Times flies! I did not realize how long it had been since my last post so I thought I would make some updates this weekend. On on the docket today is a review of Peter F. Hamilton’s two-part SciFi series: Pandora Star and Judas Unchained.
If there is anything you should know about me, it is that I love Science Fiction. There are probably several reasons why I like it. Of course, the thematic elements usually include a good deal of science in the use of advanced, but scientifically plausible inventions as well as strange, but also plausible, phenomena. Another aspect of fiction that I love, particularly with SciFi, is the grand imagination being evoked by the writer. Whether that be Jules Verne, Arthur C. Clarke, or Phillip K. Dick, the writer is taking the reader to another world where strange and interesting things are happening.
Peter F. Hamilton’s Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained has these qualities in spades. The setting is a few hundred years in the future after humankind has developed wormhole technology and has started colonizing a portion of the galaxy. Since the the wormhole technology is limited with energy input, the result is that humanity can only take small leaps and not long strides. As a result, humanity has undergone a phased expansion across the galaxy. Humans have encountered a few alien species during their expansion but they are not as active in human affairs as might be expected. The Silfen, an enigmatic group of elf-like aliens, are probably the most interesting of those encountered in the books. They express themselves in very poetic, almost metaphorical ways, which lead many humans to think they are speaking nonsense. The Silfen do not exhibit any higher technological industry like the humans do but are instead almost barbaric in nature in their rituals and lack of empathy.
Another scientific development — besides wormholes — is that death is no longer inevitable. In fact, mostly everyone can undergo rejuvenation and live forever. It does, however, cost a pretty penny and most (except for the super wealthy) need to mortgage everything to undergo rejuvenation leaving them enslaved in debt in perpetuity. The net result is that there are grand families, dynasties, and super-massive intersolar corporations that run the show. The loose federation between planets also gives rise to very unique and disparate economies, industries, and cultures.
The setting reminds me of a mix of feudal Europe and Renaissance Italy and is one of the more interesting components of the Hamilton’s books. I think he knew he had created something special as he went on to write several other books in the same universe.
The reader is tossed into this world and made familiar with many colorful and interesting characters. I cannot say that the characters are that psychologically complex compared to the characters from George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, but they do run the full gamut of personality types: the idealist rebels, womanizing trillionaire geniuses, uncompromising investigators, and calculating and strategic-minded financial gurus, and self-absorbed real-estate tycoons.
The main plot is one of its best selling points. An astronomer observes a very strange event: the enclosure of an entire solar system by some sort of barrier. They know its a barrier and not something else because its still
emitting the heat of the star enclosed within. The fact that this object could actually exist indicates the existence of a vastly-more intelligent race than humankind. However, it begs the question: why? Why did this hyper-intelligent species enclose this star? To protect themselves? To capture something inside? That is the ultimate question that drive the first book with a stunning answer leading into the second book.
Should you read this two-part series? I would recommend it for avid SciFi fans. If not, I might recommend it for someone who wants a more recent space opera to read (other than classics such as Asimov’s Foundation series or Herbert’s Dune). Hamilton does an amazing job of building an intricate and strange future, full of intrigue and adventure.