on October 20, 2007
If you, like me, buy books in order to immerse yourself in words different from ours, this book (and its companion volume, JUDAS UNCHAINED) are for you.
If you want non-stop action, with minimal character development, stay the heck away.
If you like to be confronted with thought-provoking ideas in your books, give this one a try.
If you are looking for a 'check your brain at the door' reading experience, look elsewhere.
The word EPIC gets tossed around routinely in sf. This book actually merits the word. Dozens of worlds, most of them lovingly described, vie with scores of characters, each with his/her own backstory. Every kind of speculative fiction is well represented here, from hard to soft with everything in between. The chief 'villain' of the piece is truly a disturbing creation--and yet Hamilton gives us a tour of the universe from its perspective (including a riveting, wondrous account of its first contact with humans) and damned if you don't feel a tad sympathetic for it even as it's slaughtering us by the millions.
There are themes writ large and small all over the place, a few laughs, a soupcon of sex, and all in all, a story so involved that a thousand pages does for a warm up. (Be aware you *need* that final installment: this is only half the story. Yes, it's slow in places...of course it is. A truly immersive experience like this pretty much has to be.
I'll be looking for more from this author.
This book is Peter Hamilton's vast accounting of events in the Common Wealth in the future, year 2380. The galaxy is conquered---Humanity has spread to many distant solar systems with more H-congruous planets opening for settlement practically every day thanks to the Interstellar Space technology developed in the late 21st century by Nigel Sheldon and Oswald 'Ozzie' Isaacs.
The scope and magnitude of this book were mesmerizing---having been somewhat familiar with Hamilton's work, I knew what to expect: intricate, carefully described worlds, high-science jargon, interwoven character destinies (and lots of them!) laid out in a beautifully imagined story. I shudder to imagine how Mr. Hamilton does his pre-planning for these books as they are so complex with threads of stories linking each other, disengaging and ultimately reuniting. Hamilton is a master of the sci-fi craft, no question.
Pandora's star is the story of the Dyson Pair; two star systems in close proximity to each other but quite distant from Common Wealth-occupied space. An obscure and unknown astronomer observes the unimaginable: an entire solar system winked out in the blink of an eye. Some years past, the darkening of a second star, Dyson Beta, was observed, but the slow dimming of that star over the course of several years and its eventual disappearance was chalked up to a strange space event in distant space and did not carry the alarming urgency of this new development. For many obvious (and many not-so-obvious) reasons, the Common Wealth government is deeply concerned by this event. Where did the star go? Is this the act of aggressive aliens? What impact does this have on humanity? What exactly is going on out there??
The greatest minds, Grand-family representatives, members of Interstellar space Company, and chiefs of Common Wealth security meet to decide the course of action for determining what has happened at the Dyson Pair. An Interstellar, Fast-Than-Light space craft is developed and deployed to find out what's happening at the Dyson pair.
The book had me by the first 100 pages. Hamilton has a knack for grabbing a reader by the collar and making her keep reading. While it is true that there are literally dozens of active players in this book, with a little perseverance, the story coalesces into a vast Odyssey that had me flipping pages faster than I have in a long while. While Hamilton is known for 'waxing poetic' in his descriptions of the various Common Wealth worlds and cities etc., a reader might as well enjoy the ride and settle in, it's worth it.
Intense, intelligent writing brought characters like Paula Myo, Nigel Sheldon, Oscar Munroe, Melanie Rescorai and Many others to vivid life. I devoured this book in a week or so, and immediately ordered Judas Unchained, the gripping conclusion to the Dyson Pair. Bravo, Mr. Hamilton.
on September 4, 2008
Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained have all the romantic feel of a classic sci-fi novel seasoned with some wonderful modern ideas. Hamilton does a superb job of building a new colonial age and writing a compelling history. Interwoven stories of crime, passion, coming of age, personal discovery, conflict, crisis, environmentalism, exploitation, art, and mystery may at first seem a confusing cornucopia, but Hamilton moulds them into a captivating tale that will leave you desperate for more. Full marks awarded for this deeply satisfying tale.
on November 27, 2005
As the cover says ... "A large case of characters, each with his own story" ... unfortunately each of these might have made a good book but together they lack cohesion as well as a decent climax / catharsis setup that would give the reader closure at the end of the book. I would not recommend to read this unless it is 2007, all the books of the series have been released and you have the time to read a few thousand pages in one sitting.
Well admittedly there's lot's of stories but they drag on and on because Hamilton can't get into gear until about page 600 of the almost 1000 in the book, only to drop the reader in mid-story to wait for the next installment. There's also lots of characters and maybe they will be linked somehow at the end of a multithousand page epos but transitions between their story lines are often choppy and some characters occupy a lot of space that could have gone to story development. Maybe most annoying of all, the book caters to the hard sci-fi crowd but features elementary mistakes starting with the simplest of math: at 2.5 lightyears / hour it will take us 130 days to travel just over 500 lightyears?!? and showing a lack of understanding of the most basic principles of science. Pity, with a bit of decent editing this could have been a good book.
on July 13, 2004
Let me start this by saying I've read a LOT of sci-fi and fantasy, and I've been reading it all my life. From Asimov to Dick, I've read most of the classics and even more modern sci-fi.
This, my friends, is quite possibly the greatest sci-fi novel I have ever read.
Grand in scale, meticulous in detail, and filled with compelling, believable, and likable characters, Pandora's Star is an epic in modern sci-fi, especially in the "space opera" subset of the genre.
Though the sci-fi part of this book is fantastic (and, in Hamilton's world, well though-out and detailed), it is the characters and the links they have to each other that make it grab you and pull you in--once you pick this book up, it'll be difficult to put it down.
The story is complelling and deceptive--what you think is true isn't, and with each new peice of the puzzle a new answer will seem to show itself, only to be cast in doubt by the next clue. This is not only a masterpiece of sci-fi, it stands out with the best mystery novels as well.
I highly recommend this book to anyone with the slightest interest in sci-fi--you won't regret it, and the price of the hardcover is well worth it.
I wait anxiously for the sequel, Judas Unchained. Too bad Pandora's Star was published only this year, we might have to wait a while.
on June 30, 2004
The Commonwealth has expanded through the galaxy via a network of planet-anchored wormholes. It's a golden age of man where rejuvenation treatments allow near-immortality, the next planet is just a train ride away, and alien contacts have been friendly. When an astronomer makes a startling discovery about two distant stars, a wormhole driven spacecraft is designed and built in order to investigate the mystery. The intrepid explorers unlock a terrible menace that could tear apart the Commonwealth. As the outside threat looms, a cult called the Guardians of Selfhood fights within the Commonwealth because they believe a sinister, hidden alien has taken over the government.
Pandora's Star definitely contains interesting ideas and careful, complex world building. Hamilton doesn't just trot out cool technologies, but also explores how they might affect society. He takes us on a sprawling journey to dozens of worlds using a large cast of characters. At first, the book feels more like a leisurely travelogue through Hamilton's new universe instead of a novel. Rambling around these planets, ideas, and technologies is a lot of fun, but it can also get a bit tiresome if you can't feel the plot going anywhere. However, Pandora's Star grows more compelling as the multiple plot threads start to merge and the action picks up. Hopefully the pace won't slow down again in the sequel.
I really enjoyed exploring Hamilton's new universe - he has some fascinating concepts and he excels at building up an intricate society and then smashing it apart. I'm looking forward to the next installment of this space opera, but the first book would have benefited from better pacing.
on June 25, 2004
Some impatient readers might find that this book has too many plots that might seem confusing .
Actually Hamilton is using the now classical multiple viewpoint narrative style and the structure is rather simple .
There are 4 main threads interacting with each other in a very logical way .
1)Oozie & the Silfen
Here the idea is to oppose 2 very different views of the future society .
The industrious Mankind and the mysterious Silfen .
As the Mankind is somewhere half way between the Prime Allien and the Silfen , one can bet that the Silfen will hold the clue to the solution of the problem posed by the Allien .
2)Paula Mayo & Bradley Johansson
That is the action/detective story part .
Both are loners with very extreme convictions that seem to oppose them in everything .
However as in every good book , things will become very different than what they seem .
This apparently independent plot will connect to the main plot via the Starflyer .
That is to provide the simple man of the street's point of view .
It doesn't seem to have any other role than to simply observe and describe .
Personnaly I found this part most boring but it might be that Hamilton needs Mark because he could be the "right man at the right place" in the next installement .
4)The Great Families
That is necessary to put in place the political background of a Galactic Mankind with all it entails in matters of intrigue , sex and power games .
Nothing of that is absolutely necessary for the story but to show a play , you need a stage , don't you ?
All in all an entertaining , solid and very consistent read .
Even if there is nothing that is really original (perhaps the Silfen ?) , it provides a good read .
Special kudos for the research in general relativity .
Indeed the general relativity provides for the existence of wormholes but unfortunately if they exist , they are extremely unstable .
As K.Thorne has proven , to keep a wormhole stable , an "exotic matter" (negative energy) is necessary .
And we find indeed exotic matter in the Hamilton's wormholes :)
on May 26, 2004
This was a pretty good book. Worth the read. But it all the characters had pretty lose morals and seemed to be sleeping with everyone. It got rather anoying.
There were some serious breaches in the laws of physics. Everyone knows that wormholes won't work the way sci-fi authors would like them to. But Mr Hamilton didn't see to care. There were wormholes shooting people all over the place... they're a nice plot device but they make me think of the book as more of a fantasy novel than sci-fi. There are also some "Magical" aliens that do things that are so far beyond possibility that it has to be "Magic" and not technology. I'm sure that, as usual, the author just wants us to think they are "So far advanced" that we just don't understand. But some things just aren't possible.
Finally, this book is a cliffhanger... and I mean that quite literally, if you read it you'll get the joke. Anyway, there is NO sense of conclusion at the end of the book. Basically, the book doesn't end... it just flows into the next one, that hasn't been written yet. So it's like someone just yanks the book out of your hands and you have to wait for the next one.
on April 26, 2004
Pandora's Star is the first novel in the Commonwealth Saga duology. Sometime in the near future, after many delays, America sent the first expedition to Mars, only to find an Englishman waiting for them outside the interface to the world's first artificial wormhole. Compressed Space Transport, the company built to exploit the new technology, became the basis for the Commonwealth, which by 2380 AD has expanded to roughly four hundred lightyears in diameter.
The Commonwealth has found various sentient species among the stars and has both diplomatic and commercial relationships with two starfaring species. The Silfen look like elves, talk in riddles, and supposedly have non-mechanistic pathways among the stars. The High Angel is an artificial sentient controlling a monstrous spaceship, probably with FTL capabilities, that has outriders containing cities full of various alien species apparently collected along the way.
In this novel, Dudley Bose discovers that Dyson Alpha, one of a pair of stars surrounded by Dyson spheres, was enclosed in less than a second. Former speculations about the pair assumed a material enclosure, but only a force field could have been erected in that elapsed time. Since the stars are far outside the reach of the current CST network, the Commonwealth decides to build a spaceship with its own wormhole generator to go out and investigate the anomaly.
The Guardians of Selfhood are a militant group that are waging a war against the Starflyer, an alien that they believe traveled in the vacant arkship found on the planet Far Away. Bradley Johansson, the founder of the Guardians, has stated that the Starflyer controls the minds of the personnel of the Research Institute that is examining the arkship and that the alien has long since moved into human space to influence the public through its dupes and slaves. The Guardians broadcast a shotgun message claiming that the Starflyer is behind the move to travel to Dyson Alpha. They start working against the project and eventually try to destroy it.
Paula Myo is a Chief Inspector at the Serious Crimes Directorate. She has been hunting Bradley Johansson for one and a half centuries. It is her only unsolved case. She is dispatched to investigate the attack on the spaceship and catches many small fry, but not Bradley Johansson.
This story is reminiscent of The Mote in God's Eye. Curious humans follow an anomaly to discover a very expansionist, aggressive society isolated from the rest of the galaxy, but soon find themselves with a tiger by the tail. Moreover, crewmembers are trapped by the natives. However, this novel builds upon and surpasses the Niven & Pournelle opus in the threat level and strangeness of the aliens. Moreover, it depicts the breakout of the alien Primes into human space.
The story is written in the same multi-threaded format as the Night's Dawn Trilogy. The various characters, and their threads, sometimes are confusing. The story also builds slowly to a climax, although the ending in this volume has all the action that anyone could want. The concluding volume, Judas Unchained, should be out in 2005.
Highly recommended for Hamilton and Niven/Pournelle fans as well as anyone else who enjoys tales of strange and powerful aliens threatening human civilization.
-Arthur W. Jordin
on April 23, 2004
Pandora's Star has completely erased the bad taste Fallen Dragon left in my mouth. For a while there I was worried that my favorite author was slipping--Fallen Dragon really bored me. But Pandora's Star is that rare large novel where you look forward to the hefty unread portion with anticipation rather than wondering how much is filler.
If there's one word to describe this novel, it's "polished". Hamilton's writing has always been above the SF norm, but now his stuff just flows like mercury. Fans know he likes his techno talk, but even the most technical paragraphs unspool so precisely that I was confident I had their meaning in one pass every time. You could maybe beat that with a direct synaptic hookup, but just maybe.
This is a somewhate relaxed book--but a good, page-turning kind of relaxed. Hamilton takes you on a tour of about a dozen worlds and the plot threads often take a back seat to just plain exploring. But with worlds and characters this interesting I'm more than happy to sign up for the ride.
Also, anyone who enjoyed Greg Bear's "Queen of Angels" will like this one. One of the main characters, a female police investigator, is very reminiscent of the lead character in Bear's novel. Perhaps "inspired by" would be more accurate. That or it's an incredible coincidence. Either way she's a great character and Hamilton takes her in enough new directions to avoid being derivative.