Book review: Pandora’s Star

Book cover for Pandora's Star by Peter Hamilton

Projecting technology ten years into the future is a challenging task. Just look back over the last 10 years. The advances in phones, tablets, electric vehicles, home networking, machine learning, and medicine have been amazing. As a wise person once told me, we over estimate how technology will advance over the next year, but we under estimate the advances 10 years in the future.

So imagine projecting technology advances hundreds of years into the future. Impossible, you say? Well, Peter Hamilton takes a shot at in Pandora’s Star, the first book of the Commonwealth Saga.

Pandora’s Star is set in the year 2380. The human race has developed wormhole technology that has allowed it to spread across the galaxy. New planets have been terraformed and colonized. Alien species have been discovered and be-friended. Space travel between planets happens instantaneously via trains and buses that travel through manufactured wormholes. Humans can rejuvenate to stay perpetually young and are equipped with memory inserts that permit cloning of one’s self into a new body in cases of untimely death. One’s skin can be fitted with organic tattoos that allow interaction with computers and sentient machines.

With the spread of civilization, advances in technology, and abundance of wealth, humans enjoy an unprecedented time of peace and prosperity until an unlikely discovery is made. When two start simultaneously disappear, humans rush to investigate, in the process unleashing a chain of events that not only threaten the peace and future of the Commonwealth, but the human race as a whole.

In his book, Hamilton describes the technologies and planetary environments in intricate detail. There are lots of characters introduced throughout the book, and Hamilton takes the time to thoroughly develop each of them. Given the number of characters, there are numerous story lines happening at once. In a nutshell, it’s your classic Space Opera book.

While I really enjoyed his exploration of future technological advances and their implications, I found the book tough to read. It’s not the book or the material. The book is very well written and holds together amazingly well. It’s just that space operas aren’t my thing. It reminded me of The Expanse, which is another well written space opera series, but it just didn’t do it for me.

So while I wouldn’t recommend Pandora’s Star, it all depends on what you like. If you enjoy well thought out, thought provoking science fiction written in the style of a detailed space opera with lots of characters and multiple story lines, then Pandora’s Star will be right up your alley. If you prefer faster-paced action-packed novels like I do, then you may find the book rather challenging. I guess that’s the beauty of a genre like science fiction. It’s deep enough that there’s plenty of material so you can pick out the styles of books that suit you best.