Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton

I quite enjoyed Pandora's Star, and the vast universe Peter F. Hamilton creates. Where many science fiction writers take one significant technological advance and write about how their world would change around that, Hamilton has explored numerous game-changing advances all at once, and tried to see what wormhole travel/body rejuvenation/memory download would together do to a rapidly expanding human Commonwealth of planets.

And for some authors, that might be all. But no. Add in to this one two species of alien that humans have uncovered, and the main mystery of the novel - the enveloped systems of Dyson Alpha and Beta. When an astronomer discovers this envelopment happened instantaneously, the Commonwealth is convinced that they must finally build a FTL ship and send it out to investigate whether those shields were erected to keep something dangerous out or to keep something dangerous in.

With an enormous cast of characters, Hamilton juggles them with ease, and it is a credit to his characterization that I always knew who he was talking about, and what had brought them to this moment.

One faction within the Commonwealth are regarded as insane fanatics, as they believe a hostile alien crashlanded on Far Away centuries ago, and since has been controlling events. As the book goes on, whether or not they may, in fact, know more than the rest of humanity becomes an open question. (I'm certainly not going to tell you!)

But one thing that did bother me was one conversation where all the participants conflated homosexuality and transgendered identity. It's nagged at me since.

I wasn't enthralled by this book, but I always looked forward to sitting down and reading more of it. For me, it lacked that emotional punch that the best books bring. But I enjoyed the speculation, the worlds, and the characters. I'm looking forward to reading the next book, particularly since this one ended on a cliffhanger. Almost literally.

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