Pandora's Star is the first volume in the The Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton.
"Part one of the Commonwealth Saga" it says on page five. "Main characters" it says on page seven and then it goes on to list 44 characters. Then follows nearly nine hundred page of story which ends with the text "The Commonwealth Saga will be concluded in Judas Unchained". With the raw facts out of the way, and our worries that this could be the beginning of an new endless, downwards spiralling, series, put to rest, lets have a look at the stuff in the middle - the story.
Not far in our future, bright young boys Nigel and Ozzie finds a loophole in the laws of nature that makes teleportation possible, they promptly build a test gateway and demonstrate it for maximum publicity. A couple of centuries later The Commonwealth is a really - six hundred planets tied together by the gateways. Thanks to effective rejuvenation technology people live practical forever. Life is good, and if you feel misplaced there's probably another planet out the that's more to your likening. Feel like making a buck and working your butt off – try the corporate planet. Feel like taking a couple of years of down time, try one of the more laid back planets. Or maybe the extreme sports planet is more to your liking. With eternal life, you have to time to try them all – if you can afford it.
Of cause there's always a small handful of nutters that don't like all this peace and quiet. There's the Guardians that think an empty alien spaceship on the planet "Far Away" once contained a dangerous alien, that now manipulate the politics of the Commonwealth and there's your basic Capitalism Is Bad terrorists. Hamilton spends a good part of this book building his world. It's a good solid world that seems well thought out – It's building on the world from his Misspent Youth novel, but you don't miss much by not having read that one (except that it's a good book, that is).
On one of the more quiet planets, an old astronomy professor, discovers that two star systems a thousand light years from earth, suddenly get wrapped in two giant all enclosing forcefields. The only thing getting out is inferred light. Either the inhabitants are trying to protect them self from something bad or something is trying to protect it self from the inhabitants of the two star systems. Being what we are (and this being that kind of book and not the boring kind), we must go and investigate. Unfortunately the teleportation gates have a practical limit at 25 light years, so a star ship will have to be build and an old NASA hero will have to be taken out of mothballs to pilot it. And then we go and visit the aliens...
Hamilton has come up with an interesting and gripping story, but best thing about this book is the characters and Hamiltons ability to tell the story from a lot of angles. Hamilton uses four or five of his main characters to tell most of the story, but nearly all of the 44 characters mentioned above, gets some “page time” where they get to tell their bit of the story, from their own point of view. A tiny bit confusing at times, but the rewards make it all worth it. The Commonwealth is big and a many coloured place, but by letting lots of different people tell the story, we get a good picture of what we are dealing with.
Hamilton is clearly one of the best when it comes to universe building, these days, and it's a joy to see his world unfold through the eyes of all these people. I'm eagerly looking forward to Judas Unchained and hopefully some answers to all the questions posed in this volume.
Review by Harriet
It is the golden age of humanity thanks to Nigel Sheldon and Ozzie Isaac, the two scientists who developed the math that made wormhole technology possible. Mankind travels between the six hundred colonized worlds by using wormhole generated vessels. Rejuvenation is available to all so everyone can live as long as they want. If they are killed, a clone is created of that person and their stored memory chips are inserted into the neural network so they can be the same person they were before they died.
When the Second Chance spaceship travels the solar system Dyson Alpha to observe the force field that surrounds it, the barrier suddenly disappears. The crew sees hundreds of ships using nuclear missiles on each other. The Second Chance leaves before it is spotted even though they have to leave two crew men behind. A second expedition to Dyson Alpha discovers that the warfighters have wormhole technology and will launch an invasion into commonwealth territory. The government authorities authorize the creation of a navy but to find out if it will be effective, readers will have to wait for JUDAS UNCHAINED to be published.
Imagine using a train to travel to a different world, living for as long as you want and picking the planet of your choice to make a home. It sounds like heaven, so when hostile aliens threaten the peace, humanity, who has not known war for three centuries, has a lot of catching up to do but they are hindered in their quest by unknown enemies who have the powers-that-be in their pocket. Peter F. Hamilton has written a powerfully compelling space opera in the tradition of Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke.
Review by Banditta
Pandora's Star was extremely long, pretty well written, and I just kept reading. It jumped around with the characters a bit much, so it was hard to really keep a handle on them.
My Biggest problem was getting to the last page and saying "WHAT???" - I was cery disappointed to be left hanging, on this long a book, to not know where they were going....... and to have to wait who knows how long for the next book to come out.....
Written on 17th February 2004 by TC.
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