Pandora’s Star, a book that pulls you inside

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Peter F. Hamilton is the number one science-fiction writer in the United Kingdom, any sci-fi fans should recognize his name whether they have read his books or not. Pandora’s Star was the first Hamilton book I have read, all 988 pages, taking into account the font size and line spacing, it is so far the longest I’ve read.

The year is 2380. The Intersolar Commonwealth, a sphere of stars, 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 . . . disappears. Since the location is too distant to reach by wormhole, the Second Chance, a faster-than-light starship commanded by Wilson Kime, a five-times-rejuvenated ex-NASA pilot, is dispatched to learn what has occurred and whether it represents a threat.

Opposed to the mission are the Guardians of Selfhood, led by Bradley Johansson. Shortly after the journey begins, Kime wonders if the crew of the Second Chance has been infiltrated. But soon enough he will have other worries. Halfwy across the galaxy, something truly incredible is waiting: a deadly discovery whose unleashing will threaten to destroy the Commonwealth . . . and humanity itself.

Pandora’s Star is the second book, set in the Commonwealth Universe but the first in the Commonwealth Saga. Three hundred and seventy years from now, we will be using wormholes as a way to travel between worlds, reaching far into the Milky Way galaxy, with a twist, the use of trains.

In this future, humanity is still using paper money, capitalism is the main form of all economies in the Commonwealth. And that only means one thing: humanity hasn’t changed at all. There is still greed, political maneuvers, alliances, deception, crime, you name it. Each aspect of our society today, each aspect of our humanity, Peter Hamilton explored in this book.

There are many characters dispersed across the vast territory of the Commonwealth. As Hamilton introduces us to each – minor and major characters – he beautifully details the world the characters are breathing, living, and walking. He takes through to the lives of each character, their job in this futuristic world and what they’re position is in this galactic human society, in a non-boring way.

I admit, there were books I’ve read where I only scanned some of the paragraphs but in Pandora’s Star, I read every word, every letter of it. Hamilton did a great job in capturing the eyes of our imagination. He made sure that we will see his world not from his eyes but from the eyes of the characters.

There were also moral, ethical, psychological, religious, and social issues that I think should have been explored. For example the idea of re-life. In this world, if one dies, they die just of “body”. If their memory insert is still intact, it will be retrieved and placed in a new body. Or if not, the most recent back-up from a secure memory bank will be used.

The new body is of the same DNA composition as his original (or previous if the person died again and again). In body, he is still the same person. In memory, he is still the exact person. But is he really? That is the question.

I am not coming from the point-of-view of someone who believes in a soul and a spirit. I am coming from the perspective of being the one being re-lifed. Our conciousness. The you now is you. If you are re-lifed, can you still say that your new self is still you? Or putting in another way, re-life is a cloning process. If you turned out not dead after all and you meet your re-life self, can you really say that “you is you“? Maybe in the next book Judas Unchained, this issue will be explored deeper especially how Pandora’s Star ended in an invasion.

An invasion by another lifeform that sees itself as the only one who should be living in the galaxy. A malevolent species that says, “By existing, other life threatens me. Only when I become total will I secure my immortality”. A mind (or group of minds) that sees coexistence as “a contradiction in terms” because “There is only one universe, it can contain only one life” (p941). An alien civilization similar to the thinking and social structure of StarCraft‘s Zerg race.

I applaud Hamilton in his way of building up the invasion. Because he introduced a lot of characters and let us lived with each as if we were them, the invasion gave an intense feeling as by this time we were already in their world. It also justifies the length of the book – 988 pages, font size 11.5, with a .8 line-spacing and why you should not skip anything.

Combine his method of thoroughly describing the world around, I can truly say that I was there during the invasion. The 800 pages or so building up the characters ended up being a built-up of the world and the invasion. It simply pulled me in. It immersed me. I was really there with them.

No other book brought this level of immersion to me. Hamilton disproved me that immersion is only possible with role-playing games – no, it is possible in books as well. First book and I am now a Hamilton fan. Different characters across 600 planets with independent stories all weaving together at the end. Peter Hamilton is indeed the best in Epic Space Operas.

I give it a score of 13 out of 10, and that is not a typo. Buy it, read it, highly recommended.

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