According to SFX Blogger Steven Ellis, “Never mind the quality, feel the width.”
I only started reading PFH by accident. I’d often picked up the first two parts of the Night’s Dawn trilogy in book shops – I was attracted by Jim Burns’ art work, but don’t accuse me of judging a book by it’s cover, I’ve always had a thing for Mr Burns’ art ever since I got a big book of spaceships when I was younger. No, the covers aren’t what put me off.
I’d read the blurb on the back of Mr Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn books. I found them interesting, but I always put them back on the shelf because of how big the books were. These books were huge; they were like bricks and, to be honest, I found them a little bit intimidating. Did I want such a huge tome by an author I’d never read before? What if I didn’t like them? What if reading the book gave me RSI??
I mean these were some hefty books: part one of the trilogy The Reality Dysfunction ran to 1,225 pages; part two had 1,290 pages. That’s a lot of pages. I wasn’t the only one scared of the size of these books. In America they were each released in two parts to get the page count down; I guess our colonial friends just don’t like big books either…
So, as I said, I started reading PFH by accident. The accident in question had actually happened years before; I’d fallen off my BMX and got a nail stuck in my leg just below the knee. No big problem at the time but years later in mid 1997 I got out of bed one morning and just fell over, finding that my leg wouldn’t support my weight. After a trip to hospital and an x-ray they found some debris lodged behind my kneecap. A little piece of the nail had remained behind and over the years worked its way into a place that interfered with nerves or tendons or something. After a small surgery I found myself on crutches with a four-week recovery period. Back then the internet wasn’t the all encompassing thing it is today, not like in the early noughties when the better part of a year off work (again on crutches) saw me rack up most of the quite ridiculous post count I have on the SFX forum today. So, there I was stuck in the house with very little to do… Perfect book reading time!
After one of my many visits to the doctors I hobbled into a nearby second-hand book shop and found a copy of The Reality Dysfunction for £3. For some reason this time I thought, ‘What the hell, I’ve got time and if I don’t like it it’s only £3.” I bought it and I made my way home, got a cup of tea, propped my damaged leg up on a cushion and started reading my first PFH book. It grabbed me immediately. I spent the whole day reading that book; I finished it in about four days. 1,225 pages gone in less than a week and on day five I went out and picked up the next book in the series. That took me only a week to read too. But part three hadn’t been released yet. I’d have to wait a year and a half for that. Luckily Mr Hamilton had a back catalogue; The Greg Mandel books. There was also a collection of short stories from the Night’s Dawn universe due out soon. All was not lost; after a visit to the book shop I had more PFH books to read.
Since that mad month of Peter F Hamilton book reading – that monumentous time when I got over my fear of the giant books of PFH – he’s released seven more novels and a guide book to one of his fictional universes, most of them were huge bricks too. I’ve lapped up every one of them and I’ve re-read them all many times. I try to read the Night’s Dawn books at least once a year. The characters, the technology, the plotting, the world building, the societies, the stories; all are just top notch and I’ve recommended them to all the geeks I know, I started a thread in the SFX forums singing Mr Hamilton’s praise and found many other lovers of his work. I was even lucky enough to meet and chat with and hear the man himself talk at both SFX Weekenders. (I didn’t take my books to get them signed though; they’re just too damn heavy.)
So, I guess this is one of those, “If A hadn’t happened I wouldn’t have done B and that wouldn’t have led to C happening” stories. Sure it’s only books, but sometimes stuff happens that gives you the time or the opportunity to do something you wouldn’t have done. And looking back I’m glad that little piece of metal gave me the chance to take a break and get lost in some really good books. And also teach me a lesson;
Big Books! They ain’t that scary after all!