I’ve been meaning to read Peter F. Hamilton for years. I own a few of his books, but I haven’t read them yet. If you’re familiar with Hamilton, I’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 “MAJOR TIME COMMITMENT,” 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:
“Watching Trees Grow” — This novella was originally published by PS publishing in 2000. It’s a murder mystery that’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.
“Footvote” — It’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 Colin’s ex-wife is one of the wormhole protesters. “Footvote” was published in Postscripts magazine in 2004, but this version has been slightly updated.
“If at First” — A police detective is questioning a stalker who insists that he only wants to see his victim’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.
“The Forever Kitten” — Published as an editorial piece in 2005 in Nature, the worlds’ 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.
“Blessed by an Angel” — This is a disturbing story about an “angel” from a “Higher” 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. “Blessed by an Angel” was originally published in 2007 in The New Space Opera.
“The Demon Trap” — First published in Galactic Empires in 2008, this novella features one of Hamilton’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.
“Manhattan in Reverse” — 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 they’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 Piper’s Little Fuzzy.
Hamilton doesn’t write many short stories — in fact, these seven stories are the only ones he’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.