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Pandora's Star (The Commonwealth Saga) Mass Market Paperback – January 25, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Hamilton's exhilarating new opus proves that "intelligent space opera" isn't an oxymoron. By the 24th century, the vast human Commonwealth has spread from Earth via artificial wormholes. Various benign or seemingly indifferent alien races have been encountered during exploration of new planets, but an astronomer sparks curiosity by announcing that a pair of stars is enclosed by a mysterious energy barrier. [...] The author deftly juggles many characters in multiple plot lines, sometimes slowing down the action briefly, at other times racing forward. Revelations late in the book will have readers scurrying back to earlier pages to reinterpret what they initially thought. Not many SF writers are capable of tackling such a big project so confidently. In this respect, Hamilton (Fallen Dragon) resembles a less cheery but very tech-savvy—and extremely paranoid—Charles Dickens. Given the abrupt cliffhanger of an ending, some may prefer to save this massive installment until the story's conclusion, Judas Unleashed, appears next year. Anyone who begins this one, however, probably won't be able to put it down.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
Hamilton creates a dense, thoroughly defined twenty-fourth-century world, in which humanity has colonized the stars, thanks to the discovery of wormhole travel, and established a successful commonwealth. The species has even encountered aliens and space-faring artifacts. One remaining mystery is the barrier around stars known as the Dyson Pair. Human curiosity still being what it is, a spaceship capable of faster-than-light travel (thanks to those wormholes again) goes to investigate. When what's behind the barrier is discovered, the thrill-ride really starts. Aliens formerly trapped inside it, fighting over limited resources, are freed to invade human space. Unfortunately, that is more or less where this book leaves us, but a sequel is in the works. Hamilton's attention to character development makes the slow buildup to a dizzyingly destructive denouement rewarding, and all the little subplots and threads one hopes will be tied back to the main thread keep it complex and engaging. Hamilton is never simple, and even his aliens are well written, complex creations with their own motivations. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
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Add to this mixture an alien race on a far distant planet. Earth decides to investigate, unintentionally freeing the aliens from isolation. The alien mindset is one of expansion, and any life form is considered competition to be eliminated.
This sets up the penultimate battle scenes between humans and aliens. So far, so good.
However, we add to this a couple of extra plots. A possibly mythical super force in the galaxy, which may or may not exist, and may or may not be infiltrating earth. This entire plot line seems pointless, except as possible foreshadowing for the second volume.
A third narrative thread involves mysterious "paths" created (or at least used) by a third alien species, which are unpredictably open to humans. This plot line seems completely disconnected from the action, and never goes anywhere...again, one assumes the author is laying the ground work for the second volume.
All of this makes this a REALLY long book. I felt that the extraneous plots should have either been eliminated, shortened, or made more relevant to THIS volume.
But I find myself distracted sometimes by what occurs for me as some (likely unintentional) sexism and homophobia. I have lived my adult life navigating these issues so perhaps I am more sensitive to them than most. But to me it mostly indicates something else which I found in this book: a lack of attention to detail, or thorough imagining or projection into the future. Aside from this, I very much enjoyed the book and I would still recommend it to anyone who likes complex sci-fi world building and a good story.
I don't want to give away too much of this wonderful novel. A few items: Mankind developed wormhole gateways and settled dozens of worlds in nearby space. These are all connected by trains that carry passengers from world to world as easily as contemporary trains carry passengers from city to city.
An astronomer makes a discovery: A star about 1,100 lights years from earth suddenly disappears. He learns that the star 'winked' out over the span of seconds, and this inspires a mission using a starship derived from the wormhole technology. While visting the star, the crew learns a massive and impregnable force field covers not only that star, but another a few light years distant. As they explore the device generating the field, it switches off. The alien race within (developed by the story earlier) prove to be intolerant of any other creatures, and in very little time, a devastating war erupts.
How this is resolved, and the complexity of the story to resolve it, make this a cliffhanger story throughout the entire read.
There are sequels to this novel, and I've in the process od reading them now. They are as good as this epic, but maybe not as exciting because you know the writer will work everything out in a logical and rational way without the help of deux ex machine techniques.
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