on 1 January 2006
I'm a Yank, and, having read Pandora's Star a few months earlier, I simply could not wait for the American edition to finally come out on February 28, 2006. So I bought Judas Unchained as soon as it was first published, directly from the UK. (You Brits are fortunate to have this fine author so conveniently at hand!)
I'm glad I didn't wait. The many charcters and very complex storylines begun in Pandora's Star are difficult to hold in one's mind for months on end. These two books are essentially one very long novel, with many parallel plot lines through which Hamilton rotates. I strongly recommend that people read them in (of course) the proper order, and one right after the other. As it was, I had some difficulty recalling who several of the protagonists were, and I had become vague about some of the events depicted in Pandora's Star as well. But I hasten to say that my problems in this regard were not the fault of Peter F. Hamilton, but more a matter of my aging mind's somewhat declining memory capacity. (I did have a compensating pleasure as I finally remembered various events and characters.) Do be forewarned: These are complex novels, so reading them straight through is probably best for all readers.
As for what happens in Judas Unchained, I will only say that all the storylines of Pandora's Star are appropriately and logically resolved. Hamilton has put even more of his rollicking, gee-whiz action into this concluding book, and the ending of the saga is both intellectually and emotionally satisfying. These two volumes are "space opera" at its very finest, and in the best sense of the term.
Hamilton just gets better with time. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next.
Despite reading a lot of it, I'm not actually a massive fan of Sci-fi, especially Space Opera. Although as a genre it's produced some greats (for example, Clarke, Brunner, Dick and Bear), the vast majority is easy-reading brain candy which helps me relax after a long day at work without making me think.
I've read a fair amount of Peter F Hamilton with this in mind - I wasn't overly smitten with the 'Night's Dawn' Trilogy, and Fallen Dragon was also very ho-hum. The first book in this series, 'Pandora's Star' was interesting enough to make me look forward to the sequel, but I still wasn't singing it's praises.
Judas Unchained starts unexceptionally enough with the usual SciFi and Fantasy staple of two dense pages naming the major characters and then the plot gets cracking.
About four hundred pages in I realised something. Despite dozens, if not hundreds of named characters and at least a half-dozen seperate plot threads which cross and weave at no point had I got confused as to who was who, what was going on or where the story was. As a feat of storytelling and authorial skill this is remarkable.
I've never doubted Hamilton's imagination, but in the past his writing has left much to be desired. With Judas Unchained he seems to have overcome his former limitations and this book is, undeniably, the work of a tremendous writer at absolutely the top of his game. Yes, there are criticisms. Other reviewers have pointed out that his characterisation of women is poor and that is his big weakness as a writer. Beyond that, though, Judas Unchained is a remarkable work of the imagination and of writing and whatever your views of SF, this is a book I'd heartily recommend.
on 13 April 2010
It is said that all good things come to an end, and the principle (unfortunately) applies to the Commonwealth Saga. While I was reading Judas Unchained, the second and last book of this saga, I found myself racing throw the pages, eager to discover the end result of the war between humanity and the Primes. As the final pages drew near a thought crept in my mind, increasingly persistent it reminded me that there was no third book, that after 2400 pages I would cease to accompany the Commonwealth towards their (ours?) brighter future. And how I wished to keep contact with all of those fantastic characters; Nigel, Ozzie, Mellanie (ah...Mellanie...), Kime, Adam, Johansson, the SI, the HighAngel, Qatux, Tochee... they all were like close friends now (even Dudley Bose).
But, not everything is perfect, and I found the end somewhat rushed. Maybe I expected a more refined ending, with more finesse, or something like that. Nevertheless I can't give this book nothing less than a great score. The thing with Peter Hamilton's sci-fi books is that they sound so plausible that you can almost see those same things happening, or wish you will live enough to, at least. So you just devour the pages, hoping to catch all what the future reserves us, and how humanity will meet the challenges those times present to it.
Well, like I said in the beginning, all good things come to an end and, believe me, the Commonwealth Saga is good enough to be missed in the end!
After one misfire (Mispent Youth) and a so-so effort (Fallen Dragon) Peter F. Hamilton returned to form with Pandora's Star, the first volume in the Commonwealth Saga. Now, with Judas Unchained, he concludes a story that, in terms of scope if not length, surpasses his previous work; the Night's Dawn Trilogy.
As with its predecessor in the series it is another tour de force of intricate plotting, epic themes (genocide, time travel, human evolution), personal relationships, interwoven story strands, high politics and pounding action. Picking up where Pandora's Star left things, it follows the same characters, human and alien, minor and major, as they find themselves caught up in a battle for human survival against alien forces seen and unseen.
Trying to summarise the plot here would be pointless. There are simply too many storylines running in parallel throughout this book to come up with a succinct description. All readers need to know is that Hamilton handles each strand, without exception, extremely well. Be it the intrigues of high politics or the down and dirty survival of troops on the ground he gives each one as much care and attention. He also pulls off the almost impossible feat of bringing them all together so that there are no dead ends and even the most minor character has some key role to play in events.
All this is combined with Hamilton's highly evocative descriptions of mankind's future. This is an epic tale set in a fully realised and wholly believable universe. By combining the utterly fantastic (laser weapons and wormholes) with the mundane (trains and Volvo trucks) he gives the reader points of reference grounds the story even during its wilder flights of fancy.
Of course, as with any second volume it is imperative that you read Pandora's Star first. In fact, even if you have already read it I would recommend refreshing your memory of events before you tackle Judas Unchained. With so many characters and events it can be difficult to remember who's who in the universe the author has created. It is in testimony to him that most are fleshed out enough to be individually memorable, but when minor characters from volume one reappear to play major parts in the story's conclusion it helps to be able to remember who they were.
So, as a conclusion to the saga Judas Unchained is brilliant. Don't read it without tackling its predecessor first, and even then you will need to pay careful attention if you're to keep up with the labarynthine plot and numerous story arcs, but by doing so you will be amply rewarded. The climaxes are breathless, the final conclusion uplifting and it leaves you wanting to spend more time in the company of the characters Hamilton has created.
The first volume in the Commonwealth Saga, Pandora's Star, ended on a humdinger of a cliffhanger. The Commonwealth has been invaded by the alien Primes. 23 planets have been conquered, 30 million humans have died. The Commonwealth responds by building a huge fleet of warships and equipping them with new super-weapons, only to find the Primes responding with devastating weapons of their own. As both sides continue to up the ante, it becomes clear that the war can only end in the genocide of one species or the other. Meanwhile, key Commonwealth personnel have accepted the existence of the hostile alien Starflyer, which has orchestrated events for its own reasons. However, the number of Starflyer agents at large in the Commonwealth is far higher than was suspected and soon betrayals start piling up, culminating in a lengthy, exhausting chase sequence as the Starflyer is finally forced into the open and tries to flee to its crashed starship on Far Away. Elsewhere, Ozzie Isaacs' quest to find an alien intelligence which might be able to shed some light on the situation reaches a conclusion with some very unpalatable answers being revealed.
Judas Unchained is a fitting conclusion to the story begun in Pandora's Star. It carries on Hamilton's enviable talent for juggling multiple character viewpoints and complex storylines with flair and verve. Complaints are minor: the lengthy chase sequence with vehicles and running battles is perhaps a little too reminiscent of Hamilon's earlier work (particularly The Neutronium Alchemist) and the conclusion, although arguably more successful than the deus ex machina ending of The Night's Dawn Trilogy, leaves whole string of loose ends. These are minor threads only, but the vague sense of loose ends being deliberately left for Hamilton's next project, The Void Trilogy (which will be set in the same universe 1,000 years later), is slightly irritating.
But these are minor niggles. Judas Unchained cements Hamilton's place as the most readable and enjoyable SF writer working in the field today.
This is the second novel in Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga and the sequel to Pandora’s Star. It is possible to read Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained if you have already read the Void Trilogy, even though they all belong to the Commonwealth series and the Void Trilogy takes place later. (Ignore Misspent Youth, by the way.) This is what I did, and I did not feel the Void Trilogy had spoilt any of the suspense of the first two Commonwealth novels for me. Indeed, I highly recommend reading these two books no matter what, as they are perhaps Hamilton’s best set of novels.
Judas Unchained follows straight from Pandora’s Star and concludes the Prime or Starflier war. Since I assume you have already read the first novel in this set of two, there is no need to elaborate on the premise in this review. Suffice to say that this second volume is worthy of the first. What I like about Hamilton’s novels, moreover, is that they offer a progressive vision of technology, a sober but in many ways positive peek at the future, and this is particularly true of the Commonwealth Series. In a sense, they are a return to the heroic era of science fiction, and they stand far from the gloomy dystopias that have become fashionable. Biological enhancements have become available to humans. They can interface mentally with computer networks. Manufacturing has been made easy. At the same time, though, politics and conflict remain as fraught as they ever are. Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained (there is no getting out of reading both once you have started, but you will be grateful for so much reading material) combine science fiction and the detective novel as genres, and even some fantasy. The plot is absolutely breathtaking, and this is highly recommended whether to Hamilton fans or novices.
I couldn't wait to read this after reading the first book - Pandora's Star (Commonwealth Saga)
The first book ended poised at a crucial juncture in the war between the commonwealth and the primes. The first book was superb, a real page turner. Though my one criticism of my review of that was that Hamilton often relied a bit too much on the cliffhanger as a device - and it was often frustrating, to whisked away to another character's story, when you were engrossed in the chapter you were reading.
This book seems to step back from that slightly, it certainly happens less often, and less annoyingly.
Towards the end of the book, I really felt like I was taking part, the story just swept me along.
I thought the ending was good, but there was one loose end that I didn't think got tied up properly. I suspect this may be addressed in another book, but I've started reading The Dreaming Void (Void Trilogy) - and it doesn't seem to be. However, that book isn't a follow up as such - just set in the same universe, 1500 years-ish years later. I expect Mr Hamilton may fill in these 1500 years with another couple of books at some point.
In summary - excellent sci fi. If you're reading this, you've probably already read Pandora's star, in which case I can't believe you wouldn't buy Judas Unchained anyway.
If you haven't, buy Pandora's Star first. Though you might as well buy this at the same time, as I can guarantee you'll be hooked!
on 12 November 2005
I Had to read it twice, the first time I flew through it in a week just to get to the conclussion (I've been waiting 18 months!) and then a second time more slowly and after reading Pandoras Star again. Its a fantastic story, very well developed, sexy technology and if you soak it up properly quite rich and descriptive, it earns five stars simply for this.
I personnaly love the rich character development and suspense of working out the who-done-it parts, those from the 'wam-bam-thank-you-mam' category of SciFi will probably not, but even they would have to admit that when the wam-bam does come it doesn't so much as happen but explodes from the page.
My only critisism, and its a minor one, is that a couple of the characters were probably too well developed for the relatively minor role they eventually played, though this does help obscure the story from any obvious conclussion and I may change my mind on a third reading!
This series will be a future SciFi classic easily on par with Nights dawn but with a better ending.
Role on his next book!
on 17 November 2005
In Judas Unchained Peter F Hamilton concludes the sage that began with Pandora's Star and on the way manages to dig humanity out of a pretty deep hole.
The book is vintage Hamilton with a large range of characters from seemingly different story arcs who are gradually drawn together for a fast paced and energetic finale that is a real page turner. The level of complexity means you really should read or re-read Pandora's Star before setting out otherwise you will be missing key parts of the backstory and besides the two books fit together well
Characterisation is for the most part good, but there is not a truly memorable character like Joshua Calvert or Quinn Dexter (from the Nights Dawn books) to sink your teath in to. Also I found some characters almost cardboard cutout's of previous work, ie. Melanie young sexually adventurous woman backed up by super intelegent artificial intelegence, read Ione young sexually adventurous woman backed up by super intelegent space habitat. One reason I think I like his books and characters so much is they behave in a very contemporary way; they have the same motivations as us but just happen to live in the future this helps make them easy to identify with. Although some of the female ones jump into bed far too easily to be totally believeable.
Where the book really excells is in the incorperation of technology. Peter has the skill to make us just accept fantastic technology because he writes about it being used in an everyday way, and as the characters accept it without comment so do we.
My biggest worry before the book came out was if we would be lumbered with a deus ex machina ending that magically resolves everything like we saw at the end of the otherwise excellent Nights Dawn Trillogy. Fortunatly Peter has not made the same mistake twice and the ending is in keeping with the rest of the book.
So strongly recomended to existing fans, although it is not quite as good as Nights Dawn. For new readers, well as long as you like long books with a huge range of characters and are not put off by lots of sex and violence this is definatly for you.
on 28 May 2008
Hamilton knows how to write a good character. Most of the (very many) people that he introduces in his massive books are developed sufficiently for the reader to identify with, and even care about. I think that in Judas Unchained he has improved in that his female characters seem far more sympathetically drawn than in some of his earlier works. However, he needs a better editor! I can't be the only person who has noticed that almost the only adjective he uses is "big". By the end of the novel I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when "big" was dragged out again. And what is it with this obsession with naming the manufacturer and model of every single vehicle that is mentioned in the text? Occasional mention of a brand like Volvo, adds a dysphoric jolt, that paradoxically makes the story seem more "real". But not even the most seasoned train spotter mentally notes such detail whenever they even see a car or a train, as seems to be the case in the inhabitants of the Commonwealth. A trans-planetary civilisation of ultra obsessional nerds?
Great story, clever twists and turns of the plot, enjoyable characters, well written action and believable sex. Worth reading, even if the ending did seem a little hurried.