Saturday, 27 April 2013

Pandora's Star by Peter F Hamilton

I should have known...I try and start F Hamilton's Commonwealth saga from the start, only to find out there's yet another book set hundreds of years earlier called Misspent Youth.  At least unlike the Void trilogy I could mostly figure out what was going on, or perhaps that's just getting to know the universe better.  Even if it has been ass-backwards.

There's a great opening scene - the first manned mission to Mars.  They land with suitable pomp and circumstance, only to be greeted by Nigel Sheldon and Ozzie Isaacs., who've just mastered wormhole technology.  In the later books set thousands of years later these two crop up again and they've effectively become gods, so it's nice to see how it all starts.  Well, kind of...

The main bulk of the book is set some time after this - dozens of planets at least have been colonised and there's been some contact with alien life.  The most important seem to be the Silfen, who are basically fairies.  There are silfen paths which you can walk along and get from one world to another.  Nobody knows how and the Silfen don't make a lot of sense.  Great use of folklore in a science fiction setting, and it works well.

This book really benefits from a strong, forward driven plot.  A new kind of spaceship (using wormhole technology) is sent to a star which an astronomer's found has been contained by a Dyson Sphere in an instant.  How and why are the big questions.  In the other plotline, there's a bunch of terrorists who think an alien entity called the Starflyer has been infiltrating human society, and they think this alien's the driving force behind the mission.  You've also got superspacedetective Paula Myo (also from The Demon Trap) investigating all this.  There are plenty more strands of course, but it felt a little easier to digest than in the Void books.

It's also got the best aspects of F Hamilton's books - great action scenes, interesting female characters and a real feel for how societies work in the future.  If you want a book to start with from this guy, though, I'd recommend The Great North Road.  It's got a lot of the same ideas as the Commonwealth books - wormholes, longevity etc - but in a more manageable form.  This is pretty damn good though - looking forward to the follow up Judas Unchained.

Once again, I had planned to take an SF comfort break, but bad news from both Iain Banks and Iain M Banks has compelled me to start reading what will now be the last Culture book.  Where's that singularity when you need it?


Stephen Mark Richards said...

I thought ass-backwards was the standard way of things and ass-forwards was the wrong way around. Although, perhaps I just don't know the universe as well as you do. Anyway, it is worth checking your facts just in-case.

Anonymous said...

Really? In my experience donkeys, asses, horses, zebras and ponies all tend towards a generally forward-directed motion. Therefore "ass-backwards" does seem to express an odd way of going about things. An Odber way of going about things even.

Now if he'd written "arse backwards" you might have the beginnigs of a point...