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Reviews of Pandora's Star (2004)

Review by physik (2007-11-10) Contains spoilers. View anyway.


Pandora's Star is a 900 page space epic about a mission to investigate a star system surrounded by a Dyson Sphere. I wanted to like this book…I really did. The basic premise is really creative and somewhat terrifying! An astronomer sees a star system 1000 light years away become enveloped in a Dyson Sphere. The usual politics and scientific bickering ensue before the governing body of the Commonwealth sends a spaceship called the Second Chance out to investigate. It turns out that the sphere was erected to contain an aggressive species known as Primes. The barrier collapses while the Second Chance is conducting its tests and the once contained Primes launch an all-out assault on the Commonwealth leaving most of it in ruins. Then…as quickly as it starts…the novel ends. Turns out that Pandora’s Star is the first part of a two-part series ending with Judas Unchained, another 900 page epic which if it's written like this story, I'll skip.

So the story sounds pretty cool based on my summary above, right? What I left out is that in order to get to a short chapter or so about the mission there are DOZENS of subplots and short stories throughout the book. Some of these subplots are essential to the story's advancement, and some are seemingly pointless filler. This book was 900 pages and could have easily been half that. There was so much fat that it made the book painful to read.

The most intriguing part of the novel was during the introduction of the Primes. After the Second Chance has abandoned its fallen comrades and retreated to Commonwealth space Peter Hamilton does an amazing job of describing an alien intelligence as it examines two human “specimens.” Beyond a few good passages and a very inventive storyline I’d say that ultimately Pandora’s Star is a dud. So sad too…I had high hopes for this one.

Review by bkedryna (2005-11-23)
This is one of the best sci-fi books out there. The action takes place several hundred years in the future when mankind colonized hundreds of planets. Health care allows people to live practically forever, wormholes allow them to move between planets very quickly, and memory storage prevents them from ever completely dying - if something unfortunate should happen, there is always a backup that can be restored into a clone. Advanced computer interfaces let everyone access the Internet with simple thoughts and manipulate virtual objects without moving a muscle.

One of the problems that I felt this futuristic vision had are limitations of locomotion technology. The author doesn't seem to think we'll advance much more in this area, and I disagree. But this is not a big problem, and it is probable. Other than that, I think this is an excellent vision of our future (with a few bold assumptions).

The plot is very interesting. One problem I saw with the overall structure of the book was that it was told from too many viewpoints; there are too many main characters and it's hard to remember everyone. This makes it a little hard to get into the book - you need to read about a third to become completely engrossed. Once you pass this milestone, however, you won't regret it. The characters are well constructed and there are plenty of mysteries that force you to keep on reading.

This book has some very profound, excellent ideas about our existence, philosophy, nature, etc. It can be compared in scope to Dan Simmons' Hyperion, although it is not as broad in its scope. I definitely recommend it for any sci-fi fans. I will be buying the other parts of this series very soon, and will follow that with other books by this author. He is one of the best.




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