Peter F. Hamilton. Watching Trees Grow. PS Publishing, 2003.

This story had been waiting to be read for some time. The size and weight of the book made take it on my daily commute impossible, and so it was put in the pile for ‘reading at home’. This is not something that I manage to do too often, due to any number of distractions. However, I perservered, and was pleased.

Hamilton provides a breathtaking novella, which covers a couple of centuries, and a quantum leap for humanity. What gives the story an added dimension is the starting point – Oxford, England, AD 1832. A telephone in the middle of the night wakes the main character, on Edward Raleigh, who is called to duty to investigate a murder, and is shortly picked up in a car. Telephone? Car? 1832?

We are in an alternate history, in which the Roman Empire did not fall, and which is governing the world. Furthermore, the Romans have achieved a healthy measure of longevity, which allows us to follow Edward Raleigh over a couple of centuries.

And if this isn’t enough, we get a (sort of) whodunnit, as Edward is patient enought to wait two centuries to finally finger the murderer of the young student at the beginning of the story. As the decades pass the forensic science improves, giving him the chance to eliminate various characters. But more interesting is the huge technological leaps, taking Edward from using Bakelite telephones at the end, to diving through wormholes as humanity spreads across the universe.

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