Peter F. Hamilton's JUDAS UNCHAINED
Book review by Dennis D. McDonald
April 24, 2006
I’m finished! And, boy, am I glad!
Many times I wanted to stop reading, but I couldn’t find itself in my mind to “quit.”
Especially since nothing really new started to happen till page 420 or so. Up till then we had the same old events and characters being moved around the galaxy. True, the imagination of Hamilton is astonishing and inventive; I just wish he had cut about half of this book out — or that his editor had been more aggressive.
It was an exhausting read. Many was the time I wished I’d had an electronic version of this book with a hyperlinked characters and events database I could refer to while reading. True, there is a list of characters in the book but this is of little use as it is neither complete nor interactive.
The bottom line for me was:
- Wildly creative and inventive — in parts.
- Too long.
- Too many irrelevant, distasteful and/or unsympathetic characters.
- Uninspiring writing style.
April 9, 2006
I’m on page 268 of this 827 page novel. I loved the author’s Pandora’s Star but this is proving to be a real slog and I’m ambivalent about proceeding. Here’s why:
- The first 200 pages or so are a re-hash of themes and concepts introduced in the first novel. What was fresh and revelatory then is now old hat.
- I don’t like any of the characters. It’s as if the author had decided, “Let’s create a far future society and populate it with every selfish, mean-spirited, crude, and self absorbed character trait we can think of, and surround them with advanced technology.” Ok, I get the point; humans suck. I’m really looking forward to 800+ pages of this!
- We have to wait at least 125 pages for the most interesting concept introduced in Pandora’s Star to re-enter the stage: the alien culture that is threatening to cut the heart out of the human race and stomp on it. (See Point Number 2; why should I care?)
- In the intervening time after reading Pandora’s Star I’ve read examples of some of the best English language fictional prose ever created — Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series (some reviews are here and here.) Reading O’Brian’s prose is a tribute to the glories of the English language. Reading Hamilton’s prose is like reading, well, the English language reduced to bare-bones expository writing. One sings, the other is a hoarse monotone.
That said, will I finish the book? I don’t know yet. Despite the above negativity, I am in awe of Hamilton’s imagination. I just hope he didn’t shoot the wad in Pandora’s Star and had nothing left over for Judas Unchained. We’ll see.