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Judas Unchained Hardcover – February 28, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Set in the 24th century, bestseller Hamilton's richly satisfying space opera is less a sequel to Pandora's Star (2004) than the second half of one dauntingly complicated, wonderfully imagined novel. The diverse human Commonwealth is fighting back against the implacably hostile mass-mind Prime, while discovering that agents of another hostile alien force are sabotaging war efforts. In a multitude of subplots, Hamilton adroitly leaps from the struggles of one engaging, quirky character to another. Meanwhile, the main action expands and the super-scientific weapons become increasingly terrible. Then the story shifts focus and presents a moral question: if it's now possible to wipe out the Prime, is it permissible to commit genocide? Hamilton demonstrates that humans not only can shape huge masses of data to their own ends but also can recognize when to stop doing so. Some of the people manage to transcend their small, personal concerns—sometimes. The density of detail may slow readers down, but the distinctive characters and the plot's headlong drive will pull them along. In more ways than one, this two-part work is monumental. (Feb. 28)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Hamilton takes up the many loose ends of Pandora's Star (2004) and reveals the vast, sprawling conspiracies permeating the big story's interplanetary commonwealth. So much evidence of the Starflyer's existence has been amassed that even the most skeptical begin believing, although it rapidly becomes clear that there are Starflyer agents at the top of the government and the navy. The aliens are busy entrenching themselves on newly conquered worlds, while those planets' few remaining survivors wage futile guerrilla war against them. With humanity being dangerously outnumbered, the governing body desperately seeks a weapon to neutralize the aliens. What it finally comes up with is so devastating as to be genocidal. A showdown is becoming inevitable, however, and perhaps the commonwealth must use the superweapon. In the eleventh hour, the man best suited for the job applies quick thinking and underhanded behavior to the matter. Hamilton has, as usual, produced a dense, engaging space opera that satisfyingly balances shoot-'em-up action and thoughtful debate. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
Like its predecessor, this science fiction work weighs in at 1,000+ pages. After having read both of these novels, I'm left with much the same opinion as that held after reading the 3,500 pages of the author's Night's Dawn series. Both works begin slowly, establishing numerous story lines and plot threads. After several hundred pages, the reader becomes engrossed with the fascinating and original ideas, concepts, technological advances, new worlds and alien constructs. Of all the science fiction writers I've read, Hamilton is perhaps the best in the originality and fresh outlook that he gives his future and alien worlds.
After another 1,000 pages, however, the novelty wears off. All of the great ideas and originality soon becomes second nature and you are left with only the underlying story. As good as it may be, another 1,000 pages (or more as was the case in Night's Dawn) ultimately bogs down and loses those strengths that made the previous pages so enjoyable. The worm hole technology and the methods used to exploit it, the concept of rejuvenation and immortality, the methods of establishing new outposts of human development and the political constructs established to govern them, and the alien worlds and races encountered are all handled magnificently. It is easy to say that a 2,000 page work is too long, but the reason it is too long is because it ultimately dilutes that part of the work that is so stunningly good.
Having read this work, I can't help but feel that it would have been a better reading experience as two 500-750 page books as opposed to the 2,000 total pages in its current form. Quite frankly, mid-way through this sequel, I became terribly bored with it and frequently fell asleep while reading it.
As an aside, Hamilton repeats what has become a pet peeve of mine among science fiction writers; the need to create a new epithet to be used by future humans, and repeat it ad nauseam throughout the work. The exclamation "Dreaming Heavens!" must have been uttered thousands of times, to take its place with other such creative utterances as TANJ (There ain't no justice) and TANSTAAFL (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch). Hamilton must be a Heinlein devotee. What? The old expletives were not good enough to last? Every future human uses the same epithet hundreds of times a day? This, despite the fact that not only are automobiles still the primary method of local conveyance after 500 years, but they are still manufactured by the same companies (Ford, Volvo, Toyota and Land Cruiser are all still around). I'm willing to bet that the "F" word outlasts all of the above.
Peter Hamilton does an excellent job at describing both the elements of the setting as well as the characters themselves. That being said, I would say that he spends a little too much time in this regard, particularly in the descriptions of the settings. This simply slows down the book a little too much for my taste.
This is the crux of the issue that I have with this work and its prequel 'Pandora's Star'. Both books are painfully long with the former ending rather abruptly, as far as the story line goes. The first book lacked any intermediate closure. That ending felt as if it cheated the reader more than it did to spur one on to read its sequel, 'Judas Unchained'. Regardless, it is the characters that bring you back to this book, as you are invested in their fates. This is the best part of Hamilton's work, and it provides a rich verity of different characters to become engaged in. Each have their character flaws and each transgresses or grows from their experiences. Well done. Read this book for that reason, but be prepared to spend some time due to its length.
Spoilers Start Here:
The plot pretty much follows what you expect with a few deviations along the way, so there are no big surprises at the end. If there is any serious fault, it is with the ending itself. Everything is a little too rosy; like some Disney movie for children. Personally, if you are going to spend any time wrapping up an ending for each character I would have preferred a little more attention to the physical and emotional scars that people would bear given the circumstances they endured. It is a little unrealistic for a happy-ever-after ending given those conflicts and I didn't think it was even necessary. The book could have successfully ended without the followup biographies of those characters.
That's the only two faults I can give this saga; it was too long and the ending felt Disney-like. Hamilton's world-building and character development are truly excellent and make for a strong read.