I finished Peter F. Hamilton’s Pandora’s Star last night, and I guess the good news is that it’s the sort of book that would make me stay up way past my usual bed time in order to finish it. The only bad news of sorts might be for anyone who has not yet made the jump to e-books, as in paper form it’s about 1000 pages — the kind of thing that can give you hand/wrist cramps if you’re not careful. I also found it to be an almost refreshing alternative to a lot of current science fiction which seems to center around a relatively near future dystopias and/or virtual reality becoming more important than, umm…, real reality. Instead, Pandora’s Star supposes that some critical scientific and technological advances (in particular the ability to travel across interstellar space via generated worm-holes) have led to a relatively benign human society, perhaps somewhat matured by the fact that people are able to live for hundreds of years and thus developing a different perspective on life and assorted social issues.
That’s not to say that virtual reality does not play a part, nor that there aren’t societal problems — one of the main characters is a “serious crimes” detective, after all. Overall, however, there is a sense of not needing to fear the future; though like today we’ll still need to watch out for the rich and powerful (which generally go hand in hand) trying to become richer and more powerful at the expense of others. And, as any good sci-fi story of this sort demonstrates, we’ll need to look out for alien races who can’t just get along; not necessarily because they’re evil, per se, but because they may have evolved in a way where what we consider to be “right” makes no sense to them. In this sense Pandora’s Star harkened back to the so-called golden era of science fiction when many of its practitioners looked to the future with anticipation rather than with trepidation.
My only real complaints are that I found some of the underlying scientific and technological ideas to be more on the convenient side (for storytelling) than on the side of what I suspect is more realistic (the aforementioned wormhole generators, for one), and the ending was a bit of a disappointment for me, as it ended on a literal cliffhanger. Even though I knew there was a sequel (Judas Unchained), after reading a thousand pages, I want some sort of ending with a certain sense of resolution, even if I realize it’s not the end of the story. So be warned: if you read this book, you’re likely going to have to read at least another 1000 pages. (In fact, there are more books in the series, but my understanding is that the second book does conclude the story started in the frist, so you could comfortably stop there — or at least take a hiatus before coming back to the series later.)