- Author: Peter F. Hamilton
- Title: Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained
- ISBN: Pandora's Star (2004) 0-330-49331-0
- ISBN: Judas Unchained (2005) 0-330-49353-1
I don't think I need to remind anyone out there in readerland that I am a huge fan of space opera. In both senses. I've worked my way through some of the work off each of the current big names in the field, and I have stated on numerous occasions that Al Reynolds and Paul McAuley are brilliant megaminds who need to be chained to a typewriter and force worked, because it is the only way we can guarantee maximum literary output before they die.
For some reason, though, I have never read a Peter Hamilton. I've read a few short stories in the various Years Best series that I like (Gardner Dozois for bulk, David Hartwell and Kathryn Kramer for taste, Johnathan Strahan for the Australian perspective...) and I have always enjoyed his stories. There was this one about a fleet ship which was on an eternal mission outward, dumping equipment to build CST gateways (more on this in uno momento) that they personally will never benefit from or use due to time dilation effect, relativity and other physics based phenomena. It was very cool. I wouldn't mind being one of the crew, that's for sure. Noble sacrifice plus spaceship to eternity equals well chuffed me.
I think the main reason for never having read a Hamilton novel is the size. I don't know if you have ever seen one, but they are hefty. Pandoras Star comes in a over 900 pages, and Judas Unchained is over 1000! JU Had to be split into two volumes for publication in the USA. For perspective, the large Years Best Science Fiction volumes with 22 or so stories are usually 700 or so. And they are some of the biggest books I own. So while I have no problem with reading the volume of text involved, I struggle with making that big a time commitment to a single story.
The thing is, I generally prefer to read short fiction (novellas and such.) There are a few reasons for this, but largely it is because the waffle is mostly nonexistant in short fiction. The editing is tighter, the plot advances as a rapid pace and there is no opportunity for boredom to ruin the story. When editors like Gardner Dozois, Ellen Datlow, Fred Pohl and others from the magazine trade get a hold of waffley fiction, they shake like hell until all the clingy shit is gone, then return it for two more rewrites, and the result is always great, usually brilliant, and occasionally fucking earth shattering.
There are quite a few writers who I enjoy immensely at (modern) novel length, for example Alastair Reynolds, Paul McAuley, CJ Cherryh and Kage Baker. And I really like the 250 pagers that used to be the average length of a novel, before this modern super tome thing happened, although many (but not all, notably Fred Pohl, Cyril Kornbluth, M. John Harrison, the Cyberpunks etc) of them have dated pretty badly.
I finally grabbed a copy of Pandora's Star and got started. I had no real idea what the plot was, just that it was roughly New Space Opera-ish. It turned out to be one of the better choices I have made in my life. Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained essentially make up one big, 2 volume, 1900 odd page novel. And every single word of both volumes is justified, necessary and fricken brilliant.
There may be some kind of spoiler type activity after the jumplink. While I try very hard to not give away any actual plot developments or twists, I will be discussing some of the characters, and I will give quite a bit of detail on the prologue, which sets the tone of this novel set beautifully. It won't actually spoil the book for you, but if you don't want to read it, don't click on the link.