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Fallen Dragon

Fallen Dragon is a science fiction novel by Peter F. Hamilton. It was first published in 2001 by Macmillan.

The story is mainly about the life of Lawrence Newton from the planet Amethi, who pursues his dream of becoming a starship captain. Another storyline, which merges with the first, is that of the Thallspring resistance, with the help of advanced alien technology, against Terran exploitation.

The future societies in the book are varied, and the book contrasts them. There are elaborate descriptions of various future technologies such as powered armor skins and interstellar flight.

The book also touches upon various philosophical themes, such as political systems and power distribution in a society, the impact of technology on human life, and how one should live one's life.

Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers.

Table of contents
1 The world of Fallen Dragon
2 Synopsis
3 Philosophical themes of Fallen Dragon

The world of Fallen Dragon

The world of the book exists in the 24th century.

Human technology has progressed greatly. Biological advances have all but eliminated disease, and genes can be rewritten to fix defects or make enhancements. Industrial advances have removed the pollution problem. Artificial growing of food has eliminated the need to farm or keep lifestock, allowing most of the former parklands of Earth to be returned to their natural form. The development of fairly powerful computers (artificial stupidity or AS) dominates logistical jobs and any form of management. Combat is dominated by organic powered exoskeletons called skins.

Many worlds have been colonized by corporations using faster-than-light stardrives. But colonisation has turned out to be too expensive to be economically viable, so apart from Zantiu-Braun nobody is starting new colony worlds. Trade is also non-existent, as it is cheaper to reverse-engineer the products and produce them on Earth.

As the biota of alien worlds are incompatible with Earth's the parts used for human settlements are first gamma-soaked to sterilize them. The exception is Amethi, which is ice-locked when found by humans, making it easier to colonize. All that is required is to start a self-reinforcing greenhouse cycle by bombarding it with meteors. No intelligent alien life has been found in the universe.

As the established colony worlds are owned by their founding corporations, they represent unused assets for the company seats on earth. A such the corporations mount asset realization campaigns, where they take the colonies valuable produce and ship it back to Earth, the lack of payment making it a profitable operation. As the colonies have developed independently they are unwilling to give up their produce freely, and force is used to assure their co-operation.

The economy of Earth is dominated by a small number of huge international corporations, the largest of which is Zantiu-Braun. Due to their economic power, they have become more powerful than governments. The corporations are controlled by their stakeholders, making Earth a plutocracy. Some of the coorporations mentioned in Fallen Dragon have motives beyond growing bigger and creating profit for their stakeholders. For example the corporation which owns Amethi is controlled by stakeholders living on Amethi, and all its Earth industries have been turned over to supporting Amethi. Zantiu-Braun, controlled by clones of Simon Roderick, has the motive of uplifting the entire human race to his ideal.

The colony world Thallspring is fairly idyllic, and has a properly functioning democracy.


The book has 4 separate story threads that eventually merge. The threads are told in parallel in the book. The threads eventually merge, and you get an understanding of the complete picture.

Young Lawrence Newtons is the oldest son of one of the most powerful board members on Amethi. But Lawrence is uninterested in growing up to become a member of the board, and instead spends his time watching science fiction dramas like Flight:Horizon and dreaming about being a starship pilot. But Lawrence's father tells him that there is no starship exploration any more. Lawrence gradually becomes less and less interested in school work, and becomes socially isolated. One day his father takes him to a holiday resort, as a treat. There a gorgeous girl named Roselyn takes the initiative in becoming Lawrence's girlfriend. Very quickly Lawrence becomes very interested in the world around him, and in righting his life in order to retain Roselyn as his girlfriend. In a relatively short time he becomes top of his class, physically active and on the way to the university to learn the skills needed to be a board member. He and Roselyn are deeply in love with each other. One day he learns that the Earth corporation Zantiu-Braun is still making exploratory spaceflights, and resolves to tell his father that he will not study management, but will become a spaceplane pilot. Going to consult his father he overhears him saying that he paid Roselyn to become Lawrence's girlfriend, and that he would like to fuck her afterwards. Lawrence is distraught, and resolves to get away by going to Earth to become a spaceplane pilot. His friend Vinnie gives him a powerful subsentient program called prime, which Lawrence uses to avoid detection by his powerful father as he leaves for Earth. On Earth he enters the Zantiu-Braun corporation with the ultimate goal of becoming a pilot, but he must first earn a large enough stake to qualify. So he becomes a Zantiu-Braun soldier, fighting on a number of world on asset realization expeditions. Eventually he thinks he has a chance to qualify as pilot, so he signs up for the recruitment test. He does very well, but is told he doesn't qualify because he doesn't have a large enough stake in the company. After that he bitterly resigns himself to remaining a soldier. He still has many ideals, for example he saves a girl from being raped by his fellow squaddies in the Arnoon village on Thallspring. Lawrence eventually becomes sergeant of his platoon when his old sergeant sacrifices himself to save Lawrence.

Denise Ebourn comes from the small Arnoon village in the hinterlands of the planet Thallspring. She lives in Memu Bay, and has a job as a playschool (kindergarten) teacher. But she is also organizing a very competent resistance cell in preparation for the Zantiu-Braun asset realization mission, together with two other Arnoon villagers. Making the resistance cell extremely dangerous is their alien technology. They have a fantastic software program called prime, which is able to penetrate and manipulate almost any data network at will. Their bodies have also been enhanced, giving them superhuman strength and endurance. Using these advantages subtly they turn the population against the invaders, severel times hitting Lawrence's men. They also prepare for their ultimate goal: stealing a spaceship. But one of Denise's companions is caught, and is tricked into revealing enough clues to track them to Arnoon village. When he finds out that he has betrayed the cell he kills himself by making his alien enhanced body explode, almost killing one of the Simon Roderick clones who lead Zantiu-Braun.

The story of adult Lawrence Newton begins just before the Thallspring asset realization expedition. Thinking about his previous mission to Thallspring, where he visited the Arnoon village, Lawrence has concluded that the village must have an enormous amount of wealth. For they had, hidden in plain sight, alien plants living on unsterilized soil bearing edible fruits. This requires enormous effort to create, and probably the help of Santa Chico geneticists. Lawrence plans to "realize" that unknown wealth for himself, using it to buy his way back to Amethi. So he arranges to be stationed near the village, and for help to discretely get his treasure back to Earth. Once on Thallspring the soldiers are met by the highly competent resistance movement, and Lawrence's platoon loses several soldiers. At last he sees his chance to go to Arnoon village, taking his platoon with him to back him up.

Throughout the book as Denise is working as a playschool teacher she occasionally tells the children stories about an alien 'Ring Empire' spanning the entire galaxy. The Ring Empire is described by the story of the prince Mozark, who travels through the empire to find inspiration for leading his people when he becomes king. In his journey he finds many wonders and compelling philosophies, but he ends up rejecting them all as not worthy of the future of his kingdom. Instead he concludes that one should live fully for its own sake.
Also mentioned is the Mordiff, who live in the middle of an impenetrable 
nebula. They are therefore not aware of anything but themselves and, being so limited, they end up destroying themselves in horrible wars.

As Denise learns that Lawrence is headed for Arnoon village she races to intersect him. An extremely violent combat takes place between Lawrence's platoon and a group of Arnoon villagers, ending with a wounded Lawrence staggering alone towards Arnoon village. As he gets there his skin suit is spent, and he is near death. The villagers, one of which is the girl he saved from being raped, revives him, revealing that their wealth comes from a damaged alien dragon with great technological knowledge such as the nano construction used to enhance the resistance movement. The dragon is a spaceliving creature, and as such is nothing but immobile electronics on the planet surface. To repay the dragon for its help the villagers plan to use a stolen spaceship to travel to a red sun, where the dragon says its species lives, to enable the dragon to be repaired.

Lawrence decides to join them, and helps them to hijack a spaceship. But they are followed by the damaged Simon Roderick clone, who is determined to use all means to capture the technology for himself, not even trusting his clone brothers. Another Simon Roderick clone follows, to get the technology and to stop his clone brother. When Denise and Lawrence arrive at the red star they quickly find the dragon civilization, billions of kilometer-sized creatures. They learn that the dragons are a disengaged race, once part of the now destroyed Ring Empire, who do nothing but amass knowledge, sharing it freely with others. The Arnoon dragon was a seed, one out of billions, and no more important to them than a sperm cell to us. By using their early arrival, Denise and Lawrence convince the red star dragon to disable the damaged Simon Roderick. The dragon civilization gives their patternform nano construction knowledge to Lawrence, Denise and to the last Simon Roderick, in an agreement arranged by Denise and Lawrence that the knowledge must be shared freely on Earth, and not monopolized by Zantiu-Braun. Lawrence uses the technology to change back to a teenager, fly back in time through the time portal of the Mordiff, and fly to Amethi. There he transforms into Vinnie, acting as young Lawrence's friend. After giving young Lawrence the prime program so young Lawrence can go to Earth, he changes into young Lawrence, and goes to make up with Roselyn. Denise uses the technolegy to make her dragon stronger. She has also brought a genetic package, which she plans to take with her to the other side of the galaxy to start a new safe haven for humans.

The key background elements of the Thallspring Arnoon village people's advanced technology is only explained late in the book, though you get many examples of their technological abilities, which are not explicitly commented upon in the narrative. Likewise, asset realization is referred to many times, but only hints are given about what it is before it is explained to young Lawrence Newton on his first asset realization expedition.

Philosophical themes of Fallen Dragon

An important question is the effect of technology on a civilization, specifically in the discussion of what to do with the dragon patternform technology. A problem is also that human development will be sidetracked by technology that humans have not developed for themselves, meaning they may not be mentally ready to use it.

In the Fallen Dragon universe, Earth and at least some colonies are basically controlled by huge companies. Ordinary people can gain influence by buying a stake in the companies, which will enable them to gain voting influence in accordance with the size of their stake. Lawrence Newton comments that (paraphrase) "of course the power has to be distributed according to stake ownership, otherwise the poor would just vote to give themselves more social benefits". The book does not make any final moral judgements about this issue, though the ending does deny Zanthiu-Braun ultimate control of Earth via a monopoly on the patternform technology.

A theme of the book is how you live your life. Mozarks journey gives many examples of what you can try to achieve, from builders giving all their energies to building and maintaining huge cities, to colonizers embarking on intergalactic travels to settle in other galaxies. The telling of Lawrence Newton's experiences as a soldier also gives two examples of foreign cultures, the planet where the leaders focus on living forever and the planet Santa Chico where the settlers have merged with the native biota, and now live short and intense lives in harmony with their surroundings.

Humanity in "Fallen Dragon" has switched to artificially produced food, so almost everybody is a vegetarian. Lawrence Newton is especially disgusted by those who eat animals, or even plants, calling them "regressors".