Pandora’s Star

Since I haven’t made much headway on the backlog of titles to be reviewed, the Peter F. Hamilton series continues.

Raw Feed (2005): Pandora’s Star, Peter F. Hamilton, 2004.Pandora's Star

As with his Night’s Dawn trilogy and Fallen Dragon, Hamilton’s exhibits his characteristic strengths of worldbuilding — the technology, politics, science, topography, geography, and most especially (and rarely — and least in a credible sense — for sf writers) the economics of his worlds.

In a certain sense this is a fond, sf version of the British Empire in the Belle Époque era, a Commonwealth of worlds literally bound together by trains that travel through wormholes, the only fly in the ointment being (as with troubles in the Balkans pre-World War One) some terrorists who are convinced that the government has been infiltrated by a vast alien conspiracy.  This rather utopian world is then suddenly propelled into a war with aliens.

Despite the absence of a schism in the human ranks as represented by the Adamists and Edenists in the Night’s Dawn trilogy, the flavor of the Interstellar Commonwealth is quite similar to the Confederation. The world of both features mysterious aliens and alien ruins.  In Night’s Dawn it was the Kulu and their ruins. Here it is High Angel and the mysterious, rather moronic seeming Silfen.

The longevity of the humans — people put aside money for their physical regenerations like we put aside money for retirements and “first lifers” are regarded sexually, psychologically, and socially as something special by those who have lived long enough to undergo rejuvenation therapy — is reminiscent of the longed lived characters in Hamilton’s stand alone novella “Watching Trees Grow“. (Those whose physical bodies are actually destroyed and who find their edited and recorded memories loaded into cloned bodies have a traumatic time of it.)

The novel is not only reminiscent of early Hamilton works, but in several points seemed a takeoff of other sf works.

The ice whales Ozzie finds on the world of the Ice Citadel seemed a sort of mirror image of the sandworms in Frank Herbert’s Dune. The fast evolving, very smart and adaptive (and ecologically destructive) Primes breaking out of their world — and gaining the knowledge of interstellar travel — is quite reminiscent of the human fears about the Moties in Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye and The Gripping Hand. The conspiratorial linking and media manipulation practiced by the software version of Mellanie’s great-great-grandfather (along with Sheldon and Ozzie, one of the inventor’s of wormhole technology), implanted in Mellanie reminded me of Algis Budry’s Michealmas.

I particularly liked the ongoing plot, with it espionage/crime aspects that Hamilton does so well. Socialist and terrorist for hire Adam (who still resents the economic disparities in the Commonwealth’s population — he refuses to see the Commonwealth as good though its the most prosperous human society ever created) and Bradley, ex-curator of the alien Starflyer ship, are convinced a vast alien conspiracy is rotting away at the Commonwealth. And, at least in this first half of the story, there’s evidence he may be right.

I wonder if Hamilton, still smarting at the silly criticism about making a socialist government the bad guys in his first works, the Greg Mandel series, decided to create a socialist hero.  Though, if so,  he’s a peculiar hero — he’s definitely guilty of killing women and children and doesn’t try to deny it.


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