Pandora’s Star was the first sci-fi book by Peter F Hamilton that I read. In fact, it was the book that got me back into sci-fi in a big way, and after picking this up my appetite for all things SF went into overdrive. I really do love this book and it’s definitely in my top 3 Hamilton novels and in my top 5 favourite SF novels ever. I’m a big Hamilton fan, I have no problem admitting that, and I’ll recommend this book to anyone that wants to read a good, well plotted and completely enthralling read. So why do I love it so much?
Pandora’s Star is the first part of The Commonwealth Saga and is a fully fledged space opera containing multiple plot threads that include the discovery of, and mission to, the Dyson Pair; the activities of Adam Elvin, the Guardians of Selfhood’s main man when it comes to arranging weapon and technology shipments to Far Away; the brutal one-mindedness of Paula Myo, a detective with the Intersolar Serious Crime Directorate, while she investigates a case of murder, and of her continuing dedication to tracking down Adam Elvin; the political manoeuvring of various individuals to gain support for their causes; following the journey of Ozzie Isaacs, the co-inventor of wormhole technology, as he travels the paths of the alien Silfen in search of answers to the Dyson pair. Even this doesn’t cover it all, there is just so much to take in and enjoy.
As you can imagine, this book covers a whole lot – but it hits the ground running. Chapter one starts the book off as it means to go on and doesn’t let go, even once you’ve reached the end you’re left wanting more. There is little here that is not to like if you enjoy a well thought out and action packed story. The book is well paced and the subplots are almost all interesting and add to the story and in-universe history. There are a couple of exceptions, these being the political manoeuvring section and, to an extent, some of the Guardians sections, especially those set on Far Away that feature the clans. These do add to the back story and raise some questions, but the difference in pace sticks out like a sore thumb.
The Second Chance plot is one of the best in the book and the most enjoyable as far as a sense of wonder and discovery go. It is especially good when the Guardians attempt a sabotage of the Second Chance during it’s construction in what has to be one of the stand out passages in terms of pure all out action. If you like detective fiction, then the Paula Myo subplot will suit you to the ground. Seeing a character as defined as Paula conducting an investigation and showing how resourceful she is brings a smile to your face. Ozzie and his self-imposed mission along the Silfen paths from planet to planet is also a good example of fine storytelling of adventure and exploration. I can only imagine what sort of stories could come out of the Silfen paths if Peter so wished.
What really works in Pandora’s Star is the way that Peter has built a universe from scratch and made almost every aspect believable. There is the sort of depth here that you don’t normally find in a single book, but even though there are the occasional info-dumping passages it really doesn’t feel that they detract from the story, they simply adds to the experience. Few books have managed to have this affect on me and this book can come heartily recommended with very few complaints. An almost perfect balance between world building and storytelling makes this a must read for any fan of the genre.