For the audioversion of this review, check out episode 475 of the Spiritblade Underground Podcast, go to timestamp 15:03.
Peter F. Hamilton’s Pandora’s Star, the first novel of the two-part Commonwealth Saga, is a VERY long and detailed telling, with many characters, many of whom (sort of) protagonists. It takes a whopping 37 hours 33 minutes to finish, so from the start you’ll have to pay attention, otherwise you’ll get lost quickly! I had to ‘rewind’ several times because I wasn’t paying close attention for, like, a whole minute. So this novel is not something to listen to while doing lots of other stuff that requires your attention. Saga, indeed.
Britain’s bestselling SF writer returns to outer space.
In AD 2329, humanity has colonised over four hundred planets, all of them interlinked by wormholes. With Earth at its centre, the Intersolar Commonwealth now occupies a sphere of space approximately four hundred light years across.
When an astronomer on the outermost world of Gralmond, observes a star 2000 light years distant – and then a neighbouring one – vanish, it is time for the Commonwealth to discover what happened to them. For what if their disappearance indicates some kind of galactic conflict? Since a conventional wormhole cannot be used to reach these vanished stars, for the first time humans need to build a faster-than-light star ship, the Second Chance. But it arrives to find each ‘vanished’ star encased in a giant force field — and within one of them resides a massive alien civilisation.
©2004 Peter F Hamilton (P)2008 Tantor Media Inc
My thoughts: “Perfect if you want to take your time”
As I said, this story requires a lot of time on your part, but if you do like to invest the more than 1½ days (!) it takes to finish, this scifi novel offers a pretty immersive story with the author taking his time to paint his universe. His characters are fleshed out very well, and none are 100% ‘good’ or ‘bad’, which gives them a realistic feel.
As for the scifi aspects, I enjoyed this author’s concept of human society a couple of centuries from now. How humans tackled the immortality problem, the everyday tech gadgets that are used by everyone, and even its application to… porn. Really fun ideas, without getting crass or sleezy. However, be aware that there are several instances of crude language, if that is something you deem important to know.
The author has also integrated diversity into his character concepts, different races and sexual preferences are presented in a very natural way without drawing unnecessary attention. The only thing that does not get much attention is religion; none of the characters seem religious in any way, the entire human race seems to have a naturalistic viewpoint. Which is why religion or even plain spirituality is the only thing I found lacking in this otherwise colorfully diverse universe.
The narration is terrific, with lots of different accents and voices by narrator John Lee. He is a joy to listen to, and adds emotion and identity to his characters without overacting. I especially enjoyed his high society females, the way he read them was absolutely fantastic and often laced with humor.
Loved them all.
A point of criticism: The editing makes it very hard to distinguish between chapters, and even viewpoints. There are no pauses whatsoever. So one minute you’re completely into one character’s story unfolding, and literally the very next sentence takes you to a whole different character WITHOUT mentioning them by name so you still think you’re at the previous viewpoint! Another reason to skip back a couple of minutes several times…
Nevertheless I recommend this novel, and I went ahead and bought its sequel as well, titled Judas Unchained. More on that next time, as I haven’t finished that yet.