on 16 February 2004
Odd that Amazon considers it not yet published, as I just finished reading it this weekend after Amazon shipped a copy to me. Once again, Peter Hamilton has painted a broad canvas for his latest series of novels. Set in a relatively near future, but one in which wormhole travel to far stars is an everyday occurrence, where the elves are recognized as an off-world species who walk their own paths between the worlds, and a shadowy terrorist group, inspired by fears of a mysterious alien invader that no-one else believes to exist, Hamilton once again weaves dozens of individual stories into a seamless whole.
The "Pandora's Star" of the title refers to a mysterious cosmic event hundreds of light years away, beyond the reach of the wormhole technology, where two solar systems are suddenly enclosed instantly by a pair of massive force fields. This drives the major action in the book, with its usual massive space battles, detailed descriptions of alien species, complex politics and the tragedy and small triumphs of individual lives.
Hamilton has developed a star-spanning empire with new species, including his usual AI constructs and human memory archives, however this world is very different from the universe of the Neutronium Alchemist. There are the usual cliff-hangers at the end of this satisfying read, which make me certain to buy the sequel when it is released (hopefully this year!)
on 22 April 2005
Just finished reading this book, and the last 100 pages was read in a hurry to find out how the escalating conflict between humans, the mysterious Starflyer and the Primes develops. Unfortunately, or maybe luckily, the story continues in the second and last installment, Judas Unchained. Hamilton has put together a fascinating, detailed and complex universe populated by believable people, technology and aliens. In the midst of the story the mythological Starflyer lurks. Believed to be a propaganda hoax of the guerilla group The Guardians, the Commonwealth of humans is not prepared for the encounter with the expansionist and hegemonic alien race of the Primes, an encounter which might be the result of the Starflyer's machinations. Central to the story is detective Paula Myo, who slowly starts to suspect that the Starflyer is very real. Parallell to the investigation of the Dyson Barrier containing two star systems and the following disastrous developments, Ozzie, one of the makers of the wormhole portals which are the premise of the star-spanning Commonwealth, travels the Silfen paths through mystical and strange worlds. The book spans 1000 pages and its multitude of characters can be confusing in the beginning. However, the previous reviewers have definitely missed out central parts of the plot by skipping chapters and characters. Both Myo and the Vernon family are important for the storyline, something which should be very clear at the end of the book. I eagerly look forward to the second book, Judas Unchained.
on 16 February 2006
I am re-reading this first novel to be able to move on to the second, having forgotten some plot elements from my reading it a year ago.
To all those that say it is over long, I just say that this is space opera and there are many books out there that are over far too quickly. If you even begin to pick a book to read you must be doing so to envelope your self in a different world and storyline to that of your own life, so why should it not be all encompassing as PFH's works are. I do agree with some of the over long/boring passges, but aside from about 2 sections in this book ,the rest is necessary and adds to the allusion of space being BIG. He covers a lot of scifi basics in this but with good descriptive flair and originality, in a genre that has gone a little stale from other authors. I for one was hooked and read this again in 4 straight sessions.
What do you do when you have written the last truly great space opera of the 20th Century? If you are Peter F. Hamilton, the answer seems to be to try and write the first great space opera of the 21st. He may have been pipped to the post by Alastair Reynolds' Inhibitor series in that regard, but The Commonwealth Saga, starting with Pandora's Star to be concluded in Judas Unchained, is an extremely impressive piece of work. In his Night's Dawn Trilogy Hamilton populated his universe with starships swallowing the void in artificial wormholes. In Pandora's Star wormholes directly link planets together, meaning visiting another world is as simple as getting on a train. There are no starships and the Intersolar Commonwealth is a peaceful, stable society. When two stars 1200 light-years away disappear, the Commonwealth builds the first faster-than-light ship to investigate. As the title suggests, this isn't a great idea and soon the Commonwealth is under threat of annihilation. Like Night's Dawn, this new series is complex, richly populated with interesting characters and with an effortless style which pulls you in and makes you care about what's happening, a skill most hard SF authors lack (hello Gregory Benford!). The ending is shocking, the humour is impressive (especially the prologue which must rank as one of the best SF novel openings ever) and the 18-month wait for book two will be interminable. Extremely impressive.
on 18 January 2015
Yip, every road in the Commonwealth is made of enzyme-bonded concrete. I know this coz every time someone drives (there's a lot of driving) every time a road's mentioned (a lot of times) anytime anyone's anywhere near a road (often), Peter tells us it's enzyme-bonded concrete. Doesn't tell us what it is or why it's relevant. I love Sci Fi, love imagining the future and really liked the book but ended up being glad I don't live in a future where roads are made of enzyme-bonded concrete.
He's also fond of poly-photo strips.
on 29 November 2006
In my younger days I was an avid sci-fi fan devouring everything that I could get my hands on. Twenty years on I decided to re-visit the genre and after many disappointments happened on Pandora's Star. Don't be put off by the size of this book - I found myself so enthralled that as I neared the end I was getting quite depressed at the thought of finishing but still couldn't put it down. A superb story, fantastic plot-lines, wonderous worlds and amazing technology. The action involves dozens of characters across the galaxy I never once lost the thread of any of the sub-plots so well is the story constructed. Of all the good things I could say the best is.....there is a sequel!
on 10 November 2005
A book the size of a brick and characters with names like Wilson Kime; crimes of passion and conspiracy theories; wormholes and an invading alien horde; terrorism and techno-babble about neutrino emissions; political intrigue and hippy space-elves--it can only be one thing: space opera.
In the 24th century, humankind has spread to the stars on a wave of optimism, creating a peaceful, capitalistic Commonwealth of colonies that are linked together by wormholes. Space flight is rare, with the normal mode of interplanetary transport being a rail network that passes through stations with wormholes straddling the tracks. Dudley Bose, an astronomer at an under-funded university on the fringes of the Commonwealth, makes a startling discovery while studying a Dyson sphere in far-off space: that the erection of the sphere was almost instantaneous, suggesting it’s a force field of some kind, and was put up some time in the 11th Century. This piques the interest of the Commonwealth citizens and its government, who build a starship--the Second Chance, captained by the heroically-named Wilson Kime--to investigate the phenomenon, the big questions being: was the sphere built as a defence to keep something out, or built to imprison something within? The title of the book gives a whopping clue as to the nature of the sphere’s inhabitants, with curiosity certainly killing the cat--and a lot of people, too. The Commonwealth suddenly finds its cosy, non-militarist existence under threat.
Across the book’s many, many pages, Hamilton skilfully balances several story lines, many of which seem completely unrelated to each other for the bulk of the book. The book’s pacing is a glacial at first, but picks up gradually as it progresses, finally bursting into a rabid frenzy with a hundred pages remaining. Occasionally, the sheer amount of detail Hamilton provides brings the pacing of the book to a crawl. For example, a twelve-page description of a hang-glider trip across a planet becomes something of a drag to read, especially when the book’s printed on onion-skin-thin paper in an ickle font size. Having said that, Hamilton’s future does evoke a sense of wonder. His world-building is impressive, encompassing detailed politics, economics and geography, together with different cultures and distinct alien races/characters, especially MorningLightMountain, one of the book's main protagonists, whose encounter with humanity is as fascinating as it is gruesome. It’s always nice when aliens are, well, alien. There are many well-developed characters from a range of backgrounds, from the mundane to the colourful. He also includes a story line involving Joe and Jo Average, featuring the lives of ordinary people as well as those of the politicians, scientists, industrialists and whatnot.
The book also poses some interesting questions, too. What if the crackpot conspiracy theorists are actually right? And whether or not terrorism and/or acting outside of the democratic process is ever appropriate if a government/culture is perceived to be corrupt and/or acting in a manner that runs counter to the interests of its own citizens?
Every now and then, the science in the book got a little too heavy for me, with lines like, "'That dimension really only applies to solid matter,' Tunde said. 'This is an artificial rift in the quantum fields which manifests itself in spacetime; technically, it has no physical depth. It’s two-dimensional,'" making me want to put my head between my knees and exhale, nasally, very, very slowly. For the most part, though, the science shouldn’t baffle a casual viewer of Star Trek.
Naturally, the book ends with a series of cliff-hangers, with the story continuing in Judas Unchained, the second and final part of the Commonwealth Saga. In short, Pandora’s Star is a well-written, interesting and intelligent sci-fi novel, among the best I’ve read in a long while.
on 14 August 2007
Engaging plot, well researched scientifically but could have easily been half the length. This and sequel would have made great single book. But far too many lengthy descriptions of towns, backgrounds, clothes !!! Also, although I'm happy with the idea of genofixing and 24th century cosmetic surgery... why oh why does every single girl have to be stunning? perfectly shaped athletic sculptured legs, pneumatic sex sessions lasting days!!
However I may complain, did read over 1000 pages in under a week so can't have been that bad! But please Mr Hamilton, if you're out there, I can't believe the future is just going to be packed with the vain, perfectly remodelled, ultra wealthy, apathetic, self-centred... oh and what's with diesel engines still around in 400 years time??
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.
Pandora’s Star, set in the twenty-fourth century, finds humanity having expanded, thanks to wormhole technology, into several hundred star systems. Scientific attention is attracted to a group of two stars, the Dyson pair, which appear to have mysteriously been isolated behind an energy barrier. The mission sent to enquire sees the barrier come up and the release of the dreadful Prime civilisation, an alien race prepared to destroy all life in its path and determined to get rid of the human challenge at the earliest opportunity. Internal disagreement compounds the threat to the commonwealth as a group of violent renegades based on the planet Far Away contends that the Primes are being helped behind the lines by a fellow alien, the Starflier, and his human spies and collaborators. The novel has an operatic cast, including the incorruptible detective Paula Myo, the genius inventors and corporate magnates Nigel Sheldon and Ozzie Isaacs, the hot and ambitious journalist Melanie Rescorai, and many others. It never pauses and uses Hamilton’s trademark practice of pursuing innumerable subplots until they all converge into one grand narrative.
What I like about Hamilton’s novels 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) moreover 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.
on 27 July 2007
I like plots. I love plots. But this book tried my patience so much I gave up reading it for about a week before going back to it. It is overfilled with detailed descriptions of trivia, and lacklustre subplots that left me exhausted. The tedium is terminal in parts. That said, some of the science is great. When I read science fiction, I want fast-paced and snappy, or else a leviathan of the quality of Asimov. This is neither.