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Commonwealth Saga #1

Pandora's Star

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The year is 2380. The Intersolar Commonwealth, a sphere of stars some four hundred light-years in diameter, contains more than six hundred worlds, interconnected by a web of transport "tunnels" known as wormholes. At the farthest edge of the Commonwealth, astronomer Dudley Bose observes the impossible: Over one thousand light-years away, a star... vanishes. It does not go supernova. It does not collapse into a black hole. It simply disappears. Since the location is too distant to reach by wormhole, a faster-than-light starship, the Second Chance, is dispatched to learn what has occurred and whether it represents a threat. In command is Wilson Kime, a five-time rejuvenated ex-NASA pilot whose glory days are centuries behind him.

Opposed to the mission are the Guardians of Selfhood, a cult that believes the human race is being manipulated by an alien entity they call the Starflyer. Bradley Johansson, leader of the Guardians, warns of sabotage, fearing the Starflyer means to use the starship's mission for its own ends.

Pursued by a Commonwealth special agent convinced the Guardians are crazy but dangerous, Johansson flees. But the danger is not averted. Aboard the Second Chance, Kime wonders if his crew has been infiltrated. Soon enough, he will have other worries. A thousand light-years away, something truly incredible is waiting: a deadly discovery whose unleashing will threaten to destroy the Commonwealth... and humanity itself. Could it be that Johansson was right?

768 pages, Hardcover

First published March 2, 2004

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About the author

Peter F. Hamilton

172 books9,004 followers
Peter F. Hamilton is a British science fiction author. He is best known for writing space opera. As of the publication of his tenth novel in 2004, his works had sold over two million copies worldwide, making him Britain's biggest-selling science fiction author.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,604 reviews
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
805 reviews3,849 followers
October 10, 2021
Better don´t try to find out how to deactivate that space megastructure.

The überbeing Morning Light Mountain and the idea of a collective intelligence hive mind exponentially growing kind of insect like other kind of intelligence than humans thing, that is similar to a virus gone meta, is one of the most fascinating alien intelligence descriptions ever. Ever ever until it comes and exterminates your race. It´s not directly evil, it just hasn´t the intellectual need or interest to grasp that concept, it´s just his mentality logically developed because of an evolutionary arms race that made it necessary and possible to be a genocidal sociopath, what again lets it seem very similar to humans. But it´s not its fault, in contrast to humans.

The Starflyer cult. What might happen if humans get any kind of contact with aliens? Jay, new sects growing like mushrooms, potentially in quantities that endanger the stability of whole colonies or even continents on earth, or why not the whole humankind?

The descriptions of the megastructures built by a , the history behind that, and each Morning light mountain sequence are scenes that should be enjoyed like a good wine by sci-fi addict. Others, that aren´t fanatically hooked on the sci-fi genre, should better skim and scan, because they could see them as too wordy, static descriptions without any real action.

In contrast to Hamiltons´ The Night´s Dawn trilogy, which plays in the 27th century and against a science fantasy horror not so always evil forever antagonist, the 24th century set Commonwealth Saga has a more down to galaxy enemy that still has the potential to rule them all. It´s immense how much effort Hamilton puts into his works, how he generates the fractions, settings, loads of characters, and what one can see in the timelines added to his novels is just the tip of the iceberg.

Because he is a planner and plotter, he tends to create a new series over months before he starts writing, enabling him to hold different plotlines with many surprises, cliffhangers, revelations, etc. while never confusing the reader with moments of not knowing what is why where going on thanks to the character is plot, pure show don´t tell, style. This often seen problems in epic fantasy and huge sci-fi series, losing overview, being bored by infodumps, not knowing what the character´s motivations were, and thereby losing interest, are never occurring problems, because his writing is so always compelling. He just imagines all the potential for future realities and shows ideas, action, mentalities, and thereby new use of tropes, I have seen in no other works before.

Great characters en masse and with enough personal space so that they can move, play, and grow, as one is used to from Hamilton´s epic series, are the most important ingredient to make it another astonishing masterpiece of one of the greatest sci-fi authors of all time. With his different works and series, he is covering different time periods of the future, always with an optimistic outlook, creating epic and extremely detailed descriptions of fights, worlds, aliens, future tech, and civilizations, and has a fusion and perfect balance of character and plot driven elements I´ve hardly seen in other authors work.

If you are now into space opera or sci-fi in general, try the very complicated Reynolds and Stephenson, the philosophical Lem, the technothriller Suarez, the lengthy Banks and Brin, The Expanse of course, etc., and generally choose wisely with the help of listopia and dissecting your reading preferences, because there are many subgenres in sci-fi and if you pick the wrong one or don´t skim and scan the passages you personally don´t like so much, you won´t find the usual epiphany and pure reading pleasure the best genre of them all can offer to the reader.

This wise, just joking, advice is added to all reviews of Hamiltons´series.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Hamilton´s future vision is to see the technology and society developing in very detail over long periods of time, making a return to his universe something always stunning and inspiring. It also makes me wonder why he is the only author I know of who did this. One, who is new, lucky you, by the way, ought consider reading it in chronological order, although the series set closest to now, Salvation lost, is still unfinished, so better read before in the following order:

Salvation year 2200
Commonwealth year 2400
The Night´s Dawn trilogy year 2700
The Chronicle of the Fallers year 3400
Void trilogy year 3600

You can of course do as you wish, it´s just how I arrange my rereading to get the most out of it and slowly move further and further away from the boring present.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,952 reviews1,295 followers
March 4, 2011
We begin at the beginning, because the beginning is awesome and foreshadows the epic quality of Pandora's Star, as well as the sense of humour, levity, and gravity that Peter F. Hamilton uses to create an incredibly compelling and vast narrative.

Wilson Kime is the pilot of the first manned Mars lander. The mission crew steps onto the surface and raises the United States flag, only to be interrupted by a stranger in a home-made space suit. That suit is attached to a pressure hose providing a breathing supply, and the hose runs through a wormhole back into a college physics lab on Earth. Nigel Sheldon and Ozzie Isaac have just successfully demonstrated their invention of wormhole technology in front of the entire world, making manned spaceflight obsolete in the process.

I did not appreciate the brilliance of this opening at first. Don't get me wrong: I liked Pandora's Star from the start, but my enjoyment slowly ramped up from, "this is good" to "this is good" and then it plateaued somewhere around, "OMG, why didn't I know about this book earlier?" But it was slow at the beginning. The cast is almost as large as the book itself, and for the first several chapters (almost a hundred pages in this paperback edition), we do not return to any previously-established character.

In a similarly sprawling, nonchalant fashion, Hamilton introduces a cornucopia of subplots. Many of them seem irrelevant to the main plot at first, and it is easy to wonder what purpose they serve. The murder of Tara Jennifer Shaheef and Wyobie Cotal was like this for me. Even when one of the main characters, Paula Myo, was assigned to the case, I still didn't think its role in building her characters was sufficient to justify its inclusion. Then Hamilton surprised me by taking the shallow, self-centred, immature Mellanie and turning her into a much more important figure. And suddenly it started making sense.

Hamilton surprised me a lot in Pandora's Star. This is the first book I have read by him, so I didn't know what to expect. Although the slow pace at the beginning of the book disappointed me at first, the rest of the book more than makes up for it. If you are willing to invest the time required to read it, Pandora's Star has so much to offer.

For instance, there is the Sentient Intelligence. I have a thing for implacable, neutral, powerful artificial entities. The Eschaton from Singularity Sky qualifies as one, and I like the SI even more. Artificial intelligence in general intrigues me. More than that, there's just something so fun in watching an antagonist realize he or she is up against the SI and its sheer ability. It makes me giggle aloud, to the delight of people around me. During a terrorist attack on the facility where the faster-than-light starship is being built, something starts breaking through the firewalls a terrorist techie has set up around the systems they've hijacked:

"It's going to fall, oh man, half the format codes have been cracked already. No way. I mean no fucking way! Do you know what kind of encryption I used for that thing? Eighty dimensional geometry. Eighty! That should take like a century to break, if you're lucky." He seemed more angry than worried by the event.

Rob was starting to get a real bad feeling about the mission. "So what can crack that kind of encryption?"

The tech became very still. "The SI." His gaze found a ceiling camera that was lined up on his console, and he looked straight into the tiny lens. "Oh shit."

The SI is supposedly neutral in the sense that it is independent of humanity, and human affairs do not concern it, although it likes getting data from us. However, one of the themes of Pandora's Star is how the unknown causes different groups to work together to explore and push back ignorance for mutual edification and survival. The SI is curious about the mystery of the barriers around the Dyson Pair, and it won't let any terrorists interfere with a starship that might actually go visit the barrier.

Once the Second Chance arrives at the barrier around Dyson Alpha, the barrier inexplicably deactivates, revealing a thriving civilization in the enclosed solar system. And the Prime civilization, as it calls itself, is even more alien than the SI, the Silfen, the High Angel, or any other species Hamilton has introduced thus far. It's easy to populate your science-fiction universe with vague, humanoid-like aliens. In books, which don't suffer from a make up and digital effects budget, one can even describe improbable and nonhumanoid forms. It takes real skill, however, to portray truly alien thought processes. Hamilton succeeds when he describes the development of MorningLightMountain, an entity that eventually becomes the entire Prime civilization.

As an antagonist, MorningLightMountain is scary. It is essentially a meme. Prime society consists of intelligent/sentient but immobile entities known as immotiles. They are tended by motile units under their control in a sort of queen/drone fashion. The immotiles expand in networks of discrete immotile units, and the overall immotile personality is a kind of collective mind formed from the memories and senses of its member immotiles. MorningLightMountain is the Napoleon of its kind, swiftly gaining swaths of territory on the Prime homeworld. When the Primes develop space travel and colonize the nearby Dyson Beta system, they discover that the time lag in communications means the immotile copies of themselves sent to Beta have diverged. They are now alienPrimes! This gives us our first glimpse into the true depth of the Prime revulsion for the Other, and indeed, MorningLightMountain's xenophobia for anything other than itself.

Then a quantum barrier goes up around Dyson Alpha, and MorningLightMountain and the Primes are cut off from the universe for a millennium. When the barrier drops and MorningLightMountain observes the Second Chance's wormhole-powered hyperdrive, it starts thinking about faster-than-light travel, learns about the Commonwealth, and begins plotting its expansion into the rest of the galaxy. It's taking over, and it's killing everything that isn't it.

Yeah, humanity is in trouble. And it's not the most morally ambiguous of villains, but it is scary. Besides, Hamilton throws plenty of ambiguity—moral and otherwise—into his human characters. Those terrorists I mentioned earlier are the Guardians of Selfhood. Their leader, Bradley Jonasson, believes an alien called the Starflyer is manipulating humanity towards a malign end. At first, Hamilton portrays Jonasson as delusional and the Guardians as straight-up crackpot terrorists. As the story progresses, however, more and more rational characters begin believing the Starflyer might be real. Finally, we the readers have to accept the possibility that the Starflyer might be real. Suddenly the conspiracy theory is reified, and Hamilton has pulled off a very careful plot twist. Bravo!

But that's a result of great characterization in general. Consider Ozzie, the counterpart to Nigel Sheldon. He's a loner, a rich recluse with a personal wormhole, and that gives him considerable power. So Hamilton strands him in the wilderness with a backwater kid and no electronics on a quest for more information about the Dyson barrier. It's a great way to build the mythology of the character but limit his ability to just zap his way out of any situation. Hamilton balances the abilities of his futuristic society with real peril. When the Primes invade Commonwealth space, we get treated to an epic battle in which Nigel Sheldon, with the help of the SI, uses wormholes to collapse MorningLightMountain's wormholes. But even with the invasion curtailed, the Commonwealth loses several planets to MorningLightMountain's motile forces, suffering a terrible setback with no real way to defend itself against future attacks.

All of the main characters are involved in some way in the invasion drama, but the one that surprised me the most is Mellanie. I discounted her as a minor supporting character, one whose antagonism toward Paula Myo was supposed to make us dislike her. Yet Hamilton turned her into an ambiguous protagonist who, while opportunistic, his also intelligent, compassionate, and cool in a crisis. Thanks to a deal she struck with the SI to further her career as a journalist, she is the only one on Elan with access to the cybersphere after the Prime attack. So she coordinates an evacuation of the remote Randtown, putting herself in danger multiple times to ensure everyone escapes alive. Hamilton then impresses me with his deft characterization by dropping gentle reminders that Mellanie has not suddenly become an altruist. She's still seeking an angle, still wondering how she can leverage her newfound abilities for her own advancement. She's complex, and I like that.

In addition to the SI and wormhole travel, there is an awfully long laundry list of technology that Hamilton shows off in his future society. For the most part, he does a good job addressing the moral implications such technology has. Unlike some science-fiction novels that progress from a single technology, like the ability to download into a new body after death, Hamilton doesn't quite focus on any one technology and its implications. In that sense, it is a little too broad to go into a lot of depth. Also, there is not a lot of exposition to be had in Pandora's Star; it took me a while to figure out what exactly the Sentient Intelligence or the High Angel were. However, Hamilton's broad strokes have the advantage of presenting an entire society with multiple technological innovations, and their resulting social ramifications, rather than extrapolation from a single technology.

Citizens of the Commonwealth can rejuvenate when they grow old, essentially making them immortal. This has interesting implications for family and relationships: marriage is a much less permanent; first-lifers are considered less emotionally mature in comparison to people who have lived for a hundred, two hundred, even three hundred years. Living three lifetimes can build up a lot of memories of course, so memory manipulation and storage is big in Pandora's Star. None of the questions this technology raises are unique to this book; rather, they are standard SF fare: is the clone with an upload of your memories a continuation of you, or is it just a copy? How does being able to edit out the fact that you murdered someone affect your culpability? And so on. Hamilton is not breaking any new ground, but he does manage to integrate these ideas into an interesting, dynamic society. To that he adds a story with an exciting conflict, a challenging enemy, and great interstellar politics.

Basically, Pandora's Star is space opera on crack. Like Charles Stross and Vernor Vinge, Peter F. Hamilton can come up with cool ideas and spin a good tale. Hence, even though this book weighs in at nearly 1,000 pages, that's 1,000 pages of quality storytelling. And yeah, there are wormholes and weird alien creatures and people getting killed and re-lifed. But science fiction is just a setting, and Pandora's Star is really about murder, revenge, and jealousy; it's about our relentless drive to explore versus the dangers of the unknown; and it's an epic tale of humanity's survival as we are threatened from an external force and our own internal ideological struggles. It's simply grand, and it's really good.

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Profile Image for Ryan.
Author 1 book39 followers
September 12, 2008
I have very mixed feelings about this book, and of the experience of having read it. As a result, I'm not sure I can say that I truly 'enjoyed' it; it's well-crafted, overall, but at the same time not without its frustrations.

First, the good stuff: there's a hugely epic plot here, ultimately concerned with ensuring the continued survival of the human race; bold, three-dimensional characters who are intriguing, and draw you into their story; plot twists that you truly never see coming, and which are revealed with a subtle mastery that forces you to rethink everything you've read up until that point;and a fascinating, amazingly-thought out world that all of this is set in.

On the other hand, however, the book has its problems, chief of which is its length and pacing. This is a book that is almost one thousand pages long, which by itself I don't have a problem with. Some of my favourite novels and novel series feature lengths like that. While the length isn't a problem, the way the plot develops within that length was a problem for me - I remember at one point thinking to myself "oh, the action is starting to pick up and the plot's finally moving forward", and then looking at the page number and seeing something in the three hundreds. Then, after another four hundred pages of exciting outer space action, things slow down again for another couple of hundred pages, once again getting exciting for the last hundred pages before finally ending on a cliffhanger. Add to this chapters that were routinely over fifty pages long, and which didn't seem to have any strong internal structure to them, and you're left with a book that I strongly considered giving up on several times during the process of reading it. And yet, at the end, I was left with a strong desire to check out the sequel, which is another thousand page book and will no doubt have many of the same issues.
Profile Image for Andy.
1,447 reviews480 followers
December 17, 2012
From the other ratings, there are lots of people who like this a lot, so it may be unfair to review this book in comparison with the best "hard science fiction." Thus, this is a warning for the other people who don't know what "space opera" is and are looking for the next Asimov or OS Card. He's not here.

Space opera. According to Wikipedia, "New space opera proponents claim that the genre centers on character development, fine writing, high literary standards, verisimilitude, and a moral exploration of contemporary social issues."

That all sounds great but Pandora's Star is a drawn-out affair with tons of useless details, many intertwining sub-plots, and many less-than-engaging characters. The main problem is the feeling of being in a mediocre TV series that "jumps the shark" in the first episode. The story is dragged out unnecessarily with plot devices that come off as cheap tricks or cliches (unexplained mystery cliffhanger, detectives staking out arms dealers, etc.). For a book about faster than light space travel, things move very ponderously.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
December 16, 2009
6.0 stars. This one may make it onto my list of "All Time Favorites" but I am going to wait until I finish Judas Unchained as the two books should really be treated as one VERY LONG novel. This was an amazing read filled with mind blowing ideas and superb (and I really mean superb) world-building. Do not let the length of the book keep you from giving it a try. It is incredibly well-written throughout and I think the length is warranted given how much is going on. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,100 followers
September 5, 2018
3.5 *

In a lot of ways, this ambitious novel, like all of the Peter F. Hamilton novels I can think of, should be put on a higher rung than all the other SF out there. Why? Because it's LONG.

Throw in an enormous cast of characters who won't die because they can be uploaded and put back in new bodies, complete with full rejuvenation treatments that sometimes go wrong, space travel, wormhole technologies, and a huge Commonwealth of systems fully colonized.

Add characters of all stripes: from reporters to police to politicians to terrorists to technologists, throw them into a slowly boiling cauldron of scientific intrigue with a few Dyson spheres locking away an alien species, leave even more to deal with the political consequences back home. You know, like the detail that someone who could lock away an alien species is already super powerful, or the question as to why the species was locked away, to begin with. Good stuff all around.

So why do I have a bit of an issue with this?

Well, for the same reason I think it should be put on a higher rung than most SF. It's super ambitious, leading in and through whole lives as if we were reading a classic novel on the level of Les Miserables, giving us a very clear picture of the future worlds that are very much like our own except for a few heaping handfuls of world-changing techs. We have social commentary that would be welcome in any shorter soft-SF, mysteries that would be fine in any techno-thriller, big scoops for the expose crowd, and decades of spy intrigue. WITH the big alien threat. Any piece of this would be great, or even two. Or even three.

I need to face it. I find some parts slightly boring and others fantastic. I find myself dreading another novel-long subject I'd rather skip in favor of the other stories I love more. This is sometimes a problem with super-long novels. My attention wants to wander if it's not super fantastic. And then I keep wondering if this might have been better served with a HUGE edit. Or cut them up into a lot of side novels.

My appetite had been whetted with the big story. I just wanted to stick with the big story. And yet, most of the threads DID tie back in, eventually. It just took a novel's length of time for each to get there.

I AM very impressed with the whole book, and even more so that Hamilton keeps pulling off these HUGE works, but I'm worried that I'm bouncing off of them.

Even so, I've made a commitment to continue with Judas Unchained and I've been accepted for a Netgalley ARC for Salvation, so maybe I'll just grit my teeth and enjoy what I do enjoy in them. There's plenty to point at. :)
Profile Image for Kat Heatherington.
Author 4 books23 followers
September 14, 2010
What a mediocre attempt. I somehow managed to slog through all 989 pages of this, and it never completely lost its narrative thread, in spite of an astonishing redundancy in unnecessary description. It is also significantly hampered by a lack of imagination; my suspension of disbelief cannot withstand the idea of the year 2380 basically looking *just like* the year 2010, only with extra planets, and a small handful of cool new tech. By the end of this tome, Hamilton has *almost* managed to put together enough plot elements to sucker you into picking up the equally-hefty second volume. Except I can already tell it's not worth it. So what if the alien Starflyer really exists. I have better things to do than wade through 300 more pages of irrelevant description that does nothing to move the plot forward, does nothing to shape or contextualize any characters, and does nothing to enhance the reader's experience.

It has moments of clarity, and moments of being a good story, but not enough to justify the page count.
Profile Image for Rachel (Kalanadi).
734 reviews1,433 followers
December 20, 2016
3.5 stars, rounding up

Quick pros: complex story, huge cast of characters, and it was cool to see how people crossed paths. I love that it's very, very hard SF. With huge stakes!

It's easier to spew about the cons than pros with this one, honestly. I just really enjoyed the story and the worldbuilding and really need to know how it ends!

Quick cons: Um. The sexism. Yeah. Paula is the only main female character who doesn't get a sex kitten moment. Probably because she's written as a man. And just - wow - Hamilton's portrayal of women constantly using sex to manipulate men was gross. And if they're not having sex and in a position of power, they're a "ballcrusher". I don't want to dig into this further... there's a lot. (Good god, harems?!)

The only other con is the sheer length. Hamilton describes a lot of stuff - planetary geography, city layouts, every single thinv a character does, etc. - in excruciating detail when it's really not necessary. I like more balance between description and actually moving the story along at less than a ponderous pace.

I want to finish the story, so I'll be checking out Judas Unchained soon. Hopefully Hamilton ditches the harems and sex nymphets and angry men calling their wives whores. I can take the verbosity... but the perpetuated sexist slant? Not so much.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,094 reviews1,537 followers
May 13, 2017
This is up there with the best of the best for sci-fi space opera extravaganzas. It’s got world-building par excellance, brilliant projections of technology, and a great cast of characters. Set in 2380, Hamilton poses for us a Commonwealth of hundreds of planets colonized by different styles of humanity, made possible by wormhole technology. Immortalizing rejuvenation, artificial intelligence, and computer storage of human memories are standard fare woven into the saga in fresh ways. The few aliens encountered so far appear benign but mystifying. For example, the Silfen are friendly but boring to most humans in their simple hunter-gatherer lifestyle and hippie-like mystical outlook. But suddenly a dorky astronomer’s discovery of the disappearance of two stars 100 light years away raises the spectre of incredibly advanced aliens in the galaxy who can put up a spherical barrier around a whole solar system. Does the event imply a civilization wanting to protect itself from other dangerous aliens, or does it instead reflect a fencing in of a dangerous species by a more powerful but beneficient alien race?

Hamilton orchestrates an array of stories that evolve in parallel before eventually linking up with each other. That takes some patience, and trust, from the reader. Fortunately, there are four colorful characters to bring life to the advancing threads of the epic. Nigel Sheldon, inventor of the wormhole, gets tapped to adapt the technology to propel an interstellar ship, using clues from a starship left behind with a space station by an elusive alien race, the Starflyers, apparently motivated to help and study other species. Wilson Kime, an early astronaut on his fourth rejuvenation, is engaged to manage the massive development project and captain the expedition to the cloaked star systems. Ozzie Isaac, the super-wealthy, pragmatic partner for Nigel’s science, makes a personal quest to draw out the Silfen on anything useful they may know about the star-cloaking event and ends up on an epic journey on foot with a boy that mysteriously takes him to unknown worlds and survival challenge without the benefit of technology. Finally, we have the brilliant Commonwealth crime fighter Paula Myo, who for over a century has been obsessively pursuing the leader of a seeming cult dedicated to countering the evil and hidden designs of the Starflyer species. Her investigations of their terrorist activities eventually aligns with the narratives of the other characters when the group, the Guardians of Selfhood, make a well-orchestrated assault on the nearly complete starship and base.

The expedition gets underway and some exiting discoveries are made about the alien threat to humans and other sentients of the galaxy, as masterfully revealed in the thrilling orchestrations of the diverse plot elements. Hamilton deserves kudos for a side story from the mind a really alien alien, MorningLightMountain, and its successful directing of evolution of its sessile, hive-mind species with dumb motile elements into a one super organism. The author terrified me with the fate of captured humans from the expedition and the amplification of the alien’s powers with the technology secrets it extracts. The idea that humans and all other species are a threat and must be eliminated fulfills well the paranoia that lurks at the back of our minds when we try to imagine the wonders of learning we are not alone in the universe.

This book was fabulous entertainment for me, reviving the same pleasures that led me to hard science fiction in my youth and satisfied in recent years by the likes of Alastair Reynolds, Iaian Banks, and Vernor Vinge. Before you consider taking on this epic, you should be aware that is not the beginning of a series of relatively independent stories but rather a 2,000 page plus novel that is split into two. I am not sure when I will pursue the second half sitting heavy on my shelf, Judas Unchained. That is because I got the gist of its events from a recent sequel set several hundred years later, A Night Without Stars, which I found to provide a wonderful and thrilling closure. Sincere thanks to Apatt for recommending this book. Very different from other works of this author I read awhile back, The Night’s Dawn Trilogy and The Nano Flower.
Profile Image for Sandi.
510 reviews279 followers
May 7, 2011
90% of Pandora's Star irked the crap out of me. First, it just goes on and on and on. It's seems like a bunch of stories pieced together with no real connection. Many of the storylines never even go anywhere. Hamilton does a phenomenal job of over-describing everything. It gets mind-numbing.

Second, the sexism really annoyed the heck out of me. I'm not usually one to scream "sexism", but Hamilton can't resist talking about any female character's looks and about how some male character would like to have sex with her. It seems that EVERY woman in the Commonwealth is beautiful, especially if she's recently undergone rejuvenation at 280 and looks 18 with hormones to match. Honestly, if every woman is beautiful and sexy, would anyone even notice? Wouldn't beautiful and sexy be just plain and ordinary? I notice that Hamilton never describes the men, unless it's through the eyes of one of the horny women.

Third, the Commonwealth is way too much like 21st Century America. You'd think that human culture would be as different 300 years from now as today is from 300 years ago. As far as I can tell, everybody pretty much acts, talks, dresses and lives the same way we do now except they have wormholes to take them to other planets.

The last thing that really got me was the narration. John Lee is a very popular narrator, but he is as boring as anyone I've heard. He's just terrible at accents and he makes all the women sound like drag queens, except Paula Myo. Paula sounds like a man. The book skips back and forth between many storylines, but Lee never pauses in his narration so you know that you're on a different plot. In books, you at least get a page break.

The book did pick up quite a lot at the end. However, it ended in mid-stream with all the plots. I ended up downloading the sequel,
Judas Unchained to my Nook. It seems like it will be much better in text.
Profile Image for William.
676 reviews336 followers
July 20, 2020
Superb, Awesome! The first-half of The Commonwealth Saga is 988 pages. The second half "Judas Unchained" is 1,236 pages and completes the "2,200 page single book". Don't be scared off! This is an incredible value!

This is Very Good, hard sci-fi, many many characters, so it takes a while to get into the book. When I started the first book, I felt there were far too many, too wordy descriptions of the local scene. Creative often, but perhaps the whole saga could lose 100 pages.

The evolution of the aggressive alien species is truly Brilliant.

See rest of review in Judas Unchained.
Profile Image for Markus.
476 reviews1,561 followers
November 9, 2019
Science-fiction's answer to The Malazan Book of the Fallen? It does come quite close in many ways.

To begin with a complaint, I am somewhat astounded by the effort-to-gain ratio expected from the reader here. It is apparently impossible to tie up a single plot thread in this book despite its modest length of 1144 pages. It reads like the first half of a book that Hamilton was simply not allowed to publish as one single 2500-page volume. Everything that happens could easily be squeezed into half the length, and it almost appears as if there was no editing done prior to publication.

That being said, I fear that cutting the book's length would have cut some of its strengths rather than the absurd weaknesses (an example of the latter being the author's insistence on displaying the sexual maturity of a 14-year old boy). But those strengths are generally the same as those of fantasy writers in the vein of Steven Erikson. Diverse cast of characters and setting, long-form descriptions, exciting locations and fascinating new theoretical concepts.

Hamilton's worldbuilding is impressive. The various worlds of the galaxy are vividly and skilfully described, so is human society at large. The feudalesque politicking is evocative of hallmark works such as Dune, and the overall anarcho-capitalist, semi-dystopian socioeconomic system often feels similar to the great works of cyberpunk on a galactic scale.

Characters range from cardboard cutouts to annoying brats to deep and three-dimensional figures. And although the last category is in the minority, they are worth suffering through the others for. The iconic criminal investigator Paula Myo is one; the disgruntled old Socialist warrior Adam Elvin is another. Hell, even the book's mandatory back-from-retirement spaceship captain and enigmatic Messianic cult leader are quite enjoyable figures.

Overall, Pandora's Star reads like an unpolished gem. A collection of intriguing ideas sorely needing more work in order to be truly great. But as it stands, it's admittedly not bad.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews258 followers
July 23, 2013
5 Super big stars

A new favorite read of mine. This massive tome has everything that a sci-fi lover would ever want...

Review to come

What a total waste...I never came back and wrote a review for this book which is now among my very favorite novels. This is probably the longest novel that I have ever read, but I never felt it. Hamilton creates a massive cast, places them in an epic adventure, and has it cover vast distances of space. This is truly space opera at its finest.

I wish that I had taken the time to write a real review on this book as it deserves massive praise. I can only say that this is one of my favorite science fiction novels of all time. Fans of the genre should not miss out on this epic ride. It is not a hard science novel and really would appeal to a vast crowd. There is a great mystery and adventure in this space opera.....

Profile Image for David Sven.
288 reviews447 followers
November 10, 2012
It’s been a while since I’ve read Sci fi this good. I’ve probably been making poor reading choices in this genre for a bit. But finally, I’ve hit pay dirt with an author who has hit the sweet spot with great concepts, epic landscape/world building, excellent plot, AND , very importantly, excellent CHARACTERISATION. The story is set some 300 years in the future where wormhole technology has allowed humanity to spread out to begin colonising other star systems.

This was a big book and a lot denser than I expected as well. At 200 pages in there were still new characters being rolled out. So we have a large cast with no central or main character. Yet very few if any felt “disposable.” The stories range from detective mystery, to alien conspiracies, and throw in a love story that spans the stars. Puts a different spin on “star crossed lovers.” All the arcs work together and interweave to form an epic tapestry of human exploration and endeavour. So after feeling a little daunted in the beginning at the epic scale of the world and cast, the book just kept getting better and better, even as the story got bigger and bigger.

What I really appreciate about this book, is how Hamilton introduces you to the technology and the wider Universe. He basically just throws you in with the nitty gritty of the character he’s developing at the time and just lets you have it.

For Example let’s spend a day riding shotgun with Intersolar police officer, Paula Myo. Fantastic. What are we doing today Paula? Today Paula has a lead on a case she’s been trying to crack for a long time. How long? About 140 years. WHAT! But you don’t look a day over 30. How’s this possible? Rejuve...duh. Apparently, in the future, we have developed stem cell technology to the point that we can pay to have a “rejuvenation,” a process that reverses the aging process at a cellular level. The process can be repeated as often as you can pay for making one virtually immortal. Of course, if you just want a bit of cosmetic surgery to get rid of some body fat, erase a few wrinkles, or get a totally new face and body shape there’s “reprofiling.” So, Paula, what happens if someone just shoots you dead, huh. Huh? Then there’s “relife.” Apparently we can have a memory chip that stores all our, well, memories, which can be extracted and placed into a new clone body. What if someone shoots you in the head?– AH HA. No problem, just revert to a backup held “off site,” and pay for some counselling to deal with any resulting existential hang-ups.

Ok Paula so where’s this lead taking us? Oh, that would be on a planet some light years away. Isn’t that going to take a while to get to from here? About 40 minutes by car if the traffic isn’t too bad. WHAT!? We are going from Paris to another planet by car? Actually, we aren’t in Paris anymore. That tunnel we went through is actually a wormhole, one of many that connect all the human worlds into a single Commonwealth network making all the star systems virtual neighbours. Hang on, let me connect to my ebutler to let head office know we’re here. You mean head office back through the worm hole? Welcome to the Unisphere rookie. And what’s an ebutler? Is that some sort of smartphone? What size screen does it have? Actually I have inserts in my eyes that projects the screen/image directly onto my retinas. But...but...where’s the cpu kept? WHAT?! You mean those tattoos on the side of your head aren’t a fashion accessory? They’re actually an advanced circuit board wet wired directly into your brain and nervous system? I guess you won’t be too impressed with my new Iphone 5 then.

And pretty much for most the book WHAT?! And WOW! are pretty much how a lot of my experience can be characterised as I read this book. Even towards the end there were characters and events and discoveries that surprised me. Unpacking this Universe with its concepts and technology was really fun. We get themes of human exploration, artificial intelligence, immortality, alien conspiracy and more. And the action was fantastic, whether it be the lone assassin whacking his target and erasing his memory chip, to small scale terrorist/patriot military action taking down installations, to epic full on space battles with combat drones packing EMPs to planet slagging Leviathans unleashing nuclear hell on entire worlds.

Fantastic - 5 stars. Can’t wait to read the next book in the series (warning, this isn’t a stand alone story).
Profile Image for Dirk Grobbelaar.
554 reviews1,092 followers
October 1, 2011
First of all, let's get all the bad things about this book out of the way. Um... let's see. It's really, really thick. Oh, and it has a cliffhanger ending, because of the sequel. Um... surely there must be something else I can come up with?

Now, the good: and, boy, there is a lot of that. This novel reads like a greatest hits of everything that is cool about science fiction. Yes, it is a massive book, but that's because it's filled with all kinds of goodies. You want it? It's probably here. It actually reads faster than you might suspect too, mainly because it's paced so evenly. Even when the chapters of exposition started, I was glued to the pages.
There is a lot going on here.

This is probably the shortest review I've written. Which is ironic, considering the size of the novel concerned, but I don't have time to linger, Judas Unchained isn't going to read itself.
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,562 reviews2,938 followers
March 16, 2016
This book was my first forray into the work of Hamilton, a very well-established Science Fiction writer. Sadly, although I think some of Hamilton's ideas are super interesting and would make for a hugely complex and exciting Universe, these good ideas are so few and far between in amongst the 1,000+ page length that with the time it took to get to the next 'moment' I had already lost my excitement for the last one. I am definitely not afraid of a big book, in fact big books are some of my favourite ones and so I had truly hoped to love this. Sadly, I just think that this style of Sci-Fi isn't my personal taste and reading an epic tome with a huge cast, a lot of complex technology, and a setting that spans Galaxies, I just couldn't wrap my head around it all. I know a lot of people say that the Malazan series by Erikson is hard to get to grips with, for me, this was a hell of a lot harder to get excited by and even when I was excited, that tension was soon lost by the sheer page length.

This story has a huge amount of characters and I couldn't begin to list them all here but I will discuss some of the more important ones and those who I followed with interest. The first two characters, Ozzie and Orion, are my favourite from the entire book. These two become part of a big adventure following the 'paths' (an alien pathway between worlds and no-one really knows where they lead to). I genuinely found the mentor/mentee relationship here to be interesting and I liked the dynamic that the two of them found as the story went on and they found their rhythm. I also felt as though there was actually stuff happening in their story every time I was a part of it, and throughout the whole book their story was the only one which I consistently tuned into and found cool.
The next character I liked was MorningLightMountain and I will admit this is largely due to the name. MorningLightMountain is a being of enormous power and intellect who exists in the far regions of deep space, away from where the Commonwealth (a selection of planets inhabited by Humans and Aliens in harmony) is situated. This being and the way they interpreted the actions of humans fascinated me, and I do think there were some genuinely vibrant moments in this plot, however, it just didn't make up for the over-complication of some of the scenes.
We also have Kime who is a Captain from many generations past. Kime is enlisted on a mission to go to a far off barrier which has been discovered in Space and see if he and his team are able to find out what is behind this barrier. Little does he or the team know that there may be far more than they bargained on hidden away, and it may be hidden for a reason (this is the major thread of the story which most of the characters connect to).
We also have Paula, a detective on the hunt for a long-time offender who is repeatedly escaping her clutches and foiling her attempts to capture him. Her story had a few ups, but was mostly dead boring for me sadly.
Melanie and Justine are two of the other female characters we meet and I have to say I found both to be non-genuine and irritating at different times (particularly Melanie who was just a complete annoyance to me).
We have various other people who have important status too and some of the aliens we meet caused me great amusement becuase of how they functioned, but I just couldn't tell you everyone or we would be here forever.

There were a few good things and one of these which I did like was the modification ideas and rejuvenation. Within this Commonwealth people have the ability to live forever and become re-born every few decades if they have the money to pay for it. They upload their memories so that their newly made bodies can keep the memories, and they start living their life again maybe in a new job, area or with new friends, lovers etc. This idea was cool to me and made for some really old cool characters who had a wealth of knowledge.
We also have things like the Alien races who definitely interested me a lot.

Sadly the good was far outweighed by overly-complex Space tech mumbo-jumbo which I didn't either care about or didn't understand. I appreciate you don't have to 'get' everything in a SF book as it's supposed to be fictional, but I like when I can comprehend how things work and why they work that way and what their use is, and I felt that often things weren't explained to a level where this worked for me.
I also felt that this book was way too huge for what actually happened. Maybe this is supposed to focus on the technology and characters more than the plot, I don't know, but for me it took a long time to even set up a plot and settle into it, and when it did it was so fragmented with all the povs that I still couldn't connect to it.

I read this with a few other friends and a few of them read 100ish pages and then dropped out. I finished this, and yet I do wish I had dropped out at pg 100ish as for me it just did not come together in a satisfying way and everything that did happen wasn't enough to make up for the amount of dead-weight pages which bored me. Sadly, I won't be investing in or reading any more Peter F Hamilton in the future unless it's novella length as this one was just way too intense for not enough return. 2*s overall and that's only for the few cool elements which I did like.
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews805 followers
March 22, 2015
This book is fat!

That was my first thought upon picking up this book. Still with all the recommendations I have been getting from the good people at Reddit's science fiction books community ("r/Print SF") and other reviews I wanted to give it a go. With a book this long I would end up either rating it one star for wasting so many hours of my time or five stars for entertaining me for those many hours. I think I'll be magnanimous once again and go for the 5 stars option! This is not to say the book does not contain too many calories, or is entirely free of saturated fat. I believe it could have been somewhat thinner, there are superfluous characters and scenes here and there but generally book's length turned out to be one of its strengths. Considering the book's epic scope a 200 pages volume is unimaginable. Also, beside the epic sf plot the book contain elements of several genres of fiction: murder mystery, police procedural, a bit of courtroom drama, espionage, terrorism, fanaticism, a dash of soap opera, a smidgen of romance, and of course the entire kitchen sink.

From my discussions with other sf readers there are a number of detractors who criticized Hamilton for writing two dimensional characters. I feel this is understandable but not entirely justified. There are at least three characters that I care about or find interesting, and one of them is an alien incapable of speech or hearing as it lacks any faculty to handle sound and can only communicate through images, gestures or graphics. For all that he manages to be an endearing, lovable character. That said characterization is clearly not the forte of this author, there are far too many beautiful people walking about, though this is probably due to "cellular profiling" a sort of futuristic cosmetic surgery and other modifications.

Stylistically Hamilton's prose is utilitarian rather than elegant or poetic, but this is seldom a requirement for a space opera. His straight forward style does serve the material very well for propelling the story and communicating scientific details. There is one particular scene that I think is like a virtuoso sequence, a scene where a human being is described from an alien's point of view. While reading this I could suddenly imagine how strange a human being would look to an alien.

Unlike Iain M Banks' Culture books nobody is going to call Pandora's Star a literary work of art he is not a wordsmith in the way that Banks is but I think it is unfair to dismiss his work as simply "big dumb fun adventures" as he has clearly put a lot of thoughts into the world building and intricate plots, I can imagine him plotting complicated graphs to tie the myriad plot strands together.

Unfortunately there is no closure at the end of this book the story continues and concluded in the next book Judas Unchained. Well, at least it's not a trilogy, though subsequent books are set in the same common wealth universe.

This book is phat!

(Actually at 991 pages this is one of Peter F's shorter books!)
Profile Image for Terry.
366 reviews78 followers
June 29, 2019
Awesome book. This moves to the top of my favorites. I enjoyed all aspects of this book, including the characters, story and technology. I am very much looking forward to starting the second book.

On reread, I agree with my original assessment that this was very good! It presents a fascinating idea of what our future could be if certain breakthroughs in wormhole technology really could be harnessed, and how that would allow human expansion into our galaxy.

I listened to the audiobook version this time around and it was an exceptional performance I felt. I now feel prepared to continue on to book 2, Judas Unchained, which I obviously failed to do after first reading this. I look very forward to seeing how the many characters and storylines play out. 5/5 stars!
Profile Image for Oscar.
1,972 reviews489 followers
October 7, 2014
‘La estrella de Pandora’, del inglés Peter F. Hamilton, es una de las mejores space opera de los últimos tiempos. Aunque la variedad de temas que toca la novela no se quedan únicamente en este subgénero. Trama política, especulación, novela policíaca, ciencia ficción militar, primer contacto, aventuras, misterio, todos estos temas también están presentes en ‘La estrella de Pandora’.

La historia nos sitúa a finales del siglo XXIV, en una sociedad transformada por los grandes avances tecnológicos. De entre éstos, los que más destacan son los agujeros de gusano, que han abierto las puertas a la colonización de planetas. Igualmente, cabe destacar las técnicas de rejuvenecimiento y clonación, que junto a la posibilidad de guardar la memoria del individuo, permiten vivir un tiempo prácticamente ilimitado. La vida transcurre pacíficamente en la Federación, hasta que se detecta una anomalía en el Par Dyson, dos estrellas situadas a mil años luz: alguien ha colocado una barrera artificial encerrando ambos sistemas.

Perter F. Hamilton nos ofrece una novela coral, donde el peso de la historia recae sobre varios personajes principales, situados en varias tramas paralelas que irán confluyendo a lo largo de la narración. El universo que nos ofrece el autor es rico en detalles, y no escatima a la hora de desarrollar sociedades, culturas, costumbres, economías, políticas, en una perfecta visión del futuro de la raza humana.

Sin duda, ‘La estrella de Pandora’ nos devuelve la grandeza y el gusto por la buena ciencia ficción, aquella que nos acerca a un posible futuro, plausible y verosímil, sin dejar de lado el sentido de la maravilla y las ideas propias de las grandes novelas del género, lo que la ha convertido en todo un referente. Ahora, a por la continuación, ‘Judas desencadenado’.
Profile Image for Lena.
1,152 reviews253 followers
September 19, 2020
Welcome to the future.

Old age, true death, and lack of space are things of the past. Wormholes have given us new worlds, peace, and prosperity.

Through a grand cast of characters, side stories and back stories, Peter Hamilton makes you a resident of the Commonwealth. Nine hundred pages of investment before the nuke hits the mountain and your gut clenches.

I downloaded the kindle and audiobook to Judas Unchained before writing this review.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 32 books1,486 followers
February 15, 2009
At the end of the day, I liked Pandora's Star enough to finish it and continue with the second half of the story (Judas Unchained). However, this book took a loooong time to get going, and there were quite a few times when I was about ready to give up on it. There were also so many subplots that didn't seem to start connecting until near the end of the book, and were then finally realized in the sequel. I found it very easy to put down and forget about for a while, but I also found myself still picking it back up to read it.

On the positive side, Hamilton certainly has a rich imagination! A lot of the technology he envisioned was very interesting, and the alien species - particularly the antagonist - were very different and quite interesting. For some folks who are interested in visions of future technology, it might be worth a read just for that alone.

The bottom line for me is that this is worth a read, but be prepared for a very long book that ends - literally - halfway through the story when things are finally starting to get good. So just plan ahead to pick up Judas Unchained to find out what happens.
Profile Image for Radu Stanculescu.
226 reviews32 followers
January 14, 2020
Don't be fooled by the separation of the "Commonwealth Saga" into two books (this one and "Judas Unchained"). It's just a big-big book, so know that if you're starting this one you'll have a total of about 2000 pages to read. :)

More "mature" and with a more refined style than the "Night's Dawn" trilogy, the "Commonwealth Saga" is still a mix of a good number of different story lines that flow towards a (very distant) convergence point. It's got some pretty "alien" aliens, good humour and interesting ideas to keep you company throughout the story. I've yet to read "Misspent Youth" (set in the same universe, only much earlier) and "The Dreaming Void" (first book of the "Void" trilogy, later in the same universe), but I'll definitely give them a try.
Profile Image for spikeINflorida.
159 reviews17 followers
February 7, 2016
Five stars for the perilous wormhole jouneys of Captain Kime and his good ship and crew. And for the Prime aliens and their war mongering leader Morning-LightMountain. THIS is why I read SF. Unfortunately this engrossing part of the story played second fiddle to a whole lotta soapy space opera.
Four stars for Ozzie's dream-like trek across multiple worlds via the Silfen paths, man.
Three stars for ultra-uber Detective Myo and her perpetual investigation of radical kilt-wearin' terrorists and the mystical Starflyer.
Two stars for gold digging Mellanie and her god-like partner. And eco-friendly Mark and his oh-so-cute family...and puppy!
One star for a morbidly obese book that is in dire need of a major liposuction edit. A thousand pages? C'mon, man!
Profile Image for Daniel Roy.
Author 4 books69 followers
May 3, 2011
Being a huge fan of the 'Night's Dawn' trilogy, I was naturally very happy to get my hands on this book. If you liked 'Night's Dawn', there's a chance you will find something to your liking in here - but don't expect anything approaching the quality of 'The Neutronium Alchemist'.

In this series (completed by 'Judas Unchained' next year), Hamilton seems to set out to do something similar to what he did in 'Night's Dawn': present a riveting, complex world and then take a sledgehammer to it. The universe in 'Pandora's Star' sure is awfully detailed, and parts of it (such as the trains that travel between worlds) are surely fascinating.

However, the world just doesn't click as neatly as 'Night's Dawn', and I was left with the feeling that, as detailed as this novel was, I just didn't buy into it. There's a LOT of pages in this book used to describe the world, but instead of being mesmerising, they tend to be very frustrating as the author takes the reader by the hand to guide him through yet another human colony vaguely based on Western places, such as Venice or California.

I think this is one of these books that would have benefited from having less, not more. Some parts were very carefully crafted and interesting, while other sub-plots were frustrating for being so boring and leading nowhere. In some cases (the fanfic-level chapter on the court case of a rich businessman, to quote one) was so poorly written and so unappealing that they almost convinced me to put down the book and pick up something else.

Because of the number of secondary characters in the novel, some characters become such clichés that they`re actually painful to read. Mark, the "everyday normal guy" witnessing the events of the novel in the midst of his very boring life, made me groan every time his name showed up. Mellanie, the nubian naive girl who gets mistreated by the rich man she loves blindly, was also very painful to read so stereotypical she was. It's a pity, because they ultimately bury great characters such as Nigel Sheldon or Ozzie, that show a bit more fleshing out. Oh, and to show you how poorly fleshed-out these secondary characters turned out to be, I was unable to find one woman in the novel that was not somehow beautiful and closer to a man's fantasy than an actual believeable woman.

Still; throughout all these gripes is an interesting bit of space opera waiting to unfold. The beauty of 'Night's Dawn' was to see a fully realized world fall to pieces under a new threat. 'Judas Unchained' promises to do exactly that to the world of 'Pandora's Star'. This promise has kept me going through this very long novel: that all I read so far was preparation for Peter Hamilton taking an awesome sledgehammer to his carefully constructed world. That is not to say I harbor fantasies of revenge upon this long novel, but rather that this long preparation might be worth it once Hamilton turns things upside down.

If the followup is up to par with Hamilton's previous works, then this novel might be worth slowly wading through. Here's hoping that it will be: because Pandora's Star in itself is ambitious, but so flawed that it failed to fire up my imagination and really engage me.
Profile Image for Brent.
426 reviews51 followers
October 10, 2022
Very frustrating book. Lots of very cool concepts and technology and ideas. Very bland characters but there are also a lot of them so they are hard to distinguish. Also it's one of the most infodumpy books I've ever read. It seemed like every chapter was a new planet with every single thing described in excruciating detail. This would kill the story momentum because just as something really cool would happen it would shift to a large info dump or one of several very boring storylines. There were really interesting parts as well, but often just as I was getting into one of those we'd shift back to some crime investigation plot or something else that didn't seem connected to the overall story at all. It did get really good towards the end before ending on a cliffhanger.

In short this book is just way too long. If it was more focused on the stuff that was really interesting it would be great. As it is it's just sort of ok.

Update: After my re-read of this book I have to say my enjoyment of it increased quite a bit. When I read it the first time I wasn't as experienced of a reader and especially true of sci fi. I think I went in not knowing what to expect and it hurt a bit. This time I went in expecting an ensemble cast, an expansive story told over many different planets, and several plot threads that weave together. This time I had much more appreciate for the extremely cool technology, and how Hamilton extrapolates how that tech might affect the development of society and space flight and things like that. I think at least one conclusion he draws is pretty wrong in my opinion, but it's not a big deal. Yes there is still an issue I have about some sub plots that seem unconnected, but on this re-read I was able to pay closer attention and see what he was trying to do with developing character there. I still could have done without the murder subplot. The others tie together into the main story pretty nicely. And without spoiling I'll just say yes there is alien shit in this book, and it's absolutely incredible. There's one chapter that blew me away that I definitely didn't appreciate as much the first time. The ending/climax of the book still slaps and the cliffhanger is quite a hook. Just make sure you have Judas Unchained ready to go.
Profile Image for Cathy.
1,667 reviews242 followers
December 7, 2019
This is a very long book and really should be read with the plan to continue with Judas Unchained. The story unfolds with the speed of a geriatric snail, so bring patience and time and appreciation for the little things along. I took me two months to get through the audiobook—ok, I am slow with audio—and I did it with the print version next to me, to double-check on details.
The world building is great, this is full of great ideas. And when there is action, it is well done. Characters take their time to develop and the aliens are truly scary in their otherness. This is good, although I wonder what it would be like at half the page count...

Thoughts and comments, while working my way through this monster:
Audiobook Part 1: 6 h 56 min (183 pages), Chapters 1-6, ★★★½☆
Glacially slow set-up and introduction of a variety of characters. Very little plot progression. I liked what was there. Alas, it was not for the impatient and easily bored (aka ME!). I wonder how all these very different stories will come together.

Chapter list with characters behind the tag:

Audiobook Part 2: 7 h 22 min (pages 184-376), Chapter 7-11, ★★★★★
Interesting biology and chemistry! Really cool idea, although Merredin is not necessarily a planet I would like to visit. Just that by itself is a great plot bunny for a colonization/first contact novel! There are several other planets and constructs in this part of the book, that would make for great settings for separate novels. The world building here is fascinating.

With all people living multiple lives, I would love to have a timeline sketched out at the back of the book. If I should ever decide to re-read this book, I plan to make annotations and try to figure out a timeline myself.

You definitely need patience with this book. Interesting things happen and then you switch POV and.... something else happens and it‘s all a very loooong game....

But by Chapter 10 (yes, yes, almost 300 pages of set-up), things are starting to come together, the many characters are becoming familiar names and the plot picks up the pace.

Chapter list with characters, settings and spoilery ramblings:

Audiobook Part 3: 7 h 30 min (pages 377-574), Chapters 12-16, ★★★★☆
The characters are finally familiar and we are getting into the meat of the story.

Audiobook Part 4: 8 h 52 min (pages 575-806), Chapters 17-21, ★★★★☆
Chapter 18 was horrific! We are moving towards a climax... maybe... Besides the action I still enjoyed Ozzie‘s chapters the most.

Audiobook Part 5: 6 h 48 min (pages 807-988), Chapters 22-25, ★★★★☆
Wow, I finished! I thought this would never end. There was some light wrapping up of the status quo at the end, but I guess it would be a good strategy to have Judas Unchained ready to go! I pretty much continued with the audio straight away.

On the Marie Celeste of the Commonwealth universe: https://peterfhamilton.fandom.com/wik...
And the RL Mary Celeste: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Ce...

The Commonwealth, publication order:
Profile Image for Gary K Bibliophile.
229 reviews56 followers
January 26, 2023
Who Wants to Live Forever...

a great Queen song (from the movie Highlander and A Kind of Magic) written by Brian May and hauntingly sung by Freddie Mercury. In Peter F. Hamilton's Pandora's Star in the Commonwealth... the answer to that question is... pretty much everyone. The Commonwealth is basically humanity – fast forward 350ish years ahead. It is the first of the Commonwealth duology and a mammoth start to the series coming in at around 1000 pages. The sequel... Judas Unchained... is over 1200 pages.

This isn't my first Hamilton. I had read the 'Void Trilogy' a few years back. Another mammoth series set in the same universe as this one. The first sentence to the GR summary for “The Dreaming Void” (book one of the Void trilogy) is “The year is 3589, fifteen hundred years after Commonwealth forces barely staved off human extinction in a war against the alien Prime.  ” Having little more than that to go on I decided to read this series first. My library had this one – and didn't have The Commonwealth series. I figured there was little chance of characters from the two series overlapping – right?!? Back to my opening line of this review...

So how far has humankind evolved in the Commonwealth? I'm sure we have fixed common cyber issues like identity theft and SPAM – right? Ummmm... Well in any case there is a lot of cool tech in this series. I mentioned the same in my review of The Dreaming Void from back in 2020.

I've mentioned 'Who Wants to Live Forever” twice now... In the Commonwealth you can essentially do just that. Most folks don't let their body age much past 50... then they go in for a 'rejuvenation'. Here they basically roll back time and you become a younger version of yourself. OR... maybe you don't want to be yourself. You don't like the shape of your eyes or color of your skin. No problem. You can change pretty much anything about yourself in this process.

Maybe you wanted to look a little different for some special event? You don't want to trouble with a rejuvenation... that takes time. No problem. Get yourself set up with some OC Tattoos (Organic Circuitry). Change aspects of your appearance at will.

What about the internet? Here we have the Unisphere. Use your OC Tattoos to interface directly to information about nearly anything – directly into your brain. Don't want to concentrate to even do that? Well, you can offload this research to your personal assistant or e-butler.

For me anyway as I get older I don't have the same recall as I used to. I'm also not as quick to learn new things. No problem in the Commonwealth – just like rejuvenation updates your physical characteristics it also refreshes your brain. Want to learn a new skill, but don't want to do it the old fashioned way? Have the memories implanted directly into your brain.

What about if you die – certainly people die, right? Well, yes, but most just get 'reborn' from your last backup. Like if your computer crashes and you want to back up to last checkpoint. They grow a new body and put your memories into it. Sure, it's not up to date... and traumatic for the victim – but for many �� death isn't the end.

And we're all stuck on Earth right? Or limited to our solar system? Of course not. 😜 By mastering wormhole creation humankind has expanded to hundreds of planets. With those planets come discoveries of new form of life – fantastic creatures that Hamilton has a lot of fun describing.

Artificial intelligence has evolved into what is referred to as an SI or Sentient Intelligence. It has become so advanced they have to ratchet it back a few notches (don't want a Skynet incident – right?).

What about the characters in the story? Well for my small mind I find it hard to keep track of 5-10 characters in a story. I'm slow that way. In this story there are probably 10 major characters, another dozen semi-important ones, and yet another 80 or so minor characters to keep track of. I thought it was my imagination, but Hamilton adds a 'character guide' in the beginning of Judas Unchained... there's just that many. There's probably a dozen or more plot threads to untangle as well. After finishing the book I'm still not sure I understand how they all relate. My favorites are Paula Myo, Ozzie, and Adam. Paula is a badass for sure.

Beyond the cool technology, the story itself is quite ambitious. It includes a murder/mystery, a courtroom drama, aliens (multiple kinds), discovery of new worlds, political intrigue, battles, assassins, great beasts and machines of war, quests for knowledge, first contacts (, kidnapping, terrorists and anarchists, spies/espionage, smuggling, deep conspiracies, and sex (you tend to do that a lot shortly after rejuvenation - kind of like in Scalzi's Old Mans War).

Having read Hamilton before I was familiar with his writing style. Comparing this with the Void Trilogy I do still think his writing is a bit dry in places. Not so much the descriptions of places and things – that is outstanding. I'm thinking more of the dialogue. Comparing it with another of my favorite sci-fi series... who am I kidding... it IS my favorite.. The Expanse... I think Hamilton could do with a bit more humor. Also there are so many characters it was hard for me to relate to a lot of them (maybe it was just so hard for my small mind to keep track of who was who? 😜 )

Also, like I said just above I'm not sure I understand how all the plot lines overlap... Another thing – and I anticipated this... in the Void trilogy I didn't feel like each book resolved much. They intentionally left things unanswered w/o much of a pause. I expected that here – and got it. Nearly every story line was left hanging. One was a literal cliff-hanger ( funny enough 2 of the last 4 books I have read ended with a literal cliff-hanger – see if you can guess what the other one was 😜 ) So basically I went into this expecting a long haul. It's kind of like if wanted to read Stephen King for the first time... and you decided to read IT and The Stand back-to-back. That's essentially what Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained are in terms of length. A new year and already behind on my GR book goal – what's new?

Anyway – as I write this I am already into Judas Unchained – hoping it answers my questions. I'm pretty sure I will like it just as much as this one. Overall I deducted a half star for not tying anything up – and another for the dry dialogue. Recommended to my SciFi GR friends though.
Profile Image for Chris  Haught.
580 reviews220 followers
February 6, 2015
Well then. I hope that book reviews don't need to be a length that's proportional to the size of the book being reviewed. Actually, I can safely say that this one definitely won't be.

Damn, that was a big tome. And as much as I like John Lee, I need a new reader in my next book. Between this and Revelation Space, I've heard John Lee's voice more this year than any member of my family's voice. My wife does say I can tune her out, and unfortunately I think this happened with Mr. Lee as well for large parts of the book.

There were great parts, and great characters. Then there were long periods of slog and yawn. What's bad is that my brain had zoned out and gone elsewhere during some of the longer slogs, and ended up missing some of the good parts. I can't say how many times I'd regain focus and be like "when did they switch to that character?"

I feel like I need some CliffNotes. There were things I wanted to know more about, but missed the connections. I mean, sometimes I'd be listening and be thinking, "just who is this character?" even though I knew I'd read about them earlier. It just had been so long....

And this is only half the story. Ouch. I definitely need some CliffNotes before I tackle Judas Unchained. Probably some NoDoze too.
43 reviews2 followers
June 8, 2009
This book is almost 1,000 pages long and is only Part 1 of a 2 part series. If you throw out 2/3 of it, you have one whopping good story.

This is "book bloat" at its worst. There is so much non-essential garbage in this book that I could not wait to finish. It is filled with non-essential details of people you wind up not caring about and who, in effect, are not all that germane to the story or even worth caring about.

A reviewer listed on the cover warns us that we will not be able to put this down. Not true...it was easily and often put down and I used it at times to help me get to sleep. Somewhere after the 300th page, the real story starts to pick up...and it is a good one.

Then it slows down again and finally the last 100 pages or so, it kicks into gear again big time. If only we didn't have to go through so much useless crap to get to the good story.

Take out 2/3 of the book and it gets 5 stars. But, I only give it two stars for boring me for such a long time.

Will I read the sequel? Not a chance. I value my remaining time on this earth far too much. I do want to know how it ends and hopefully they will come out eventually with an abridged 5 CD version. I will be first in line when they do.

A book can be very long and not be boring. Check out Kevin Anderson's "Saga of the Seven Suns." It is seven books long and definitely can't be put down.
Profile Image for Claudia.
960 reviews553 followers
December 13, 2015
The imagination this man has is astounding! The numerous planets, their different environments, the inhabitants, technology, the multi-layer plot - all blend in an amazing universe so well created. Space opera at its highest.
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