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What We’re Reading: Great North Road

Post by Elizabeth Coleman
Posted July 25, 2014 in NoveList Bookshelf

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Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton

ISBN: 9780345526663

I recently listened to Peter F. Hamilton’s science fiction mystery novel Great North Road as narrated by Toby Longworth.  It's 900 plus pages offers over 36 hours of audio entertainment. I listened on my commute, at home while doing chores, and at the gym. Never has running on a treadmill been so enjoyable. But I must make a confession: I do not read much science fiction. The real reason I picked up this audiobook was because of the mystery aspect of it. I do love a good British mystery.

Great North Road begins in 22nd century Newcastle with the murder of a member of the North family. The Norths are a prestigious family of clones, known for their innovation, wealth, and power.  One of them has been murdered, but which one?  It appears that all North clones can be accounted for and yet, the corpse would imply differently.  The murder seems very similar to that of another murder of a North and his household many years before on the planet of St. Libra.  The woman convicted of the St. Libra murders always claimed it was an alien.  Could she have been right? 

Part of the story felt like a typical police procedural, albeit with much cooler technology than is available to the police force today.  And Newcastle, although a gateway to other planets, did not feel too far off from the 21st century city. The young women in 22nd century Newcastle are still not wearing coats when they go out on the town, no matter the weather.

But as the questions surrounding the murdered North grow, so does the plot and the cast of characters.  Chapters are dedicated to the main detective on the case, but also the convicted murderer, the man who imprisoned her, a military man on a scientific expedition to St. Libra, and many others.  The story also moves away from Earth to look at the other planets humans have colonized. Hamilton effectively shows how much has changed in the 22nd century, while also showing that humanity is still very much the same. 

Toby Longworth does an excellent job of keeping the characters straight with distinctive voices for everyone and a variety of accents.  His narration easily immerses the reader in a future world that doesn’t seem farfetched. I hated for it to end. 

Needless to say, I will be adding more science fiction books to my must-read list! 

Recommended by Elizabeth Coleman, Cataloger at NoveList.