Aficionados recognise Hamilton as one of the more prominent British science fiction authors of the 1990s. His trilogy of novels set in a near-future Britain which has been run into the ground by a communist government and is beginning to work its way out through the production of advanced technology and featuring the psychic detective Greg Mandel first brought him to prominence in the mid-1990s. Critics praised their assured and fluent combination of the detective novel and science fiction genres, combining lively scientific, political and social speculation with ingenious detective elements to keep up the pace.
Hamilton's next project exhibited a change of tack: rather than settle into his carefully carved-out niche, Hamilton wrote an extremely ambitious set of space operas, known collectively as The Night's Dawn Trilogy. A very conventional space opera expanded to massive proportions - three novels each well over a thousand pages long in paperback - without becoming too flabby or bogged down, it was recognised as an impressive achievement of plotting and style, and became a significant success within the science fiction world.
After writing a companion to the series (The Confederation Handbook, an informational book in the manner of the appendices to The Lord Of The Rings), a novel for young adults (Lightstorm) and a novella for the PS Publishing series of limited editions (Watching Trees Grow), he published his next full novel, Fallen Dragon. Between the Mandel novels and the Night's Dawn trilogy in length, it appears as a condensation of many of the ideas and styles (and even characters) of the Night's Dawn trilogy, if rather darker in tone.
Hamilton's next novel, Misspent Youth, is much shorter than either the Night's Dawn books or Fallen Dragon, and depicts a near-future version of Britain different from that in the Greg Mandel trilogy. It combines a rejuvenation theme with a growing preoccupation with the phenomenon of European integration (compare Euroscepticism), which the novel portrays in a very negative light.
Hamilton persistently tackles ambitious themes, particularly in Night's Dawn. He deals extensively with politics, carefully engineering the universe of Night's Dawn as a loose alliance of independent worlds with vastly different systems of political and social organisation, which he persistently compares, contrasts and sets against each another. Other common themes include the problems and opportunities of technological innovation, and the phenomenon (often employed in science fiction) of technological imbalance between two societies. He also tackles religion and metaphysics, again particularly in Night's Dawn. His generally uses a clean, simple and quite prosaic style, though his short stories occasionally belie this, particularly the haunting Candy Buds in Another Chance At Eden, the collection of short stories set in the Night's Dawn universe. In Night's Dawn the style has a positive benefit in keeping the many different storylines progressing and allowing the reader to keep them all in mind, but in shorter works - particularly the grim Misspent Youth - it can work to his disadvantage.
Hamilton's works (as of 2003):