonwealth universe. It shows that civil wars may be fought over how to control humanity's impulse to embrace a life of lotus-eating in virtual reality. Here the conflict is not overt, doesn't involve fleets of ships, and fought with subversion and espionage, but the stakes are still for the race's future. Like the other two stories that tie-in to that series, this one can be enjoyed independently of Hamilton’s novels.

“The Forever Kitten” is a very brief story, written for Nature magazine. It combines a genetic engineer on the lam for illegal work and that old observation that children are a lot cuter before they become teenagers.

“If at First” shows that a talented writer can still find some life in one of the hoariest science fiction clichés of all: using knowledge of the future to get rich. Hamilton even manages to put a memorable sting at the tail of this one.

Hamilton slightly re-wrote “Footvote” for inclusion here to make it an “alternative near-past” story. A scientist opens up a wormhole to the planet New Suffolk and invites his fellow Brits to join him there – as long as they have the right politics and don’t practice any of the prohibited professions. Using a divorced couple of opposite political persuasions with one wanting to go through the wormhole with their kids, Hamilton dramatizes the question as to whether people have the obligation to stay put and help a floundering state or bolt for better options.

Along with “The Demon Trap”, the book’s highlight is “Watching Trees Grow”. It’s a murder mystery over the long haul, from 1832 to 2038. But the detective hero has time. In this alternate history, the Great Families of the Roman Empire have developed, via selective breeding, long-lived humans. He’s one of them and the increased longevity has sped up the progress of forensic technology allowing him to finally close in on his quarry. There’s a memorable conclusion to this one too.

Any Hamilton fan who doesn’t have a pathological aversion to short stories will want this collection. It also serves as an introduction to most of what has made Hamilton such a popular author. ( )
  RandyStafford | Jan 10, 2015 |
I??ve been meaning to read Peter F. Hamilton for years. I own a few of his books, but I havenƒ??t read them yet. If youƒ??re familiar with Hamilton, Iƒ??ll bet you know why. His books are HUGE, and most of them are part of a series. Every time I look at them on my shelf, they scream ƒ??MAJOR TIME COMMITMENT,ƒ? so there they stay. Thus, I was pleased to come across Manhattan in Reverse, a slim and inviting collection of seven stories by Peter F. Hamilton:

ƒ??Watching Trees Growƒ? ƒ?? This novella was originally published by PS publishing in 2000. Itƒ??s a murder mystery thatƒ??s set in an alternate England which progressed, technologically, much more rapidly than our real world has. There are only a handful of serious suspects, but the investigation takes more than 200 years while Edward Buchanan Raleigh doggedly pursues the culprit as technology advances to the point where he can finally solve the crime.

ƒ??Footvoteƒ? ƒ?? Itƒ??s 2010 and a man named Murphy has opened a wormhole to allow disgruntled British citizens to flee England and start a new colony on another planet. He only wants particular kinds of people (e.g., no lobbyists, no tabloid journalists, and no corporate lawyers) and they have to agree to his constitution (e.g., no weapons, no welfare, and socialized medicine for all). Colin wants to go with his two kids and his new girlfriend, but Colinƒ??s ex-wife is one of the wormhole protesters. ƒ??Footvoteƒ? was published in Postscripts magazine in 2004, but this version has been slightly updated.

ƒ??If at Firstƒ? ƒ?? A police detective is questioning a stalker who insists that he only wants to see his victimƒ??s time-travel machine. This clever story, originally published in The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction in 2007, was my favorite story in the collection.

ƒ??The Forever Kittenƒ? ƒ?? Published as an editorial piece in 2005 in Nature, the worldsƒ?? most prestigious scientific journal, this is a chilling short story about sweet little girls growing up. As someone who was once a teenage hellion and is now the mother of two sweet little girls (and a regular reader of Nature), I can totally relate.

ƒ??Blessed by an Angelƒ? ƒ?? This is a disturbing story about an ƒ??angelƒ? from a ƒ??Higherƒ? culture who makes an illegal visit to some teenagers on a slower developing planet. The angel is caught and dispatched, but s/he has left something behind. ƒ??Blessed by an Angelƒ? was originally published in 2007 in The New Space Opera.

ƒ??The Demon Trapƒ? ƒ?? First published in Galactic Empires in 2008, this novella features one of Hamiltonƒ??s well-known protagonists. Investigator Paula Myo, a human who was genetically engineered to be a great cop, has been called in to find the person responsible for blowing up several sons of Dynasty families. As expected, Paula is smart and efficient, but the unusual culprit brings up some interesting ethical and legal issues that, for now, can only be addressed in a science fiction story.

ƒ??Manhattan in Reverseƒ? ƒ?? This titular story, which also features Paula Myo, is original to the anthology. This time Paula is sent to a frontier planet where humans have been gradually invading the habitat of a species theyƒ??ve classified as non-sentient. When the natives begin to fight back, the xenobiologists wonder if they may have been wrong. This story brings to mind H. Beam Piperƒ??s Little Fuzzy.

Hamilton doesnƒ??t write many short stories ƒ?? in fact, these seven stories are the only ones heƒ??s written since 1998. Manhattan in Reverse is diverse, entertaining, thought-provoking and, at only 272 pages, a great way to get acquainted with Peter F. Hamilton. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
I've read most of Peter Hamilton's novels, and this book of short stories doesn't disappoint. Most are set in universes he's already established, so for me they were very easy to get into; for those that haven't read his work, some of the stories may not make much sense. ( )
  azyre | Apr 5, 2013 |
In his one page introduction, Peter Hamilton notes that he writes about one short story a year, favoring novels instead. Having read these, that makes sense; the least compelling, by far, is the brief 'Forever Kitten". "Watching Trees Grow" is a wonderfully conceived mystery that unfolds across several centuries of an alternative history in which (it seems) Rome never fell. The solution fits the narrative perfectly, but also delivers an unexpected and appalling sting. The book includes two mysteries featuring Paula Myo, a genetically-engineered detective from Hamilton's Commonwealth universe who always gets her man. Even when they include a surprise sting, these stories offer a basically optimistic view that material technology will continue to expand human freedoms and capacities, but that human nature isn't likely to change much (except, perhaps, among the most exotic fringes of our species, on their way to becoming something else). ( )
1 vote bezoar44 | Oct 22, 2012 |
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Peter F. Hamiltonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stone, SteveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To all the Friday-night-down-the-pub boys, past, present, and future, whose whimsical flights of fantasy go a great deal further than anything in this book.
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'Manhattan in Reverse' is both the title of this collection of short stories and the title of one of the stories it contains - Many of the individual stories, including the title story, have have since been issued as kindle 'Short Read' singles and should not be combined with this edition of the collected stories. Please note 'Manhattan in Reverse' appears to have been published as 'Die Dämonenfalle' in German which translates as 'Demon Trap' and is another of the short stories in the collection. In this case the books 'Demon Trap' and 'Die Dämonenfalle' are NOT the same thing.
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This is a collection of short stories from the master of space opera. Peter Hamilton takes us on a journey from a murder mystery in an alternative Oxford in the 1800s to a story featuring Paula Mayo, deputy director of the Intersolar Commonwealth's Serious Crimes Directorate.… (more)

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