I recently finished the first book in Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn series. I had heard that the book was a sweeping epic that was comparable to Dan Simmon's Hyperion books and, thus, went into it with high hopes. Overall, I think it was a good read but definitely not in the same vein as Hyperion--more action-oriented and less literary for sure.
The book follows several individuals from different cultures around the Confederation as they become involved in a civilizaiton-changing event. On the colony world of Lalonde, a mysterious force has been unleashed that is seemingly able to possess humans and turn them into indestructible zombie-like beings. Artifacts from a mysterious alien culture hint that they have encountered such a force just before a catastrophic event ended their civilization. At this point, I'm extremely unclear what this force actually is...some kind of energy has been alluded to, but I'm hoping that it will become clear in subsequent books. The rest of the technology (spaceships, neural interfaces, weaponry, etc.) are well thought out, so I'm looking forward to a slick 'hard science' explanation for the 'Reality Dysfunction' as well.
A couple of complaints: 1) The treatment of the extant alien species ('xenocs' in the book) is rather limited. I would have liked more descriptions of their culture, language, customs, etc. An individual from one xenoc species is involved in extracting information from the alien relic that is central to the plot so perhaps it (he, she?) will play a larger role later on. 2) The parts of the book where the Reality Dysfunction runs amok on Lalonde are a bit too much like a pulpy horror novel. For me, the most compelling parts of the novel are those that take place away from this action.
Just a warning: 'Emergence' is only the first part of the complete Reality Dysfunction book. I would have expected the editors to divide the two parts of the whole work into halves that make a little more sense. 'Emergence' really just stops at the last page with no sort of conclusion or climax in the action--I felt a serious lack of accomplishment when I finished reading. This can be forgiven since both books were released around the same time. I would have been seriously upset had I bought the first half and not been able to immediately jump into the second.