The novel “The Nano Flower” by Peter F. Hamilton was published for the first time in 1995. It’s the third of the Greg Mandel trilogy and follows “A Quantum Murder“.
Charlotte is a high-class prostitute and while she’s between jobs she gives Julia Evans’ personal assistant a message from her husband Royan, who’s been vanished for months. The message includes a strange flower which, after an analysis, turns out to be fundamentally different from any Earth’s organism. Almost simultaneously, Julia discovers that other companies are developing revolutionary technologies.
Charlotte’s new job is at the service of trader Jason Whitehurst, who hired her to keep company to his young son Fabian. It looks like a job like any other but quickly the situation starts becoming less normal with unforeseen ramifications.
Greg Mandel’s trilogy is set in a near-near future in a UK devastated by the dictatorship of the Popular Socialist Party. The situation in this future is made worse by global warming that caused serious problems to the territory. Mandel is a war veteran who was part of a very special brigade called Mindstar whose members were subjected to physiological changes to increase their potential psychic abilities.
“The Nano Flower” is set several years later “A Quantum Murder” and this can be seen above all in the news concerning Julia Evans’ life, which initially are surprising for the reader. She was a girl at the beginning of the trilogy, at its end she’s a married woman with children. The fact that she’s married to Royan is a surprise that gets explained in the course of the novel and one of the plot’s starting points is in the man’s disappearance and in a message that is delivered to Julia that includes a kind of alien flower.
Julia met Royan thanks to Greg Mandel and their old friend gets involved in the research that follows the new trace based on the message. This isn’t a real job because Greg has long since given up bein a detective and now he has a family as well with Eleanor but Royan has been his friend since the time of the socialist regime. In “The Nano Flower” Greg is still an important character but the real protagonist is Julia.
Another difference between the third novel and the previous ones is in its more complex structure. The plot of the first two novels was quite linear because they followed Greg Mandel’s point of view and sometimes Julia Evans’ but they were so intertwined that they were not really separate subplots. In “The Nano Flower” there’s also Charlotte’s story, which for a good part of the novel is independent from Julia and Greg’s. This trilogy is the first experience of Peter F. Hamilton as a novelist and in this third book somehow he experimented a complexity and consequently a length he perfected and became normal in the following years.
In my opinion “The Nano Flower” is not fully successful. Its complex plot sometimes becomes convoluted with some problems that affect some developments and have repercussions on some characters. Corporate espionage and the clashes between corporation that are sometimes not only economic is a theme that exists in the trilogy from the beginning but in some ways this third novel seems more like a treasure hunt with Royan and possible alien technologies as prizes.
Even after reading the flashbacks about the story between Julia and Royan, I kept on having concerns about these two characters’ developments. Julia grew up in a ruthless environment where she sometimes has to resort to the use of mercenary troops to get what she wants and doesn’t seem to have trouble doing so. She takes advantage of a semi-impunity before the law thanks to the fact that her company is crucial to the nation. Despite that, she always shows an altruistic spirit and in the end she’s mostly interested in finding Royan. Her husband’s motivations for his disappearance are explained at the end but I think they’re insufficient to justify everything he did.
In many ways Peter F. Hamilton gives a good perception of everything that happened in the years between “A Quantum Murder” and “The Nano Flower” to the protagonists and in general in that future world with some progress. However, in cases such as the relationship between Julia and Royan, some elements seemed forced for dramatic effect’s sake.
After a start that seemed rather slow, the pace in “The Nano Flower” starts accelerating and especially in the second part there’s a lot of action that includes shootouts and various twists showing the novel’s merits. In the end, this novel is quite unrelated from the previous ones but, if you liked them, in my opinion it’s worth completing the trilogy.