Sci-Fi alternatives to P. F. Hamilton
Read pretty much anything by Walter Jon Williams.
Peter F. Hamilton has written some OK space operas. Long and somewhat shallow with a half-heartedly clever payout after reading what felt like three telephone books. I appreciated his earlier Mindflower books, but in the end I feel he is falling victim to his editor's unwillingness to be ruthless in paring back to the essential story and I feel like I am wasting my time when I read his books.
Walter Jon Williams, on the other hand, is vicious with his editing. Only the story remains and there is a wonderful lack of superfluous prose. I like the way he writes women and his books are, with the exception of one or two titles, worthy of reading aloud in our home. This is a significant feature on account of my wife having very high standards for literature and we search far and wide for the best books to read aloud to each other.
So if you've never tried him - go get a few of his titles and try them out.
The Dread Empire's Fall series ("The Praxis", "The Sundering", and "Conventions of War") is a three volume space opera with excellent characterizations (with strong female roles), dialog, mystery, insurgency and gripping space battles.
"This is Not a Game" is an enjoyable mystery set on the backdrop of contemporary social networking. Again with the female lead characters and being 'read aloud' worthy.
"Angel Station" is a brilliant novel which is also on the 'read aloud' list.
There are others, but these first titles make a good introduction to his writing style.
And then there is Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series. There are a bewildering list of titles to sort out, but they are best read in chronological order. Many of her stories have been repackaged several times and getting it all in the correct order is difficult. Below is my suggested list of how to proceed. I have left out the repacked titles so you will need to be careful and not be fooled by the remaining titles. There is a rumor that she is working on a new Vorkosigan story.
Bujold deals with very advanced social concepts and hit a lot of good political, sexual, racial, and gender issues - along with some of the most tense and page turning stories that are not info-dumps. She is possibly one of the best authors I have ever been introduced to (my wife has been reading them aloud to me while I cook our meals). They are awesome. Dialog, characters, and plot are all wonderful. Every morsel that she includes is for a particular reason and often times a detail in one book will click with a later story (her editor is ruthless and it makes for excellent reading). Her father was a failure analysis engineer and his rational thinking and voice has been echoed in her writing and characterizations.
If you read the Bujold books then DO NOT read the plot entries on the Web. The spoilers are not worth knowing. Allow yourself to be surprised. Don't even read the back covers of the novels! You have been warned.
The book title is listed first and short stories/novellas are listed below with the "--" indents. A link to Amazon follows each.
--Shards of Honor
--The Warriors Apprentice (novella)
--The Mountains of Mourning (novella)
--The Vor Game (novella)http://www.amazon.com/Young-Miles-Lois-McMaster-Bujold/dp/0743436164/
Ethan of Athoshttp://www.amazon.com/Ethan-Athos-Lois-McMaster-Bujold/dp/067165604X/
The Borders of Infinity
--The Mountains of Mourning (Read the intro and then skip)
--Borders of Infinity (novella)http://www.amazon.com/Borders-Infinity-Lois-McMaster-Bujold/dp/0671720937/
Brothers in Armshttp://www.amazon.com/Brothers-Arms-Miles-Vorkosigan-Adventure/dp/1416555447/
A Civil Campaignhttp://www.amazon.com/Civil-Campaign-Lois-McMaster-Bujold/dp/0671578855/
Irresistable Forces (compilation)
Freefalling (takes place earlier)http://www.amazon.com/Falling-Free-Lois-McMaster-Bujold/dp/1416555463/
Diplomatic Immunity http://www.amazon.com/Diplomatic-Immunity-Lois-McMaster-Bujold/dp/B000ENBRQE/
And then there are John Varley's Gaea series (Titan, Wizard and Demon) and his Blue Champagne short stories (my wife began seriously courting me by loaning this book to me before we started dating).http://www.amazon.com/Titan-John-Varley/dp/0441813046/http://www.amazon.com/Wizard-John-Varley/dp/0441900674/http://www.amazon.com/Demon-John-Varley/dp/0441142672/http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Champagne-John-Varley/dp/0441068685/
So - this is as much a list for myself to potentially send on to other friends of mine and I hope you find these stories as enjoyable as we
did. I do recommend them as read-aloud books. It is an awesome form of quality time.