« April 2014
August 2014 »
Pandora's Star

I just finished reading Pandora's Star by Peter Hamilton, and its 1600 page sequel, Judas Unchained.

These books are set in The Commonwealth, a well-imagined, pan-galactic, post-scarcity civilization where humans live in a highly computerized society, tour the galaxy, and can "rejuvenate" to live as long as they want. Traveling amongst the Commonwealth's many settled planets is accomplished easily, not with rockets and space suits, but with a delightfully anachronistic railroad network passing through wormholes connecting to cities on distant planets.

The technological underpinnings of Hamilton's universe are (mostly) self-consistent, and very well thought out I felt. I was especially pleased with the writing about computer tech, which normally annoys me but was refreshingly plausible in these books.

Hamilton nods at the questions raised by a society of immortals who don't need anything and can, if they choose, not really do anything useful. He strikes a good balance of provoking the thoughts but without wallowing in them.

The plot itself is vast and intricate: it's half save-the-galaxy space opera and half police detective who-dunnit, which made for an engaging, creative story that definitely kept me turning the pages. Over 2700 pages between the two volumes, in fact, following more than 50 characters across a hundred worlds over 500 years.

By that same token, I think the book would have greatly benefitted from an editor. I could easily imagine cutting down about 1000 of the pages worth of minor characters, side plots, cocktail parties, political intrigue, and meetings. It felt like an epic investment to read, but it could have been a lot tighter.

Unfortunately the detective-mystery part of the plot is so intricate that I think it gets away from the author at times. There were parts, especially near the end of the book, where I felt like the characters behaved implausibly in order to heighten the mystery and give the increasingly irrelevant detective character something to do. In the final hundred pages (which believe me feels like 10 minutes reading in the scale of the rest of the book) the "let's solve the mystery" trope feels more like a distraction than a conclusion. The end is satisfying despite this, though.

Overall, if you are a voracious science fiction fan, then I whole-heartedly recommend these books. There is a lot to like, despite the clumsy ending. (And you will certainly get your money's worth; I've been reading these things since last winter.)


This week I was in a real lightning storm for the first time in a long while. (I had to go to another state to find lightning.) Here's a photo I got of it:

The views expressed on this site are mine personally, and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.