Peter F. Hamilton's PANDORA'S STAR
Book review by Dennis D. McDonald
I love big sprawling space operas. PANDORA’S STAR is a big sprawling space opera, all 800 pages or so of it. It combines alien contact, faster than light travel, wormhole-based instant-travel economies, detective fiction, immortality, political shenanigans, deft references to SF writers of yore (“Niven rings”), truly weird alien cultures, environmentalism, vast epic battles in space, force fields, death and destruction, artificial intelligence, sex, media stars — did I leave anything out?
Plus it ends on a cliffhanger with a promise of a second novel. In other words, by the end of this book, Nothing Is Resolved. Except that we now know that what we thought originally about the distant star that started it all may not have been true after all.
I have only two complaints. As with some of the author’s previous books, there are no really sympathetic characters here. Even those who might arguably be thought of as the “most approachable” of the myriad characters — Ozzie and Paula — have major personality issues.
I still resent somewhat reading novels about people I’d prefer not having over for dinner with my family, no matter how wondrous and fascinating the events are that surround them.
And the events that surround them are wondrous and fascinating. Hamilton tosses out ideas and intertwines them with his story with about as much skill as any writer I’ve ever read, SF or non-SF.
But that leads me to my second cavil. The book is probably about twice as long as it needs to be in order to communicate both the story and the characters. I found myself resenting the writer’s style, just as I sometimes resent reading Dickens. Passages of wild, shining creativity and originality are frequently weighed down by bloated, seemingly irrelevant detail. I found myself skimming as I progressed through the book. Also, some of the plot twists and characters just seem wildly contrived at times; this takes away from the overall realistic view that so much encrusted detail sometimes provides.
Overall, though, I’m looking forward very much to Volume 2, due out in 2006. If Hamilton can keep up the pace, there will be many more surprises in store. I just wish he had a more aggressive editor.