Peter F. Hamilton – Pandora’s Star

In a Peter F. Hamilton novel of this size, nothing is going to happen for the first two hundred pages, so I was happy enough to write them off as expected.

By page 500 I was thinking that there were way too many characters and parallel stories going on, and that the book could have used some serious editing. The plot lines were interesting, but every time one would threaten to really come alive, Hamilton would switch to someplace dull instead, and spend time warming up another thread.

By page 700, I was having serious doubts about him being able to wrap everything up neatly by the end of the book, and I had a quick glimpse at the last page. To my horror, the last sentences, printed in bold, were “The End of Pandora’s Star. The Commonwealth Saga will be concluded in Judas Unchained“.

Well bugger me sideways with a rusty pitchfork, it’s a two-parter. A quick check on Amazon showed that the second part isn’t due out until October. Does the cover blurb give any indication that this is only the first volume of a set? Does it heck.

I got pissed off by 900-page doorstops in 2003, and I still haven’t recovered. I only started Pandora’s Star because I generally like Hamilton’s stuff, and I was looking forward to immersing myself in this one for a while. Had I known that even after spending three weeks on it, I still wouldn’t know how it ends for another six months, I wouldn’t even have started it.

25 thoughts on “Peter F. Hamilton – Pandora’s Star

  1. Jules

    I tend to agree. I haven’t managed to finish Pandora’s star. Personally I enjoyed Hamilton’s early work and Fallen Dragon but his other stuff has all sufferred from being too long and involved without the story or characters to redeem it.

  2. george bright

    i cant believe you gave this halk marks, especially after foolishly skipping the intro so you didnt know who anyone was or hao they felt about anyone else. i am sure that if you started watching a film halfway through you would give it below half marks every time.

  3. James

    I’ve been reading SF for 40 years, and I haven’t read anything in decades that I thought was as interesting as this one. Yes it was long, but the world he envisions is not only far-fetched but also quite possible. This is a remarkable book, and I can’t wait for the sequel.

  4. Kelvin

    I am about halfway through the book and was ticked off to see that this book is part one…of 10? Who knows?? Peter Hamilton tends to get bogged down into too much of detail and subplots upon subplots. Now I have to wait until October

  5. Sean Girling

    Ah, but I love a long book. I enjoy immersing myself in Hamiltons universes, and damned if I want just a weekend break there, it has to be a nice two week jaunt. Well, actually, it only took a week, but you know what I mean. Long books are like long movies, either badly done in need of trimming, or expertly woven so you don’t notice.

    And Hamilton is so brilliant at weaving multiple characters stories together such that you really care. Hardly feel that from many books these days sadly. Thank god for Peter and his quirky sense of humour.

    Sean Girling

  6. Matt

    Read this in about two weeks, yes its a slow starter, and planty of charecters. It does start to knit togeteher a 1/3 of the way through. Maybe I gave this some time after the shock of reading Iain M Bank’ Excession – thats not a book to nod off to! By the end of Pandora’s star, I had a real taste for the wormhole-linked commonwealth, Ozzies mystical silfen adventures and the starflyer conspiricy. Looking forward to round 2!

  7. Clive

    Anyone who can’t pull the sub-plots together and who ‘writes off’ the first 200 pages has an attention span problem.
    I’m 2/3rds of the way through and thoroughly enjoying how it’s all fitting together.
    I can hardly put it down…great stuff!

  8. Bart

    Peter F. Hamilton books have the ability of putting the reader in a universe/story that feels real, that you feel connected too. That is something i really appreciate in his style of writing. My native tongue is dutch but I refuse to read the translated books, you have to read books in their original language (can be a problem if it is a japanese book 😉 ).
    So can’t wait to read the second book…

    I’ve got the same feeling with books from I. Asimov (the foundation series, etc. ) and from Raymond E. Feist (the riftwar Saga, ect.).


  9. Greg G

    I truly enjoy a long convoluted story. I love the wild ideas Wormholes, body death and not so benevolent aliens. I like Hamiltons imagination. Had I known it was a 2 parter I would have waited until I had both parts before starting. While reading Pandora’s Star the closer I got to the 900th page the more I thought the end would fizzle with a non-ending.

  10. David T

    i truly loved pandoras star it was what got me started on all his other books but i was annoyed that it was a two parter and i loved the wormholes and when the planets got nuked it was a good way that peter done the fighting chapters!

  11. Murray

    This book is great, I love long long sagas, so it suited me down to my toes, I was really pleased when i saw there’s a second part, because I didn’t see any way he could have wrapped up the story in the 50 pages i had left to read.
    Now I’m hanging out for the second one.

  12. Monkeyboy

    Gaaah ! I hate not knowing if a book is a 2 parter. Would a foot note on the cover be too much to ask? Loved the story, appreciated the increased editing his work has received ( Night’s Dawn series is responsible for much deforestation) and was primed for a big pay off ending…… and then saw the last line. Bugger.

  13. enloop

    Epic it isn’t. Long and boring it is.

    I just tossed it aside at page 267. Nothing is happening. The characters are cartoonish one-dimensional place holders. I’m not willing to invest the amount of time it takes to slog through hundreds of pages before an author decides to start telling a story.

    Epic isn’t about length. If it was, the phone book would be epic.

  14. Peter Stenlake

    I’m just nearing the end of Pandora’s Star and I think it said on the fronticepiece that it was a two parter. I do see what you mean about the multiplicity of plots and characters diluting the tension and cohrency of the tale and PFH does tend to digree into the background of his planets a lot, but I’m also gripped by the story and its shock twists. Can’t wait for the 2nd part (and after polishing off the million or so words of the Night’s Dawn, the Commonwealth Sage doesn’t hold any terrors in ters of length.

  15. Jay S.

    Having read the Night’s Dawn trilogy about six months ago, I picked up Pandora’s Star already aware of Hamilton’s strengths AND weaknesses. This book exceeded my expectations, and I’m very much looking forward to the conclusion. ( My Del Ray U.S. paperback edition informs me the next volume will be titled “Judas Unleashed” )

    Hamilton has once again created a universe where events once set in motion, seem to progress with an inertia all their own. I have never before found an author so adept or consistant at allowing the characters to make decisions with the knowledge they have at hand, rather than use his omniscient view to help them make the “right” decision. I also very much enjoy the in-depth exploration of the technologies available to the characters, both the societal changes in general, and the impact on individuals in their daily lives.

    Make no mistake though, this is a completely different universe than the one in Night’s Dawn, with it’s own unique set of characters and technologies. The pacing is also different. For me at least, Night’s Dawn seemed to race ahead through the first half of Reality Disfunction, then slow to a crawl for thousands of pages. Pandora’s Star on the other hand may start at a modest pace, but it builds tempo at a steady rate so that by the end, events are blazing past like meteors.

    My complaints are few and modest. First, given the size of the Commonwealth and it’s economy, (not to mention it’s advanced automation,) the cost of the naval buildup described should be too small to notice. Indeed, the Big 15 alone should be capable of supporting multiple shipyards each, and the Commenwealth as a whole should be capable of cranking out hundreds of ships a day. Second, given that humans had hundreds of years of experience with gate technology, it seems to me that they should have anticipated all the tactics used by the Primes, and then some. We will no doubt see new weapons and tactics introduced in the conclusion, but here are two I’d like to see:
    1) Use wormholes to rip out chunks of enemy ships.
    2) Put two gates back to back. Open one near the enemy, and the other inside the core of a star…
    This is Off Topic, but I’d like to express my deepest sympathies to the people of London, regarding the events of 7/7. A lot of us Yanks think of England like our dear old dad. We are quite confident in England’s ability to take care of itself, but we are MOST upset that some pathetic coward has felt it nessasary to try and injure you in this way.

  16. Hmmm

    Not up to the same standard as the nights dawn trilogy. That was long too, but after a few hundred pages of slow setup that got to the point where the **** hit the fan and didn’t stop for 2 1/2 thousand pages of brilliance. This one keeps getting bogged down pointless description. Maybe it doesn’t help that I keep wanting all the political stuff (complete with desciptions of every detail of the meeting place) to be replace with ‘consensus decided….’

  17. Sci-fi junky

    I enjoyed ‘Pandora’s Star’ very much. While the beginning of the book started off quite slowly it soon involves you in the plot and makes for an enthralling read.
    It is a shame that the second installment is taking such a long time to be released.
    Well done Peter F. Hamilton on another fantastic book.

  18. Wivels

    I can’t believe the uproar over this book being a two-parter. Having fallen into the trap with the Nights Dawn trilogy, I thoroughly checked this book out before buying it and found it on the title page: “Part one of the Commonwealth saga”. Personally, I like all the detail, although I did start to skim some of the descriptions as the action kicked in. I do wish that I had taken notes and drawn up a few charts as I went along to make it easier to keep track. I just hope it doesn’t have the same fairy godmother ending that the Nights Dawn series had.

  19. Mike E

    Too long and too many sub-plots? Yes, I agree to an extent. I am halfway through re-reading it after a couple of month’s gap, and I am skipping all the Ozzie/Silfen stuff – it’s just too long. But if you are writing something on this epic scale, the idea of lots of disparate threads that get pulled together as the book progresses seems good to me. And PFH’s world is so detailed and well thought out – as well as being fascinating and exciting – that I can forgive some of the admittedly slightly boring bits. And I’m not worried by the serial nature of the story – I’m just looking forward to the second part. After waiting for at least twenty years for some good hard SF, I’m not going to complain because I dont get my fix all at once.

  20. Fernando

    This was my first P. Hamilton book and first SF hardcore for quite a while. I gave it thumbs up! I did like very much the concepts and the characters were well developed. He does tend to go for a lot of subplots but prepare yourself to the rollercoater ride of the final 50 or so pages. I recommend it to a SF fan with no hesitation.

  21. James

    Certainly, it was an investment of time. But I dont
    resent it. Quite the contrary. An extraordinary read.

    The only part I lost patience with, and skipped,
    was the political meeting. The plot is intricate,
    yes it is complex, and it engaged me thoroughly.

    Unexpected twists to the story, wonderful sprinkles
    of humour, and several centuries hence it retains
    links and (mis)interpretations of the present that
    most will enjoy. Stretched Skoda indeed. What a
    mental image THAT conjured up. Nice contrast.

    Cant wait for the next one. Three solid days time
    out to read it, dont regret a minute of it.

    If EE Doc Smith had attempted to do the entire
    Lensman saga in two books…. It would be like this.
    Harder still to take, probably, with even more
    reader complaints.

    Maybe folks will appreciate this work more when
    rejuv is around. Damn first lifers. All you lot
    want is instant gratification… ( Bring it on! )

  22. Rab

    Its long, but at no point did have felt it drag. Certainly not as much as the Nights Dawn did at times, which I also rate highly… though I wasnt too happy with the end.

    I dont see what the problem with long buildups is- it gives you a much greater picture of the society thats about to grind to a halt/be blown to atoms, and when the action really starts, its impossible not to burn through the pages.

    I love it. I hope the ending is more satisfying than the Nights dawn, but from what I’ve read (still bout 100 pages to go. Should finish it tonight, it gets two thumbs up from me. Time well spent.

  23. Brian

    I put this book down for the count on page 442. I can’t go on. It is simply awful.
    The book is page after page after page after page of nothing but detailed descriptions of people, places and things that have absolutely nothing to do with anything at all. A Lands’ End catalog has a better plot and more interesting characters.
    If you buy this book be sure to save your receipt. It is defective. Take it back and get yourself a book that works.

  24. Matthew Holt

    very good book, a little tipsy with all the side stories but overal i couldent put it down when i started reading it. took me a month to read the whole book, cant read all day in the army. cant wait to get my hands on the 2nd book.

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