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Thoughts on Night Without Stars

Talk about the Commonwealth Universe books here: Misspent Youth, Commonwealth Saga, Void Trilogy, and Chronicle of the Fallers.
 
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Thoughts on Night Without Stars

Post by Gore Burnelli » Thu Oct 20, 2016 10:38 am

At Tochee's request - a discussion thread for Peter's latest novel.

I will post a review at a later date. At Peter's book signing in Liverpool he revealed that the whole Oppressive Society storyline in Night Without Stars was inspired by a visit to a Stazi museum in LeipZig; they had on display many items which he incorporated in the book, including a camera and microphone located in a jacket button, a tiny reel-to-reel tape recorder and wires running down a sleeve to a switch hidden in the hem of a sleeve -

Stasi Museum in Leipzig: 40 Years of Spying and Terror.

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The Berlin wall came down in 1989, reuniting East and West Germany. But though the German Democratic Republic is no more, there is still, in the city of Leipzig, one chilling reminder of the dreaded Stasi (SSD), the secret police of the GDR. It is the Stasi Museum and it encompasses the original rooms of a Stasi headquarters.

Located in the stately 19th century building known as “Runde Ecke” — the Round Building — the museum features a powerful permanent exhibit called “Stasi – Power and Banality.” Walk through the rooms where the secret police operated a sinister network of spying and terror and it becomes clear how the Stasi infiltrated every aspect of the everyday life in the GDR.

The Stasi had agents in the post office, opening and reading mail; they routinely broke into homes and planted bugs; they had a network of “safe houses” from which they monitored what went on in people’s homes. They photographed citizens going about their business and punished expressions of discontent with the GDR regime.

Though living standards were much lower in East Germany than in the West, and though there were chronic shortages of basic consumer goods, the discontent was more about the loss of personal freedom than the lack of personal comforts.

Some of the tools used to keep track of citizens were very James Bond: tiny cameras, sophisticated bugging equipment, devices for opening letters, forged rubber stamps, number plates and passports. Some look almost comical: disguises, including false noses, wigs, glasses — the false stomach made of padded fabric with a hole in the middle for a hidden camera. Or the jars containing the preserved body scents of potential suspects, gathered by summoning them to Stasi headquarters, having them sit on a cloth for 10 or 15 minutes, then storing the cloth in sealed jars-so if the suspects dropped out of sight, they could later be tracked by dogs.

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There is an eeriness to the ordinary-looking office of a Stasi official, the interrogation room, the cells where prisoners awaited trial. The outcome of the trials generally turned out as the Stasi wished; the death penalty was carried out in Leipzig for the entire 40 years.

After East Germany’s Erich Honecker signed the Helsinki Agreement on Human Rights in 1975, the Stasi often became more subtle in the persecution of its enemies, spreading lies and rumors and using tactics like anonymous letters and anonymous phone calls.

Suddenly people found their careers stalled, their jobs terminated; divorces occurred after wives received letters purporting to be from mistresses. Opportunities for education disappeared. In short, anyone who was not a “good” citizen of the GDR found his life under siege in a dozen different ways.

The Stasi boasted that it had “helpers” everywhere, and that included children as young as 13. But to achieve this “honor,” the children had to have been brought up in a home with solid GDR values; they could not have any close relatives living in the West. Once accepted as part of the SSD family, they were put to work-spying on family and friends. Those who performed well eventually became part of the Stasi hierarchy.

While the use of children recalled the Nazi era’s “Hitler Youth,” the Stasi operation took much of its inspiration from the Russian secret police of the post-Stalin years, and there is a room devoted to the icons of communist Russia, including Stalin and Lenin.

Yet in spite of the risks, grassroots opposition to the GDR regime grew and intensified. In Leipzig, people gathered on Mondays to pray in St. Nicholas Church. By 1989, the prayer services had become political protests in the square, growing in number-and spreading to other cities. The number of protestors peaked to 300,000 on October 30.

In a last-ditch attempt to maintain power, the entire government resigned. The tactic failed-and the so called “Peaceful Revolution” brought an end to the GDR.

Tens of thousands of people stormed the Stasi headquarters. Many records had been destroyed; when SSD officials saw the end coming, they shredded and pulped as much as they could. But there remains some 30,000 items documenting the “work” of the Stasi.

Many citizens found their own dossiers-and when they saw how their lives had been crippled, not by bad luck but by deliberate design, they broke down and wept.

Today both tourists and locals visit the exhibit; on any given day, you’ll see clusters of students, taking in the lessons of the past. Some longtime residents say that the smell associated with GDR offices still lingers in the place where they were robbed of their basic freedoms.
Of all the things I value most in life,
I see my memories, and feel their warmth
And know that they are good,
You know that I should!

 
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Re: Thoughts on Night Without Stars

Post by Tochee » Thu Oct 20, 2016 8:18 pm

Thanks for the thread. Assuming this is a safe place for spoilers.

I'm a bit of a fan boy of the Commonwealth Universe books, so I'm not going to attempt to give any objective review, but I loved this book. I had high hopes after reading The Abyss Beyond Dreams, and the Night Without Stars was everything I wanted and more. I couldn't put the book down and lost too much sleep reading just one more page.

Again, assuming it's OK to put spoilers, so if you haven't read it yet don't read any further because I'm going to list various comments and questions below.

:!: Spoilers! :!:

:idea: - Nice to find out my guess about the nature of "Plan B" was correct (see Night Without Stars - Speculation) Baby Paula was too adorable. Protecting the fast aging clone was a great plot device.

:?: - Most of my other questions from that thread were answered, but I'm still curious about the genistars on Querencia. The neuts/genistars are a slave species of the Fallers, so what happened to the Fallers (and their trees) on Querencia? I put a few possibilities in that thread, but now I suspect the previous residents of Makkathran may have destroyed the Fallers. They must have been more psionically powerful than the average human because of the extent they modified Makkathran.

:?: - Which leads to my next question, what happened to the Raiel who were on Makkathran? Why wasn't Makkathran ejected from the void to the Valatare prison with the other warships?

:idea: - I enjoyed the parade of famous characters at the end (well maybe it was a bit cheesy), but it would have been cool to have some description of the reunion of the lost warrior Raiel. The Raiel don't get their feathers ruffled by much, but their eyes must have bulged a bit when their long lost cousins returned. (Qatux will be like "good to see you cuz, but those wings are so last eon").

:?: - The line Yathal says at the end regarding the Fallers, "We removed them from our galaxy". Do you think he means "our" like his and Paula's, or are they saying the Raiel came from a different galaxy?

:geek: - I especially loved the last bits where they planet hop, and quickly build up their technology base with the matter synthesizers.

:twisted: - I wish Jenifa suffered a bit more, or had a more satisfying "I Told You So" scene. Wow, she was an effectively annoying character.

:?: - The Faustina reveal was great. I saw that coming... but just one line before. How much does she regret having Demitri rewind the void to save Slvasta? If they just let Slvasta stay dead imagine how different everything would be. Surely Laura would get along much easier with the non-paranoid Captain Phiious. Someone write that fan fiction please.

:?: - Wasn't Mellanie exploring the Silfen paths? I can't remember where we left her last. (Edit: that's right, now I get why Paula told Florian to think carefully if Mellanie asks him to go for a walk.)

:?: - If Roxwolf can get a human body implanted with his alien mind, why not the ANAdroids? I think they deserve a fully functional biononically enriched human body. It would have been nice to learn their fate.

:D - Joey and Roxwolf bonding in the dungeon was cool.

:) - Paula rocks! I know she's all "Vulcan" and everything, but I would have liked her to acknowledge Florian's parenting skill a bit more. Some lingering connection would have been a nice touch. Maybe a final "thanks Doo-da!"

:P - Finally meeting the Planters was great. Paula's "What colors Florian?" was funny. Kind of a Gilligan and The Professor scene there.

Edited to add:
:?: - I assume they let the prime minister get a new body or have his old one back after Joey downloaded the PMs mind to a secure store. I would have liked to see some mention of that.

:?: - After the Fallers have complete domination of a planet, what do they do next? I assume the trees move on to find a new planet. Roxwolf said they don't need things like cities, farms and industry, so I'm curious what their post-war culture is like. (I don't ask these questions about entities like the Planters because they are so enigmatic and apparently advanced. It's like a bacteria wondering what a human does every day. Fallers don't seem quiet as alien as that. )

:?: - Along those lines, there does seem to be a gap in the Fallers technology, comparing the nature of the trees and their method of conquering a world. The Faller trees are some crazy folded exotic matter that can manipulate space time, yet they still drop eggs on planets to absorb life forms in a very crude process. You would think at that level of technology they could just drop some kind of weaponized nano-dust on the planet and have complete control immediately. On the other hand, we don't know the course of their evolution so there might be reasons for this strange existence. Maybe the trees are still similar to the Skylords, who seem to be almost non-sentient despite their advanced physical forms. Like idiot savants.

:!: - Nice parallel with Florain being called "The Hero of Bryan-Anthony Boulevard" and Slvasta being called "The Hero of Eynsham Square", for both protecting a group of children from rampaging neuts/Fallers.

:!: - I like how we saw Nigel siphoning off matter from the star to build his Dyson shell, and then later Paula uses the same technique to provide power to the Planter's effort to unlock Valatare. Nigel's line at the end "...we're being visited by another post-physical?" (emphasis added) is interesting. (Although "another" is ambiguous. Could be "an additional being", or just "one different" from Nigel's Central).
--

But now I'm depressed the book is done. I hope to read others thoughts here. I'm looking forward to my eventual re-read of all seven books. (Is there a list somewhere of all the short fiction taking place in the Commonwealth?)

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Re: Thoughts on Night Without Stars

Post by chitman13 » Tue Oct 25, 2016 9:22 am

Tochee wrote::?: - Most of my other questions from that thread were answered, but I'm still curious about the genistars on Querencia. The neuts/genistars are a slave species of the Fallers, so what happened to the Fallers (and their trees) on Querencia? I put a few possibilities in that thread, but now I suspect the previous residents of Makkathran may have destroyed the Fallers. They must have been more psionically powerful than the average human because of the extent they modified Makkathran.

I think this was dealt with during Abyss where we find out that some of the Fallers embraced the void to become Skylords, while this faction (for lack of a better word) refused to submit and caused the time anomaly in their forest. I got the impression that these are the only Fallers left in the void though.

Tochee wrote::?: - Which leads to my next question, what happened to the Raiel who were on Makkathran? Why wasn't Makkathran ejected from the void to the Valatare prison with the other warships?

Very good question! I had assumed that the Raiel ships weren't manned, rather that they were self-aware, so not even thought of what happened to the crew.

Tochee wrote::?: - The line Yathal says at the end regarding the Fallers, "We removed them from our galaxy". Do you think he means "our" like his and Paula's, or are they saying the Raiel came from a different galaxy?

Definitely this galaxy! Lots of references in previous books to the Milky Way being home to the Raiel, and in one (I forget which book) the Raiel say that another two species have come to sentience on their home planet after them.

Tochee wrote::geek: - I especially loved the last bits where they planet hop, and quickly build up their technology base with the matter synthesizers.

Agreed!

Tochee wrote::?: - After the Fallers have complete domination of a planet, what do they do next? I assume the trees move on to find a new planet. Roxwolf said they don't need things like cities, farms and industry, so I'm curious what their post-war culture is like. (I don't ask these questions about entities like the Planters because they are so enigmatic and apparently advanced. It's like a bacteria wondering what a human does every day. Fallers don't seem quiet as alien as that. )

I think they do just that - wipe out all other life and make the planet their own while other Fallers go on to the next planet. They're like the Primes in their genocidal tendencies, but a little more subtle.

Tochee wrote::?: - Along those lines, there does seem to be a gap in the Fallers technology, comparing the nature of the trees and their method of conquering a world. The Faller trees are some crazy folded exotic matter that can manipulate space time, yet they still drop eggs on planets to absorb life forms in a very crude process. You would think at that level of technology they could just drop some kind of weaponized nano-dust on the planet and have complete control immediately. On the other hand, we don't know the course of their evolution so there might be reasons for this strange existence. Maybe the trees are still similar to the Skylords, who seem to be almost non-sentient despite their advanced physical forms. Like idiot savants.

I think it's just their nature - take over the planet bit by bit without all-out war. Or perhaps they're just sadistic and like to inflict the suffering and fear that taking over a planet like this does to the occupants!

Tochee wrote:But now I'm depressed the book is done. I hope to read others thoughts here. I'm looking forward to my eventual re-read of all seven books. (Is there a list somewhere of all the short fiction taking place in the Commonwealth?)

I've re-read the books many times, and now that the series is complete I'd like to read them all in one go, from Misspent Youth all the way through to Night Without Stars. Should take me a month or so! As for short stories in the Commonwealth, I'm fairly sure that there are only three extras, and all available in the Manhattan in Reverse collection: Blessed by an Angel (set before Dreaming Void), The Demon Trap (set before Pandora's Star), and Manhattan in Reverse (set after Judas Unchained). Personally I'd love Peter to give us a few more, maybe one looking at the Hancher/Occisen war, or catching up with MorningLightMountain after all the time it's locked up, or maybe even one looking at Melanie and Orion's trips down the Silfen paths...
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Re: Thoughts on Night Without Stars

Post by Tochee » Tue Oct 25, 2016 2:09 pm

Thanks for the response and thoughts.

chitman13 wrote:I've re-read the books many times, and now that the series is complete I'd like to read them all in one go, from Misspent Youth all the way through to Night Without Stars. Should take me a month or so! As for short stories in the Commonwealth, I'm fairly sure that there are only three extras, and all available in the Manhattan in Reverse collection: Blessed by an Angel (set before Dreaming Void), The Demon Trap (set before Pandora's Star), and Manhattan in Reverse (set after Judas Unchained).


I didn't realize they were all in that collection, so I just ordered it on Amazon. Another embarrassing hole in my Hamilton reading list is Misspent Youth. I guess you enjoyed it? I might have been scared away by some of the savage reviews on Amazon. I imagine I would have appreciated the reference to Timothy Baker at the end of A Night Without Stars more if I had read it. (Googling let me know about him.)

chitman13 wrote: Personally I'd love Peter to give us a few more, maybe one looking at the Hancher/Occisen war, or catching up with MorningLightMountain after all the time it's locked up, or maybe even one looking at Melanie and Orion's trips down the Silfen paths...


Likewise. Especially to find out what the Bose Motile got up to. I'd also like to read more about Ozzie's adventures.

I just realized that it's kind of fitting that the whole series (at least from Pandora's Star), starts with what appears to be a star become enveloped by a Dyson shell, and then ends with Nigel building a real Dyson shell. Or at least an approximation of one using moving rings.

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Re: Thoughts on Night Without Stars

Post by chitman13 » Wed Oct 26, 2016 9:16 am

Tochee wrote:I didn't realize they were all in that collection, so I just ordered it on Amazon. Another embarrassing hole in my Hamilton reading list is Misspent Youth. I guess you enjoyed it? I might have been scared away by some of the savage reviews on Amazon. I imagine I would have appreciated the reference to Timothy Baker at the end of A Night Without Stars more if I had read it. (Googling let me know about him.)

Good to hear - hope you enjoy the stories :) And re: Misspent Youth - it really is one that hasn't got a great rep, but as long as you go in not expecting a sci-fi space opera you should be okay. The characters aren't particularly likable either, but it's the nature of the story. I enjoyed it, more so the US version that has revised text (not that there is much different, and nothing that changes the story). And yeah, the Tim Baker reference was a nice throw back!

Tochee wrote:I just realized that it's kind of fitting that the whole series (at least from Pandora's Star), starts with what appears to be a star become enveloped by a Dyson shell, and then ends with Nigel building a real Dyson shell. Or at least an approximation of one using moving rings.

I think the whole series has themes that run throughout, and that is a nice little nod there :)
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Re: Thoughts on Night Without Stars

Post by gamerfathergeek » Tue Nov 01, 2016 1:18 am

Hello all, I thought this was the best place to ask a question about the ending.

Now I've read and listened to the audiobooks for all of the Commonwealth series but my memory isn't the best. What I'm struggling to remember is how the characters that came from the Void (Edeard, Salrana etc) were back in the Commonwealth? Off the top of my head the only thing I can think of was that when Nigel closed the Void, Querencia was expelled and due to whatever reason it was during a state that those characters were still alive?

If anyone can explain it to me I'd appreciate it!

 
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Re: Thoughts on Night Without Stars

Post by Tochee » Tue Nov 01, 2016 4:26 am

gamerfathergeek wrote:What I'm struggling to remember is how the characters that came from the Void (Edeard, Salrana etc) were back in the Commonwealth? Off the top of my head the only thing I can think of was that when Nigel closed the Void, Querencia was expelled and due to whatever reason it was during a state that those characters were still alive?


The fate of Querencia and Edeard unfolds at the end of the Void trilogy (The Evolutionary Void), so if you actually missed that one, do not read on because I will spoil it.

Assuming you did read (or listen) and just forgot, here is what I remember about what happened. (Although it isn't perfectly fresh in my memory either, so others can correct me or add details.)

In short, Nigel did not close the Void. When he detonated the quantum buster it was tuned to increase whatever stress the Faller Trees were putting on the quantum fabric of Void space in an effort to "crack" the Void open. However the Void had some kind of defense mechanism, or immune system, and instead of succumbing to the attack, it expelled Bienvenido (and the Trees) millions of light years outside of the galaxy. Apparently the Void has some kind of moral code, because instead of destroying the threat it chooses to place it far away. Obviously it thought the Raiel were an even higher level threat than Nigel or the Primes because it not only exiled them, but imprisoned them as well.

These events around Bienvenido took place before the final events of the Evolutionary Void. Remember Paula "B" has to fill him in at the end of A Night Without Stars. I don't have the book in front of me, but I think the time line at the front lays out the events clearly by year.

Now in the Void trilogy what basically happened was the leader of the Accelerator faction from Earth tried to invade the Void, somehow "hack" it and have it transform the entire universe into a new void space thereby uplifting everything into some higher level existence. But if I remember correctly, the leader was not actually trying to altruistically evolve everyone, but to become some kind of god in this new reality. Her plan was thwarted however when the "good guys" (Burnelli family, Inigo, and others) manage to resurrect Edeard from the memory layer of the Void, have him (with his superior control over the Void) drill down to the deepest layer of the Void and bring back a First Life, one of the original architects of the Void.

We learn these creatures evolved long ago and were literally the first sentient life in the galaxy. They created the void as some kind of attempt to evolve the empty universe to some more meaningful end state. I guess they assumed the outside universe would continue to be lifeless so the Void would be the only sanctuary of hope. But Gore Burnelli teaches them that their attempt is not the correct way to reach a true post physical state. He manages to show them how to truly uplift themselves, and the First Life chooses to do so causing the entire Void to basically disappear.

But during the transition the people are given a choice to continue on to this post physical state, or remain. The Void only left one star and the planet Querencia behind with those who chose to remain there. At the last moment, before the Void transcended, Edeard and others were able to resurrect others from the memory layer of the void, which is why Salrana and Burlal are back.

TLDR, to sum up, the chronological order of events is:
1. Nigel "B" invades the Void, stuff happens, and Bienvenido is expelled.
2. Nigel "A" leaves the galaxy thinking he failed.
3. More stuff happens, and the Void transcends. Edeard and co. join the Commonwealth.
4. Bienvenido humans, the Raiel and other refugees manage to travel back to the Commonwealth.
5. Paula "B" (clone from Bienvenido) travels to Nigel's galaxy to reunite him with Kysandra and tell him what happened since he left.
Last edited by Tochee on Wed Nov 02, 2016 3:52 am, edited 2 times in total.

 
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Re: Thoughts on Night Without Stars

Post by gamerfathergeek » Wed Nov 02, 2016 12:26 am

That's brilliant, thanks! Makes sense now :)


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