Exclusive: Peter F. Hamilton on the beckoning portals of his new novel, Salvation

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Sep 5, 2018, 5:59 PM EDT (Updated)

It's not easy to distinguish oneself amid the crowded galaxy of fall science fiction novels, but if dynamic, multifaceted characters, strong mind-expanding concepts, and an impressive flair for language are part of your literary offering, you'll shine like a heavenly beacon.

Peter F. Hamilton's Salvation is one such example of this rare celestial event, and one of Britain's best-selling sci-fi authors has launched an addictive new book as the initial stage of what is sure to be an intriguing new series called the Salvation Sequence.

Hamilton is a treasured writer in the speculative fiction genre, and is mostly known for his intricate worldbuilding in The Night's Dawn Trilogy and The Commonwealth Saga, all displaying exceptional space opera storytelling and involving investigations into penetrating cosmic mysteries.

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Salvation's storyline finds humanity on a perilous path with its technology, one that may have dire consequences in the far future.

It's the year 2204 and humanity is blossoming into the deeper reaches of the galaxy to once-remote planets. Alien technology allowing for the creation of a network of linked jump gates has made normal forms of interstellar transportation obsolete. Every destination is simply a hop, skip, and a jump from home. Then a crashed alien spaceship is discovered at a new frontier settlement located 89 light years from Earth, containing seventeen human victims. A clandestine research team is deployed to investigate the mystery and one of the unit's members is actually an alien spy.

SYFY WIRE spoke with Hamilton on this commanding new novel to learn where Salvation's spark of inspiration began, venturing beyond his Commonwealth universe, and learned what readers can anticipate as this sensational new series expands.

After the chat, enjoy an exclusive excerpt from Salvation courtesy of Del Rey Books. Salvation lands in U.S. book stores on September 4.

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What was the genesis of Salvation and its fantastic, skillfully-composed universe?

To some degree it's about the level of trust and mistrust that's developing in the the political arena, with everyone suspicious of anyone who isn't on their side. I managed to blend that paranoia with a whodunnit as five people from different factions embark on a trip together .

Where does the plot for Salvation take us and what can readers expect from its enveloping saga?

It starts off with the discovery of an alien ship in 2204 and the team that's sent to investigate it. They are the ones who will decide if it's a threat or not. But there's a parallel story line set in the far future which is the direct result of what the investigation finds.

Can you name some of your biggest sci-fi influences in film, literature, art, or video games?

Film I'd say James Cameron, the Wachowskis, and Christopher Nolan. Writers is a hard one as there are so many, so in no particular order I'll give you five I enjoy, Ian McDonald, Justina Robson, Neil Stephenson, Anne Mcaffrey, and Richard Morgan, my go-to artist is Jim Burns, and I'm not much of a gamer.

Being the first book in a new series, what are the parameters necessary to set up the world-building?

When you've created the world and the systems within it, such as the technology level, the politics, economics etc, you have to stick to those limits in order to maintain a sense of believability. Which makes continuity a big priority.

Pandora's Star

What was the most enjoyable or challenging aspects of creating this new sci-fi novel?

For me the fact that it is new. I've been writing in my Commonwealth universe almost exclusively since 2003, so being able to move on and create something fresh was very satisfying.

Is there a title for the sequel and what are you working on leading into 2019?

The sequel is Salvation Lost, and the final part of the trilogy will be The Saints of Salvation. I've almost finished Salvation Lost so 2019 will be spent writing part three.



Kandara Martinez was shown in by a receptionist. The corporate mercenary wore a plain black singlet under a jacket from some mid-range fashion house. The way she carried herself made it look like a military uniform. That part of her life just never left her, I guess.

Sandjay, my altme, splashed the data at me, which the tarsus lenses I wore over my eyeballs presented as a grid of green-and-purple text. The file didn’t tell me much I didn’t already know. She had enrolled in Mexico City’s Heroico Colegio Militar when she was nineteen. After graduation she saw several active deployments in the Urban Rapid Suppression Force. Then her parents were killed by a drone bomb some bunch of anti-imperialist anarchist whack-jobs launched at the sneering symbol of their evil foreign economic oppressors—or, in English, the Italian remote drone systems factory where her father worked. After that her escalating kill rate in action started to “concern” her superiors. She received an honorable discharge in 2187. Freelance corporate security ever since—the real dark jobs.

In the flesh she was 170 centimeters tall, with chestnut hair, cut short, and gray eyes. I wasn’t sure if they were real or gened-up; they didn’t quite seem to belong with the rest of her Mexican ancestry. There’d certainly been some bodywork. She kept herself trim—in her line of work that was survival 101—but that couldn’t account for the thickness of her limbs; her legs and arms were heavily muscled. Gened-up or Kcells; the file didn’t say. Ms. Martinez left a very small dataprint on solnet.

“Thank you for accepting the contract,” I said. “I’m a lot happier knowing you’re coming with us.” Which was only partially true. Her presence made me uncomfortable, but then I know whom she’s eliminated during her career.

“I was curious,” she said, “because we all know Connexion has so few people in its own security division.”

“Yeah, about that. We might need something that goes beyond our guys’ pay grade.”

“Sounds interesting, Feriton.”

“My boss wants protection, serious protection. We’re dealing with the unknown here. This expedition . . . it’s different. The artifact we’ve found is alien.”

“So you said. Is it Olyix?”

“I don’t see how it could be.”

A small smile lifted her lips. “Not going to hide from you, I’m very interested. And flattered. Why me?”

“Reputation,” I lied. “You’re the best.” “Bullshit.”

“Seriously. We have to keep this small; the three other people coming with us represent some serious political interests. So I wanted someone with a genuine track record.”

“You’re worried that rivals will find out about where we’re headed? What sort of artifact have you found?”

“Can’t tell you that until we’re en route.”

“Are you retro engineering its tech? Is that why you’re worried about rivals?”

“This isn’t about new technology and market impact. We have a bigger problem than that.”

“Oh?” She lifted her eyebrow in query.

“You’ll get a full briefing when we’re underway. Everybody does.” “Okay, that’s a reasonable containment strategy. But I do need to know: Is it hostile?”

“No. Or at least, not yet. Which is where you come in. We need to pack a large punch in a small place. Just in case.”

“Even more flattered.”

“One last thing, which is why you and I are having this meeting before I introduce you to the rest of the team.”

“This doesn’t sound good.”

“There are some first-contact protocols involved, severe ones. Alpha Defense insisted. We’re going to be very isolated for the duration of this mission—something none of us are familiar with. Today, no matter what disaster hits you, everybody can shout for help wherever they are. Everyone functions under the assumption an emergency team is two minutes away. It’s all we know. I consider that to be a weakness, especially in this situation. If things go wrong—badly wrong—that’s when the Alpha Defense first-contact protocol applies.”

She caught on fast. I could see the slight change in body posture, humor retreating, muscles tightening.

“If they’re hostile, they can’t know about us,” she said. “No prisoners. No data downloads.”

“Really?” Her humor swept back in. “You’re worried about an alien invasion? That’s very quaint. What does Ainsley Zangari think they’re going to plunder, our gold and our women?”

“We don’t know what they are, so until we do . . .”

“The Olyix turned out okay. And they had a shitload of antimatter on board the Salvation of Life. There isn’t another conventional power source powerful enough to accelerate a vessel that size up to a decent fraction of light speed.”

“We were fortunate with them,” I said carefully. “Their religion gives them a whole different set of priorities to us. All they want to do is travel across space in their arkship to the end of time, where they believe their God will be waiting for them. They don’t want to expand into new star systems and bioform planets to live on; it’s a whole different imperative to ours. I guess we didn’t really understand what alien meant until they arrived in the Sol system. But, Kandara, do you really want to gamble our species’ survival on every race being as benign as the Olyix? It’s been sixty years since they arrived, and we’ve both benefited from trade. Great, but we have a duty to consider that at some time we’re going to encounter a species that isn’t so benign.”

“Interstellar war is a fantasy. It makes no sense. Economically, for resources, for territory . . . it’s all crap. Hong Kong doesn’t even make drama games about it anymore.”

“Nonetheless, we must respect the possibility, however remote. My department has developed scenarios we don’t ever reveal to the public,” I confided. “Some of them are . . . disturbing.”

“I bet they are. But at the end, it’s all human paranoia.”

“Maybe. However, the non-exposure protocol must be enacted if the contact species turns out to be hostile. Will you accept that responsibility? I need to know I can rely on you if I’m incapacitated.”

“Incapacitated!” She took a moment, breathing in deeply as she finally realized what I was asking.

Getting her assigned to the mission on that basis—that thanks to her quirks she was genuinely dedicated and fearless enough to initiate the self-destruct sequence—had been an easy sell to Yuri. He had never questioned my choice.

“All right,” she said. “If it comes to that, I’m prepared to press the big red button.”

From the forthcoming book SALVATION by Peter F. Hamilton. Copyright © 2018 by Peter F. Hamilton. Reprinted by arrangement with Del Rey Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.