Title: Pandora's Star
Author: Peter F Hamilton
Publisher: Pan Macmillan (UK), Del Rey (US)
Pages: 896 (UK), 768 (US)
Release Date: 20th Feb 2004 (UK), March 2nd 2004 (US)
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
It is AD 2380, and humanity has colonised over six hundred planets, all interlinked by wormholes. With Earth at its centre, the Intersolar Commonwealth has grown into a quiet, wealthy society, where rejuvenation allows its citizens to live for centuries.Pandora's Star was the first sci-fi book by Peter F Hamilton that I read. In fact, it was the book that got me back into sci-fi in a big way and after picking this up my appetite for all things SF went into overdrive. I really do love this book and it's definitely in my top 3 Hamilton novels and in my top 5 favourite SF novels ever. I'm a Hamilton fan boy, I have no problem admitting that, and I'll recommend this book to anyone that wants to read a good, well plotted and completely enthralling read. So why do I love it so much? Read on for my review...
When astronomer Dudley Bose observes a star over a thousand light years away vanish, imprisoned inside a force field of immense size, the Commonwealth is anxious to discover what actually happened. As conventional wormholes can’t reach that far, they must build the first faster-than-light starship. Captained by Wilson Kime, an ex-NASA astronaut a little too eager to relive his old glory days, the Second Chance sets off on its historic voyage of discovery.
But someone or something out there must have had a very good reason for sealing off an entire star system. And if the Second Chance finds a way in, what might be let out?
Pandora's Star is the first part of The Commonwealth Saga and is a full fledged space opera containing multiple plot threads that include the discovery of, and mission to, the Dyson Pair; the activities of Adam Elvin, the Guardians main man when it comes to arranging weapon and technology shipments to Far Away; the brutal one-mindedness of Paula Myo, a detective with the Intersolar Serious Crime Directorate, while she investigates a case of murder, and of her continuing dedication to tracking down Adam Elvin; the political manoeuvring of various individuals to gain support for their causes; following the journey of Ozzie Isaacs, the co-inventor of wormhole technology, as he travels the paths of the alien Silfen in search of answers to the Dyson pair. Even this doesn’t cover it all, there is just so much to take in and enjoy.
As you can imagine, this book covers a whole lot – but it hits the ground running. Chapter one starts the book off as it means to go on and doesn’t let go, even once you’ve reached the end you’re left wanting more. There is little here that is not to like if you enjoy a well thought out and action packed story. The book is well paced and the subplots are almost all interesting and add to the story and in-universe history. There are a couple of exceptions, these being the political manoeuvring section and to an extent some of the Guardians sections, especially those set on Far Away that feature the clans. These couple do add to the back story and raise some questions, but the difference in pace sticks out like a sore thumb.
The Second Chance plot is one of the best in the book and the most enjoyable as far as a sense of wonder and discovery go. It is especially good when the Guardians attempt a sabotage of the Second Chance during it’s construction in what has to be one of the stand out passages in terms of pure all out action. If you like detective fiction, then the Paula Myo subplot will suit you to the ground. Seeing a character as defined as Paula conducting an investigation and showing how resourceful she is brings a smile to your face. Ozzie and his self-imposed mission along the Silfen paths from planet to planet is also a good example of fine storytelling of adventure and exploration. I can only imagine what sort of stories could come out of the Silfen paths if Peter so wished.
What really works in Pandora’s Star is the way that Peter has built a universe from scratch and made almost every aspect believable. There is the sort of depth here that you don’t normally find in a single book, but even though there are the occasional info-dumping passages it really doesn’t feel that it detracts from the story, simply adds to the experience. Few books have managed to have this affect on me and this book can come heartily recommended with very few complaints. An almost perfect balance between world building and storytelling makes this a must read for any fan of the genre.