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The Nano Flower by Peter F. Hamilton
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The Nano Flower

by Peter F. Hamilton (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Greg Mandel Trilogy (3)

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
My first exposure to Hamilton was his magnum opus, Night’s Dawn trilogy. Initially, I was absolutely blown away. About midway through this 3,500 page door stop, I began to lose interest, primarily because the novelty of many of Hamilton’s brilliant alien and technological constructs simply became second nature. I followed up with Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained, another 2,000 page monster. Much like Night’s Dawn, it simply carried on too long. The Void trilogy, actually a sequel to Judas Unchained, was another 2,000+ pages, but actually kept my attention throughout.

I recently read Fallen Dragon and was very pleased with the shorter, one volume work (only in Hamilton’s world could a 800+ page novel be deemed short). I then read The Great North Road which contained many of the same technologies and constructs as the Void Trilogy and perhaps this lack of originality contributed to my disappointment with this work.

Having read roughly 12,000 pages worth of Hamilton “space opera”, I backtracked to some of his earlier work, hence this review of Volume 2 (containing the novel Nano Flower) of the Mandel Files, a collection of the author’s work featuring “gland psychic” Greg Mandel as the chief protagonist. Equal billing should go to Julia Evans, the young trillionaire industrialist who plays a prominent role in the Mandel chronicles.

This novel follows up on the first two books, which were contained in volume 1, after a period of about a dozen years. Mandel is called back into the service of Evans in the attempt to rescue a mutual friend, who has disappeared under unusual circumstances. While it is not strictly required that the first two books be read in advance of this one (many items are explained as though the reader has no prior knowledge of them), doing so would certainly be helpful and I would highly recommend it.

Hamilton’s subsequent work focuses on far future space opera and he is an unequaled master of the genre in my opinion. The Mandel Files, on the other hand, occur in the near future and are more plot driven than science fiction dominated. In Nano Flower, however, Hamilton demonstrates a skill that has held him in high regard in his later work, his ability to develop and present highly believable and original alien constructs. Too often, science fiction writers present aliens in cliqued forms, such as giant insects, robots or even dog or cat like beings, as if an independently developed life form will somehow neatly fit into our concept of sentient beings.

I found this to be a highly entertaining and enjoyable read. ( )
1 vote santhony | Feb 10, 2014 |
My reactions to reading this novel in 2001. Spoilers follow.

Apart from the rather clunky title, this is probably the best of the Greg Mandel series, certainly the most ambitious though I do find it curious that, given its publication date (certainly in the middle of sf writers discovering nanotechnology) and "nano" being in the title, Hamilton chooses to depict a future where researching is almost an afterthought even amongst the powerful kombinates. This is a very cyberpunkish book (even though Hamilton's prose is effective but certainly not the flashy poetry of the most famous cyberpunk of all -- William Gibson) in that it delights in breaking the world into data and basing a plot on manipulating that data and sending it around in various exotic formats (including, if you wanted to stretch the point, the alien Hexaemeron with its toroidal genes which contain the instructions to duplicate an entire ecosystem), often with the data (and its attendant manipulation of various systems) arriving in the nick of time.

The final act of the novel brings the trilogy to a circular conclusion since, like the beginning of the first novel, Mindstar Rising, it features Mandel assassinating someone to avenge a friend. In Mindstar Rising, it was one of the policeman who beat Royan. Here, it was the Clifford Jepson who hired the sociopathic Leol Reiger who kills Suzie, one of the Trinities Mandel trained a character, like Royan, from Mindstar Rising.

In many ways, this book anticipates the Night's Dawn trilogy which directly followed it in Hamilton's writing. It has several very effective set piece fights including one on a zeppelin and another inside an asteroid. The node duplicates of Julia Evans and their eventual union with aliens recall several human-machine (or biomachines like the starships in the Night's Dawn books) unions in the Night's Dawn trilogy. The novel follows more characters (unlike the early books in the series) than just Julia Evans and Greg Mandel. Hamilton decisively moves his series forward by not only placing it about 17 years past the second book in the trilogy, A Quantum Murder, but including aliens and advancing the technology forward and having Mandel a citrus farmer retired from detection and a hardliner (one of the few effective future terms Hamilton invents).

Again, Hamilton shows his skill in not only creating an exciting plot and intricately described, in physical terms, settings but, even more importantly, in creating worlds that are credible economically and politically. To be sure, in its vague outlines, Hamilton creates a cyberpunk world which, like Gibson's work, is dominated by corporations. (Mandel, at one point, worries that the world may be regressing to some sort of medieval order where the central authorities of governments are waning to be supplanted by warring corporations who behave like the barons of old.) While in Gibson's work corporations are dominant and governments regarded as obsolete when they're mentioned at all, Julia Evans and her Event Horizon corporation must contend with politicians (particularly a rift in England's Conservative party and a Welsh separatist movement). Governments, in Mandel's world, are not obsolete.

Julia Evans has always been a secondary character, next to Mandel, in this trilogy. While it could be argued she was given too much attention in A Quantum Murder (though the eventual marriage between her and Royan is set up there and that's a crucial element of this novel), that attention is justified in this novel. Not only do we see her love and aggravation with the sometimes irresponsible, if clever, Royan (he eventually gets absorbed by an alien lifeform for his hubris), but she also is shown as a benevolent shadow ruler (including shipping, in the past, arms to the Trinities and not paying taxes). She wields more power than anyone else on Earth -- a point this novel emphasizes, yet she refuses to endorse laissez-faire capitalism (at least not as a permanent state though necessary for sudden wealth-building) and she also wants to maintain "looser" social orders than her Conservative allies. (She could tear down slums and close down areas of vice but chooses not to.) Julia also doesn't regard the concentration of power in her hands a necessarily good thing though she mostly (with a few petty exceptions) uses it for good. She wants a future of distributed power and information -- political, social, economic, and cultural groups each with their own knowledge and power. That necessity is somewhat symbolized by SETI researcher Rick Parnell's coming up with a solution to the standoff between humanity and the Hexaemeron (send it away rather than give into it or kill it) that eludes his much more powerful and worldly employer, Julia. It's also explicitly alluded to in Julia's desire to support an independent Wales (California has already divided into three in the future and there are two Italies). She makes an argument for separatism and balkanization (in the neutral sense of big countries dividing into smaller countries). Elected officials can only get so much payoff (ie, votes) from a district so will only invest enough attention and resources to get those votes. However, if the district becomes a political entity in its own right, more attention will be paid it because the payoff to an official is greater (and they live full time in the country -- an observation Julia doesn't make).

Hamilton, as you would expect in a suspense story told from several viewpoints, hops back and forth in time, especially in the combat scenes. He also does a nice job showing how the world has changed in the 17 years since the last book, A Quantum Murder, and also how the characters have changed. After the Trinities and People's Socialist Party remnants fought their last war, Suzi became a tekmerc (after a brief stay in prison, shortened by Julia's influence). (We also get a brief bit on the psychology of her sex life, the need for dominance, when we see her relationship with her young, lesbian lover who is not a part of Suzi's violent world.). Royan was physically rehabilitated and married Julia though his resentment at literally being remade by her is the ultimate cause of the book's plot as he seeks to bring her evidence of First Contact, a contact that goes very wrong for him. Hamilton gets to have his cake and eat it too by having a node simulcrum of Julia go off with Royan (both absorbed in the Hexaemeron), thereby getting the leisure and peace Julia seeks while the real Julia takes up with security chief Victor Ryo who, she realizes, has loved her from afar for a long time. Hamilton also introduces romance, and a nice one, when courtesan Charlotte Fielder (another viewpoint character) shows genuine concern for the teenaged Fabian Whitehurst, a former client orphaned when his father is killed.

When this book was published there was concern (and there still is) about the Russian Mafia which show up in this book. Hamilton also postulates an Islamic Jihad which Russia and the West fight in Turkey (seemingly invaded by the Jihad). Mandel fought in that war. All in all, a quite impressive conclusion to a good series, and a book that pointed to the strengths and themes Hamilton would exhibit in his next work, the Night's Dawn trilogy. ( )
  RandyStafford | Dec 11, 2013 |
As it says, the third Mandel novel.

Possible alien vegetation discovery.

Impressively, this trilogy continues the quality work as again Event Horizon and particularly Julia Evans need Greg Mandel's help.

There are plenty of dodgy characters to be dealt with in this novel as they try and find out what happened to her father, and where the frack that the strange flower delivery Julia received actually came from.

Good stuff.

http://freesf.strandedinoz.com/wordpress/2012/05/the-mandel-files-volume-2-peter... ( )
  BlueTysonSS | May 25, 2012 |
SAGA OF RECLUCE
  rustyoldboat | May 28, 2011 |
ZB5 ( )
  mcolpitts | Aug 3, 2009 |
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Hamilton, Peter F.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rostant, LarryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812577698, Mass Market Paperback)

Peter F. Hamilton is one the rising stars of science fiction in the nineties. His epic space adventure, The Reality Dysfunction, was a major international bestseller, while his near future thrillers, Mindstar Rising and A Quantum Murder, introduced an intriguing new hero in the character of Greg Mandel, a freelance operative whose telepathic abilities give him a crucial edge in the high tech world of the twenty-first century. Now Mandel returns in a spectacular new adventure that blows open the possibilities of the next century.

Julia Evans: billionairess, owner of Event Horizon, for fifteen years undisputed power behind the world's economic renaissance. And in trouble.

With her computer-genius husband missing and rival companies suddenly claiming to have acquired a technology impossibly superior to anything on Earth, Julia has no time to notice an anonymously delivered flower. But this flower has genes millions of years in advance of terrestrial DNA.

Is it a cryptic alien message or a poignant farewell from her husband?Only Greg Mandel can discover its origin, but he is not alone in his desperate search. A vicious mercenary killer, a jade merchant, and a high-priced courtesan all have a part to play.

It was never going to be easy, but as Greg and Julia discover, simply being first in the race ins't nerly good enough as teh Nano Flower starts to bloom....

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:14 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

When Julia receives a single flower she takes no notice because she is coping with a global crisis. This is no ordinary flower as it possesses genes which are millions of years in advance of any terrestrial DNA.

» see all 3 descriptions

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