When I read The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton I discovered he had written books taking place in the same universe due to references in the book itself. As I quite enjoyed The Dreaming Void and there was still quite some unclarity about those earlier events in the references I decided to get me some more Hamilton. Thus I ordered Pandora’s Star (2004), the first book of the Commonwealth Saga. It’s quite a heavy volume: my edition is almost 1200 pages. Quite surprising that a publisher is okay with that. Luckily I never complain about the length of a book. More reading for the same price.
Like The Void Trilogy Pandora’s Star is a standard space opera with a low technology element and mainly event-driven. The story is also told from a third person point of view which shows clearly in a number of info-dumping paragraphs when there is a change of scenery and this has to be explained beforehand. It is a light form of info-dumping as it is nowhere annoying or boring, but they do form a small disturbance in the usually smooth and easy prose. For its 1200 pages the book is actually a quick read. I usually read as fast as I can, especially when I enjoy the story and with Hamilton I discovered I can go maximum speed. Maybe I’m done quickly but that’s life.
Pandora’s Star contains a multitude of characters of which a fair number’s viewpoint is followed. It’s a varied set and Hamilton manages to flesh several of them out well so the reader can identify with them. However, this does not work for all of them. Some are just not distinct enough (given the time spent with them) to do so sufficiently or their function or actions in the story does not distinguish them enough.
Pandora’s Star actually takes a long time to get started. Several characters start off in their natural setting which also provides Hamilton with a way to present different facets of the universe he has created and the backgrounds of his characters so he does not need to give larger references later in the story. There are actually a few mini-storylines which are used to set up relationships between several characters which provide the circumstances for later events. All this takes up several hundreds of pages. These introductions are quite enjoyable but never the real thing. It is after this lengthy introduction that the story really gets going.
Pandora’s Star contains all the elements (and more) of a space opera, containing a large spectrum of the future society without going into deep anywhere. This makes the story very accessible with plenty of things to enjoy. This is no classic, but just a great read with the only minor thing being the lengthy beginning. Even so, everything is very well balanced and thought out, although Hamilton does not concern himself with a lot of details, only those that matter for the story. Hamilton knows how to write good and entertaining science fiction. Much recommended.