I waited until I had read all six vols. of this marathon. Thus what I'm going to say relates to the entire series, not just this first part. As to the first part, it will suck you in with the hope that all of the following five long, long, long episodes are as good; they are not. Nothing about the final books is as good as the first, or even the second.
Marion Zimmer Bradley says (Why Stories Get Rejected) that one of the fatal errors of science fiction is resorting to some outside power to resolve the story rather than having the main character(s) do it on their own. This series has outside forces to spare. One is introduced in the first installment, but seems to be put in hibernation. But in each subsequent book more and more unexplainable outside forces, omipotent, all-intelligent, supra-normal, beings or forces come on the scene. And the end. . .well, let's just say the main characters DO NOT resolve the issues by themselves.
Another thing about this series that got my goat was the disappearance of primary characters at the drop of a word processor. The first two books and the middle two books (The Neutronium Alchemist) introduce a plot and characters that simply disappear on a single page toward the end of the fourth installment (oh, one of them comes back as a crew-member, but of no signifigance). This disregard for plot line and point-of-view really drove me crazy. I kept expecting them to come back right up to the end. For example, the main character has a brother suddenly show up and present a nice plot twist. Is the twist resolved? No, the brother just disappears into the background (as another crew member).
I realize that long, long, long series are all the rage in SF these days, but the last couple of books in this series don't make any sense. I was not only disappointed, I was down right ticked off that I'd been tricked into spending my money but worse, my time. I finished this series in Australia but hauled the final book back with me so that I could rail about it.
I probably should give this one or two stars, but in all fairness, the first two books, and maybe the third, were pretty good. Especially the action descriptions. But, if you are looking for this entire series to be of that quality, you will be very upset.