Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The year is 2380. The Intersolar Commonwealth, a sphere of stars some four hundred light-years in diameter, contains more than six hundred worlds, interconnected by a web of transport "tunnels" known as wormholes. At the farthest edge of the Commonwealth, astronomer Dudley Bose observes the impossible: Over one thousand light-years away, a star... vanishes. It does not go supernova. It does not collapse into a black hole. It simply disappears. Since the location is too distant to reach by wormhole, a faster-than-light starship, the Second Chance, is dispatched to learn what has occurred and whether it represents a threat. In command is Wilson Kime, a five-time rejuvenated ex-NASA pilot whose glory days are centuries behind him.
Opposed to the mission are the Guardians of Selfhood, a cult that believes the human race is being manipulated by an alien entity they call the Starflyer. Bradley Johansson, leader of the Guardians, warns of sabotage, fearing the Starflyer means to use the starship's mission for its own ends.
Pursued by a Commonwealth special agent convinced the Guardians are crazy but dangerous, Johansson flees. But the danger is not averted. Aboard the Second Chance, Kime wonders if his crew has been infiltrated. Soon enough, he will have other worries. A thousand light-years away, something truly incredible is waiting: a deadly discovery whose unleashing will threaten to destroy the Commonwealth... and humanity itself. Could it be that Johansson was right?
Simply put, this book, together with Judas Unchained with which it actually forms one rather large book, is space opera at it's best. In this book we are introduced to PFH's Commonwealth Universe which you will get to know well if you follow on and read more of his later work like the Void Trilogy.
Right from the beginning we're drawn into a huge universe of colony planets and alien civilizations all linked together by an incredible network of wormholes. The world building is about as good as it gets and the characters are superb. This storytelling really is next-level.
Essentially we end up with a massive galaxy-spanning conflict that will take your breath away. The scale is so vast, just what you'd expect from PFH and space opera in general. This storyline would be the most epic SF movie if it were ever made.
Along with the high-tech goodies like anti-gravity and wormhole generators there are the mystical and almost fantasy elements of the Silfen and their mysterious 'paths' that link together various points in the universe. I found this part utterly fascinating.
When things are reaching fever pitch, the book ends abruptly (but with a really cool cliff-hanger) and leaves you scrambling for Judas Unchained which picks right up where this book leaves off. Have it handy when you're close to finishing Pandora's Star because you will be wanting to keep going with the story.
One of my all-time favorite story segments from anything I've ever read comes from this book, where Justine Burnelli goes 'hypergliding' (massively awesome) over huge mountains on Far Away and eventually ends up meeting Kazimir. The author makes you feel like you're right in the cockpit for this wild ride. I've re-read this passage a number of times.
Read this and if you like large, epic and gritty plots with lots of cool tech, weird and wonderful aliens and really 'real' characters, you will not be disappointed. As you can probably tell I'm a huge fan. I think you might be just about to find out why. I hope that you enjoy the journey.
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