Middle books in trilogies are usually the slowest. While the first book gets to start everything off, and the last book brings it to a head, the middle really just has to keep the momentum going. Hamilton has managed to keep things rolling, and at the same time adds huge new developments into the mix.
First off, we've got the inception, and rise of the Organization. This is actually a group of possessed with ambitions greater than just cheating death. And, they're headed up by... Al Capone. That's right, Al Capone. I thought this entire twist might just have been a bit overboard, but Hamilton does manage to pull it off. He comes up competent, and fleshes out into a believable character. Still, the idea of a 1920's gangster heading up a syndicate seven hundred years later is a little odd for me.
On Norfolk, Joshua's provincial girlfriend, Louise, turns out to be a little more resourceful than anticipated. After the planets inevitable fall to the possessed, she, along with her little sister and a repentant possessed, try to escape the planet, and stop Quinn Dexter from reaching Earth.
On Valisk, Dariat is intent on destroying Rubra, and Kiera is desperate to increase the population of the habitat. A task which she hopes to complete by luring innocent children from across the galaxy. But her biggest problem, is trying to defeat Rubra. Rubra's a wily old fox, and he won't give in easily. Not only that, he has a secret for Dariat, one he's been hiding for years..
As for the title track, it's good 'ol Captain Calvert on the search for Doctor Alkad Mzu, before she retrieves her ancient doomsday weapon, the Neutronium Alchemist, and commits genocide. Of course, Calvert isn't the only one looking for her. Numerous government agencies are out to stop her, and steal the technology for themselves. As if that's not enough, Josh has family problems to deal with...
Unfortunately, the book doesn't really continue with some of the characters from 'The Reality Dysfunction'. Kelly's character for instance, went through some great development in the book, but she's essentially taken out of the loop in the second novel. I had also hoped we'd see a more of the enigmatic Laton, but he didn't crop up anywhere in the novel, so we have to assume he's gone for good. There is a mysterious force opposing Quinn however, who seems to have much more power than the average possessed Although he pops in and out of the book at various points, we're given no hint to his identity. (Maybe it's Laton? It actually doesn't seem to be... but we can always hope!).
In general, it seems as the colossal length of the series may be wearing on it's execution. Although 'The Neutronium Alchemist' is full of action and plot development, it also has inevitable parts where the pace of events slows to a crawl, or simply loses it's appeal. It seems the scope has gotten so wide that the book tends to lose cohesion in some places.
The book doesn't resolve any conflicts, except for that of the Alchemist (hence the title?). It does however, blow everything wide open. By the end of the novel, some momentous events have occurred, and the stage is set for the final novel. First hinted at in the first book, Calvert has a mission to find the mysterious 'Sleeping God', what may be humanity's only chance for salvation.