With Salvation Lost (hardcover, Kindle), writer Peter F. Hamilton is presenting the middle part of the sci-fi trilogy The Salvation Sequence he began in 2018 with Salvation and will (if all goes to plan) conclude in 2020 with The Saints Of Salvation. In the following email interview, he discusses what inspired and influenced both this series and this second installment.
Photo Credit: © Peter Eyre
Let’s start with some background. In a general sense, what is The Salvation Sequence about, and when and where is it set?
Salvation can be read as a straight alien contact story, but as well as that it explores the themes I see as dominating today’s political and social landscape. That of the ongoing lack of both honesty and trust that exists between the general population and the current political class, and national leaders. Throw into that mix a species, the Olyix, whose motivation is beyond our understanding, and the outcome is a horrific betrayal that no one can bring themselves to believe — at first.
And then what is Salvation Lost about and, aside from being the second book of three, how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the first one, Salvation?
As the middle of a trilogy, Salvation Lost does carry on the narrative directly from the end of Salvation, and then takes us forward to see the consequences of everything that happened in the first book. It’s unusual in that we follow two distinct timelines, one set in the near future, 2200, and a second that takes place ten thousand years after those first events. To some degree, Salvation was a classic alien mystery story, and now with the puzzle solved — the true reason the Olyix came to visit us — the Salvation Lost story focuses on the reactions to everyday people caught up in momentous events.
When in relation to writing Salvation did you come up with the idea for Salvation Lost and how did the plot change as you wrote the book?
I regard the trilogy as one story, but split into three parts for practical purposes. As such, I work out the whole plot beforehand, complete with individual chapter outlines. The details might change during the writing, but I work on it until the overall structure is solid. In order to write something this long and complex, I have to know that the ending works before I start.
Salvation and Salvation Lost have been called sci-fi space operas. Is that how you see them?
I can see why they attract the space opera label, as it’s a very wide definition. They take place in the future, and across the galaxy, so in that respect they qualify. However, there is also a spy story bound up in there, along with a war story, high political drama, and the tales of everyday relationships caught up and subjected to extreme stress.
Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on Salvation Lost but not on Salvation or, really, anything else you’ve written?
There was one specific narrative structure I wanted to use for Salvation, taken from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; a group of travelers telling each other their stories as they journey to their destination. But generally, I’d say my writing comes from a mix of influences, not just in terms of story but also styles and ideas. It’s true that science fiction is the literature of ideas, and I hope I’m not too afraid of trying out new ones.
How about non-literary influences; was Salvation Lost influenced by any movies, TV shows, or video games?
Not really, no.
Now, as you know from when you’ve written other books in a series, including The Void Trilogy and The Commonwealth Saga, some people wait until every book in a sequence is out before reading any of them, and some then read the books back-to-back. But is there any reason why you think people shouldn’t wait to read Salvation and Salvation Lost?
It kind of depends on what sort of person you are. I can see benefits in both methods. Reading them as they come out and enduring the wait between books gives you time to anticipate what you think is going to happen next. That assumes the wait isn’t too long — the Salvation books will be published a year apart, which is as fast as I can write them. If you are doing it this way, I would recommend re-reading before starting the new one. In contrast, it has to be satisfying to be able to read the whole trilogy straight through.
Speaking of the third book, do you know what it will be called and when it might be out?
It will be called The Saints Of Salvation, and it will be out in autumn of 2020. (Note the confident use of will, there.)
And will it be the end of The Salvation Sequence? I ask because some writers of trilogies will continue the story with sequel trilogies or side stories.
I haven’t decided what I’m going to write next. There are several options. Some of which are more developed than others. When I’ve finished Saints Of Salvation I’ll sit down and take a good hard look at what concepts I’ve developed, and make a final choice. The Salvation Sequence is going conclude the story started in book one. However, there are other stories which can be told in this universe.
You said earlier that Salvation and Salvation Lost were not influenced by any movies, TV shows, or video games. But has there been any interest in adapting this series into a movie, show, or game?
Like most writers I have a few books under option. Some are progressing slowly through development stages towards filming. I have no idea how many stages there are in this process, suffice to say: many.
Ironically, I think the most spectacular story of mine to film from a purely visual aspect would be the Queen Of Dreams trilogy, which was a middle grade fantasy trilogy, not SF. The events that take place in the Realm Of Air in book three would look fabulous on the big screen.
If The Salvation Sequence was going to be adapted, what form do you think it should take? Movie? TV show?
I think TV would be the best medium for a story of this length, especially given the number of principal characters and their extensive backstories. I haven’t given much thought to casting, but to me Danny Glover [Lethal Weapon] would be superb as Alik Monday, the FBI special detective.
Finally, if someone really likes Salvation Lost, which of your other novels would you suggest they read while waiting for the third book to come out, and why that one?
Try Great North Road. It’s big, but a stand-alone. Nor is there going to be a sequel or prequel.