Great North Road


Peter F. Hamilton


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

February 22, 2014

his review of Great North Road contains complete spoilers. Do not read this post if you have not completed the book. The book is good enough to be worth reading.

This is a giant book, nearly 1000 pages, but it is interesting enough that I read the whole thing in just over a week. It tells two stories - one regarding Sid investigating the murder of a North clone, and the other story thread tells of Angela and the expedition to St. Libra to search for the existence of a possibly murderous alien life form.

Because the book is so long, I had time to think of some questions about the plot as it unfolded, which I have included here.

***!!!Spoiler Alerts!!!***

At the end of the book, when all is revealed, we learn the Avatar_Monster's plan. The Avatar_Monster desires to destroy the gateway that links St. Libra to Earth. How to destroy the gateway? First, the Avatar_Monster "slipped a mickey" into the drink of Adrian North. This allows the him to steal Adrian North's Visa chip. Using the chip while posing as Adrian North, the Avatar_Monster travels to Earth where he encounters Aldred North and murders him in his girlfriend's apartment. The Avatar_Monster then calls Aldred North's illegal contacts to come and dispose of the body. Also using Aldred North's criminal contacts, the Avatar_Monster has a prominent D-bomb scientist kidnapped and forced to build a D-bomb. The Avatar_Monster wants to use this D-bomb to destroy the St. Libra gateway. None of this makes a lick of sense.

Why doesn't the Avatar_Monster simply kill Adrian North on St. Libra, and then pose as Adrian to contact all the criminal elements on earth?

Why not just pose as a pilot (such as Ravi) and steal a D-bomb?

When the Avatar_Monster meets Aldred North, he immediately kills him. Yet somehow, the Avatar_Monster knows everything about Aldred North, including contact info, relationships to Sid, etc - the Avatar_Monster is able to successfully pose as Aldred despite intense questioning designed to expose an imposter. How does the Avatar_Monster know all the tiniest details of Aldred's life, even though he kills him as soon as they meet?

During the massacre at Bertram North's mansion, Angela sees the slaughtered body of Barclay North, her secret lover. But she is the only one to see Barclay's body, because after the attack the Avatar_Monster successfully disposes of the Barclay's body and then poses as him. If the Avatar_Monster can hide the body of Barclay North, why can't the Avatar_Monster hide the body of Aldred North after killing him?

At the end of the book, the Monster_Avatar asks Angela: "Did I - did he ever mean anything to you?" But the Monster_Avatar was never Angela's lover, since it did not assume Barclay's identity until after the massacre in the mansion. At one point Angela wonders if the Monster_Avatar hesitated to kill her in the mansion because of the love they had shared, but again, there never was any interaction between them.

How did the Monster_Avatar get into the sealed top floor of Bertram's pyramid to commit the massacre?

Angela fights off the Monster_Avatar during the massacre by using her "dark weapons" - which apparently are claws that extend to emit a 50,000 volt charge. Why does Angela even have such weapons? Where in her body does a battery exist that can store so much power?

Angela's whole purpose is to sneak into Bertram's mansion, steal at least 80 million euro-francs, and then escape. There is no need for violence, no need for such a weapon. How did Angela afford such an exotic weapon? She and Sid don't have resources to afford that.

Who trains Angela on how to use the needle probes that she inserts into Bertram's consoles to rig the phony contract that allows her to steal the 106 million euro-francs? Why does Bertram have "consoles" on his desk at all, when everyone else is using e-i links to talk to the web?

How does Angela have enough contacts and know-how to create 20 phoney shell corporations to reroute and hide the stolen money? I had difficulty in believing Angela did the whole scheme on her own.

Angela's father is a bazillionaire because he is a master of monitoring the bioil futures. He makes bets and reaps huge profits. But when her father sees the huge North scheme unfolding to flood the market with bioil, he does nothing. Her father ought to immediately close all of his long positions, and massively short bioil futures. He would easily have made a killing. Instead, her father does nothing, allowing the plunge in bioil prices to ruin him. Why would a genius investor have so much of his wealth tied up into one commodity that a plunge in price would bankrupt him? Why doesn't he hedge? He seems remarkable ignorant for being a genius investor.

Why is earth dependent on bioil at all? At one point, Saul talks about the fusion power plant at Brinkelle North's institute! If fusion power exists, why would earth build an economy running on bioil? Organic fuels like ethanol or bioil are only benign to the environment because the carbon dioxide that is released when they are burned was previously extracted from the atmosphere. But if the bioil is grown on the planet St. Libra and then burned on planet Earth, there will be a huge transfer of carbon dioxide from one atmosphere to the other. Greenhouse gases on Earth would be at elevated levels resulting in tremendous climate change, while the climate on St. Libra would be cooling.

Rebka / Madeliene looks so much like Angela that they appear to be sisters - but no one on the expedition notices!

Why does Rebka / Madeliene take so long to act? The Monster_Avatar continues to attack and kill her comrades, yet Rebka never makes any attempt to complete her mission of capturing it. What is she waiting for?

Why does the Monster_Avatar bother killing off the expedition members so slowly? Simply kill Vance and/or Antrinell, which will prevent the genocide bomb codes from being used. Without the bioweapon, the humans have no defense against the Avatar_Monster, and he could have wiped out the whole team immediately.

The Monster_Avatar has the power to terraform whole planets and control the solar output of the sun, so why is the Monster_Avatar so helpless when trying to stop the humans? Couldn't it just drop a big meteorite onto the expedition or onto the St. Libra gateway? Why not cause a super volcano to open up beneath them? Make Sirius eject a powerful solar flare that would pinpoint the humans in a bath of deadly radiation? Killing humans one by one with claws seems so impotent for a creature with the power to modify whole solar systems.

It is interesting that Sirius was reported by Ptolemy of Alexandria to be red star. Peter North makes use of this factoid when the Monster_Avatar creates massive sunspots on Sirius to change the amount of sunlight it emits. But the implication is that during the time of the ancient Greeks, St. Libra was again under attack and the Monster_Avatar had to resort to sun control. What happened 2000 years ago to cause Sirius to change to red?

I was especially disappointed by the conversation between Constantine and the Monster_Avatar.

Constantine: "You are not worried about the Zanth. You have the power to damp down a star's fire. You must have a way to defend yourself from the Zanth, to deflect it from swarming at Sirius. I need to know how you do that."

I was expecting the Monster_Avatar to explain that the Zanth is attracted to the gateways, which is why it is so crucial that it destroy the gateway on St. Libra. This would have made perfect plot sense.

Instead, the Monster_Avatar says: "I simply do. It is ... odd, even to me. But it is not infinitely powerful. I wish it away, and it is so."

That has to be the lamest explanation in science fiction history. I wish, and it is so??? Bleah!

The plants on St. Libra are at the pinnacle of evolution - they no longer evolve. But this makes no sense. Evolution allows life forms to adapt to constantly changing environment. If the St. Libra plants no longer change, then their environment must never change. Plants that are at the pinnacle of evolution would actually change the fastest - they would rapidly adapt to any environmental shift. Plants that can't evolve are at the nadir of evolution and soon will be extinct. Apparently on St. Libra there are no diseases or viruses. But that means that if something DID change, all the St. Libra plants would perish because they are optimized for just one environment. By changing Sirius to red star and freezing the planet, the Monster_Avatar would effectively have killed all the plants it is trying to save!

These are some of the questions that occurred to me as I read Great North Road. I have a more thoughts (why did the bad guys cut off the fingerprints of Aldred North to disguise the body - wouldn't all clones have the same fingerprints?) but I am tired of writing. I actually enjoyed the novel, but because it was long it took me more than a week to read it, and so I had time to think about what was happening.