Pandora's Star

Pandora's Star

4.4 135
by Peter F. Hamilton

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Critics have compared the engrossing space operas of Peter F. Hamilton to the classic sagas of such sf giants as Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert. But Hamilton’s bestselling fiction—powered by a fearless imagination and world-class storytelling skills—has also earned him comparison to Tolstoy and Dickens. Hugely ambitious, wildly entertaining, …  See more details below


Critics have compared the engrossing space operas of Peter F. Hamilton to the classic sagas of such sf giants as Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert. But Hamilton’s bestselling fiction—powered by a fearless imagination and world-class storytelling skills—has also earned him comparison to Tolstoy and Dickens. Hugely ambitious, wildly entertaining, philosophically stimulating: the novels of Peter F. Hamilton will change the way you think about science fiction. Now, with Pandora’s Star, he begins a new multivolume adventure, one that promises to be his most mind-blowing yet.

The year is 2380. The Intersolar Commonwealth, a sphere of stars some four hundred light-years in diameter, 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 . . . vanishes. It does not go supernova. It does not collapse into a black hole. It simply disappears. Since the location is too distant to reach by wormhole, a faster-than-light starship, the Second Chance, is dispatched to learn what has occurred and whether it represents a threat. In command is Wilson Kime, a five-time rejuvenated ex-NASA pilot whose glory days are centuries behind him.

Opposed to the mission are the Guardians of Selfhood, a cult that believes the human race is being manipulated by an alien entity they call the Starflyer. Bradley Johansson, leader of the Guardians, warns of sabotage, fearing the Starflyer means to use the starship’s mission for its own ends.

Pursued by a Commonwealth special agent convinced the Guardians are crazy but dangerous, Johansson flees. But the danger is not averted. Aboard the Second Chance, Kime wonders if his crew has been infiltrated. Soon enough, he will have other worries. A thousand light-years away, something truly incredible is waiting: a deadly discovery whose unleashing will threaten to destroy the Commonwealth . . . and humanity itself.

Could it be that Johansson was right?

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hamilton's exhilarating new opus proves that "intelligent space opera" isn't an oxymoron. By the 24th century, the vast human Commonwealth has spread from Earth via artificial wormholes. Various benign or seemingly indifferent alien races have been encountered during exploration of new planets, but an astronomer sparks curiosity by announcing that a pair of stars is enclosed by a mysterious energy barrier. Unfortunately, a space expedition discovers that the shield was created to imprison an insatiably greedy mass mind that sees any other race as a mortal threat. When the barrier somehow is lowered, the alien immediately attacks the largely unprepared Commonwealth, while humans begin wondering if yet another inhuman power has manipulated events that unleashed this threat. The author deftly juggles many characters in multiple plot lines, sometimes slowing down the action briefly, at other times racing forward. Revelations late in the book will have readers scurrying back to earlier pages to reinterpret what they initially thought. Not many SF writers are capable of tackling such a big project so confidently. In this respect, Hamilton (Fallen Dragon) resembles a less cheery but very tech-savvy-and extremely paranoid-Charles Dickens. Given the abrupt cliffhanger of an ending, some may prefer to save this massive installment until the story's conclusion, Judas Unleashed, appears next year. Anyone who begins this one, however, probably won't be able to put it down. (On sale Mar. 2) Forecast: A USA Today bestseller, Hamilton should hit a lot of lists with this one. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In the 24th century, human civilization has spread throughout the stars, making contact with a few peaceful alien species. When a research team launches a ship through a wormhole to investigate a planetary phenomenon-the encapsulation of a pair of planets in a Dyson sphere or force field-humanity's curiosity unleashes a deadly invasion that threatens the existence of all sentient life in the universe. The author of The Reality Dysfunction and Fallen Dragon launches another sf adventure of epic proportions exploring the human need to satisfy its unending thirst for knowledge. A large cast of characters, each with his own story, brings depth and variety to this far-future saga, whose sequel, Judas Unleashed, will be published in 2005. Recommended for sf collections. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Should be high on everyone's reading list…. You won't be able to put it down." —Nancy Pearl, National Public Radio

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Random House Publishing Group
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Commonwealth Saga Series , #1
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The star vanished from the center of the telescope’s image in less time than a single human heartbeat. There was no mistake, Dudley Bose was looking right at it when it happened. He blinked in surprise, drawing back from the eyepiece. “That’s not right,” he muttered.

He shivered slightly in reaction to the cold air around him, slapping gloved hands against his arms. His wife, Wendy, had insisted he wrap up well against the night, and he’d dutifully left the house in a thick woolen coat and sturdy hiking trousers. As always when the sun fell below Gralmond’s horizon, any warmth in the planet’s thinner-than-average atmosphere dissipated almost immediately. With the telescope housing open to the elements at two o’clock in the morning, the temperature had dropped enough to turn his every breath into a stream of gray mist.

Dudley shook the fatigue from his head, and leaned back into the eyepiece. The starfield pattern was the same—there had been no slippage in the telescope’s alignment—but Dyson Alpha was still missing. “It couldn’t be that fast,” he said.

He’d been observing the Dyson Pair for fourteen months now, searching for the first clues of the envelopment that would so dramatically alter the emission spectrum. Until tonight there had been no change to the tiny yellow speck of light twelve hundred forty light-years away from Gralmond that was Dyson Alpha.

He’d known there would be a change; it was the astronomy department at Oxford University back on Earth that had first noticed the anomoly during a routine sky scan back in 2170, two hundred and ten years ago. Since the previous scan twenty years earlier, two stars, a K-type and an M-type three years apart, had changed their emission spectrum completely to nonvisible infrared. For a few brief months the discovery had caused some excited debate among the remnants of the astronomy fraternity about how they could decay into red giants so quickly, and the extraordinary coincidence of two stellar neighbors doing so simultaneously. Then a newly settled planet fifty light-years farther out from Earth reported that the pair were still visible in their original spectrum. Working back across the distance, checking the spectrum at various distances from Earth, allowed astronomers to work out that the change to both stars had occurred over a period of approximately seven or eight years.

Given that amount of time, the nature of the change ceased to become a question of astronomy; stars of that category took a great deal longer to transform into red giants. Their emission hadn’t changed due to any natural stellar process; it was the direct result of technological intervention on the grandest possible scale.

Somebody had built a solid shell around each star. It was a feat whose scale was rivaled only by its time frame. Eight years was astonishingly swift to fabricate such a gigantic structure, and this advanced civilization had apparently built two at the same time. Even so, the concept wasn’t entirely new to the human race.

In the twenty-first century, a physicist named Freeman Dyson had postulated that the artifacts of a technologically advanced civilization would ultimately surround their star in order to utilize all of its energy. Now someone had turned his ancient hypothesis into reality. It was inevitable that the two stars would be formally christened the Dyson Pair.

Speculative papers were written after the Oxford announcement, and theoretical studies performed into how to dismantle Jovian-size planets to produce such a shell. But there was no real urgency connected to the discovery. The human race had already encountered several sentient alien species, all of them reassuringly harmless; and the Intersolar Commonwealth was expanding steadily. It would be a matter of only a few centuries until a wormhole was opened to the Dyson Pair. Any lingering questions about their construction could be answered then by the aliens themselves.

Now he’d seen that the envelopment was instantaneous, Dudley was left with a whole new set of very uncomfortable questions about the composition of the shell structure. An eight-year construction period for any solid shell that size had been assessed as remarkable, but obviously achievable. When he’d begun the observation he’d expected to note a year-by-year eclipse of the star’s light as more and more segments were produced and locked into place. This changed everything. To appear so abruptly, the shell couldn’t be solid. It had to be some kind of force field. Why would anyone surround a star with a force field?

“Are we recording?” he asked his e-butler.

“We are not,” the e-butler replied. “No electronic sensors are currently active at the telescope focus.” The voice was slightly thin, treble-boosted; a tone that had been getting worse over the last few years. Dudley suspected the OCtattoo on his ear was starting to degenerate; organic circuitry was always susceptible to antibody attack, and his was over twenty-five years old. Not that the glittery scarlet and turquoise spiral on his skin had changed. A classic spree of youthful dynamism after his last rejuvenation had made him choose a visible pattern, stylish and chic in those days. Now it was rather embarrassing for a middle-aged professor to sport around the campus. He should have had the old pattern erased and replaced it with something more discreet; but somehow he’d never gotten around to it, despite his wife’s repeated requests.

“Damnit,” Dudley grunted bitterly. But the idea of his e-butler taking the initiative had been a pretty forlorn hope. Dyson Alpha had risen only forty minutes earlier. Dudley had been setting up the observation, performing his standard final verification—an essential task, thanks to the poorly maintained mechanical systems that orientated the telescope. He never ordered the sensor activation until the checks were complete. That prissy routine might have just cost him the entire observation project.

Dudley went back for another look. The little star was still stubbornly absent in the visual spectrum. “Bring the sensors on-line now, will you please. I need to have some sort of record of tonight.”

“Recording now,” his e-butler said. “The sensors could benefit from recalibrating, the entire image is considerably short of optimum.”

“Yeah, I’ll get on to it,” Dudley replied absently. The state of the sensors was a hardware problem; one that he ought to assign to his students (all three of them). Along with a hundred other tasks, he thought wearily.

He pushed back from the telescope, and used his feet to propel the black leather office chair across the bare concrete floor of the observatory. The rattling noise from its old castors echoed thinly around the cavernous interior. There was enough vacant space for a host of sophisticated ancillary systems, which could bring the observatory up to near-professional standards; it could even house a larger telescope. But the Gralmond university lacked the funds for such an upgrade, and had so far failed to secure any commercial sponsorship from CST—Compression Space Transport, the only company truly interested in such matters. The astronomy department survived on a collection of meager government grants, and a few endowments from pure-science foundations. Even an Earth-based educational charity made an annual donation.

Beside the door was the long wooden bench that served as a de facto office for the whole department. It was covered with banks of aging, secondhand electronic equipment and hi-rez display portals. Dudley’s briefcase was also there, containing his late-night snacks and a flask of tea.

He opened the case and started munching on a chocolate cookie as the sensor images swam up into the display portals. “Put the infrared on the primary display,” he told the e-butler.

Holographic speckles in the large main portal shoaled into a false color image of the starfield, centered around the Dyson Pair. Dyson Alpha was now emitting a faint infrared signature. Slightly to one side and two light-years farther away, Dyson Beta continued to shine normally in its M-type spectrum.

“So that really was the envelopment event,” Dudley mused. It would be two years before anyone could prove whether the same thing had happened simultaneously at Dyson Beta. At least people would have to acknowledge that the Dyson Alpha event occurred in under twenty-three hours—the time since his last recorded observation. It was a start, but a bad one. After all, he’d just witnessed something utterly astounding. But without a recording to back him up, his report was likely to generate only disbelief, and a mountainous struggle to maintain his already none-too-high reputation.

Dudley was ninety-two, in his second life, and fast approaching time for another rejuvenation. Despite his body having the physical age of a standard fifty-year-old, the prospect of a long, degrading campaign within academia was one he regarded with dread. For a supposedly advanced civilization, the Intersolar Commonwealth could be appallingly backward at times, not to mention cruel.

Maybe it won’t be that bad, he told himself. The lie was comforting enough to get him through the rest of the night’s shift.

The Carlton AllLander drove Dudley home just after dawn. Like the astronomer, the vehicle was old and worn, but perfectly capable of doing its job. It had a cheap diesel engine, common enough on a semifrontier world like Gralmond, although its drive array was a thoroughly modern photo- neural processor. With its high suspension and deep-tread tires it could plow along the dirt track to the observatory in all weather and seasons, including the meter-deep snow of Gralmond’s winters.

This morning all it had to surmount was a light drizzle and a thin slick of mud on the track. The observatory was situated on the high moorland ninety kilometers to the east of Leonida City, the planet’s capital. Not exactly a mountaintop perch, but it was the highest land within any reasonable distance, and unlikely ever to suffer from light pollution. It was forty minutes before the Carlton started to descend into the lower valleys where the main highway meandered along the base of the slopes. Only then were there any signs of human activity. A few farmsteads had been built in sheltered folds of the land where dense stretches of dark native evergreen cynomel trees occupied the ground above every stream and river. Grazing meadows had been established on the bleak hillsides, where animals shivered in the cold winds blowing down off the moorland.

All the while as the Carlton bobbed cautiously along the track, Dudley pondered how he could realistically break the news. Even a twenty-three-hour envelopment was a concept that the Commonwealth’s small fraternity of professional astronomers would dismiss out of hand. To claim it had happened in a split second would open him to complete ridicule, and invariably to an in-house status review from the university. As to the physicists and engineers who heard his claim . . . they’d gleefully contribute to the case against him.

Had he been at the start of his career he might have done it, achieving a degree of notoriety before finally proving himself right. The little man overcoming formidable odds, a semiheroic, or at least romantically poetic, figure. But now, taking such risks was too great. He needed another eight years of uninterrupted employment, even on the university’s demeaningly low salary, before his R&R pension was full; without that money there was no way he could pay for a rejuvenation. And who in the last decades of the twenty-fourth century was going to employ a discredited astronomer?

He stared out at the landscape beyond the vehicle’s windows, unconsciously stroking the OCtattoo on his ear. A wan light was illuminating the low undulating landscape of drab, damp cordgrass, revealing miserable-looking terrestrial cows and herds of the local bovine nygine. There must have been a horizon out there, but the bleak, gray sky made it hard to tell where it began. As vistas went, this had to be one of the most depressing of all the inhabited worlds.

Dudley closed his eyes and sighed. “And yet it moves,” he whispered.

As rebellions went, Dudley’s was fairly pitiful. He knew he couldn’t ignore what he’d seen out there among the eternal, unchanging constellations. Somewhat thankfully, he realized, he still had enough dignity left to make sure he didn’t take the easy burial option. Yet announcing the envelopment to the public would be the end of his own particular world. What others regarded as his essential meekness, he liked to think of as a caution that went with age. Similar to wisdom, really.

Old habits die hard, so he broke the problem down into stages, the way he always taught his students, and set about solving each one with as much logic as he could apply. Very simply, his overwhelming priority was to confirm the speed of envelopment. A wavefront of proof that was currently receding from Gralmond at the speed of light. And Gralmond was almost the farthest extent of the Commonwealth in this section of space. Almost, but not quite.

The Intersolar Commonwealth occupied a roughly spherical volume of space with Earth at the center, measuring four hundred light-years across. Gralmond was two hundred forty light-years from Earth, among the last of the second expansion phase planets to be settled. It didn’t require a great deal of calculation for Dudley to find that the next planet to witness the envelopment would be Tanyata, right on the edge of phase two space. Tanyata was even less developed than Gralmond—there was certainly no university yet—but a unisphere datasearch did find him a list of local amateur astronomers. There was one name on it.

Five months and three days after the evening he’d seen Dyson Alpha vanish, Dudley nervously waved good-bye to his wife as the Carlton pulled out of their driveway. She thought his trip to Tanyata was legitimate, sanctioned by the university. Even after eleven years of marriage, he didn’t have the courage to tell her the absolute truth. Or maybe it was that after five marriages he knew what to keep quiet about.

From the Hardcover edition.

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"Should be high on everyone's reading list…. You won't be able to put it down." —-Nancy Pearl, National Public Radio

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Pandora's Star 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 133 reviews.
jsrock37 More than 1 year ago
I'm a huge fan of Peter F. Hamilton because of this book. Although it can be confusing jumping between characters in the beginning of the book, the plot development make for a rich and satisfying read when everything comes together. Can't say enough good things about the world that Hamilton creates in this novel.
PatrickKanouse More than 1 year ago
PANDORA'S STAR recently appeared on a "most popular" science fiction list using reddit as its source. I have had the book for a while, including a paperback version that became part of my beach reading in mid-May. It's a monster of a book and one of two in a duology. The story starts with the spotting of two stars that disappear. Some investigation determines that artificial barriers were activated around the stars. Why? Did some alien within the systems need to be contained or were they protecting themselves? Either way, humanity must investigate to determine the potential risks to the Commonwealth, a collection of human inhabited worlds connected by wormhole stations. Meanwhile, the Guardians of the Self are convinced that an ominous alien, called the Starflyer,  is behind the exploration of the disappearing stars. Peter F. Hamilton fills a thousand pages with characters, descriptions, and action, and the interest of them is a bit scattered for me. The most interesting characters are Paula Myo and Wilson Kime. Myo is a detective who has been hunting the Guardians of the Self's leader, Bradley Johannson, and primary strategist and smuggler, Adam Elvin. She's been on the case for over a hundred years (people routinely go through a process known as rejuvenation, which effectively makes them immortal, as well has having their memory backed up). Myo was "rescued" from a planet that followed an Aldous Huxley model of genetically tweaking people for expertise in specific tasks, and Myo is a fantastic detective, though the Guardians elude her (because of the Starflyer?). We follow her method and near misses. Dedicated, focused, and no nonsense, she proves several times to be sympathetic and faces her moral crisis at the end of the book fully aware of the risks. Wilson Kime landed the first human expedition on Mars, only to be upstaged by Nigel Sheldon and Ozzie Isaac, creators of the first wormhole generators. After many rejuvenations, he is selected by Sheldon to lead the exploration of the barrier star, called Dyson Alpha. He eventually leads a follow up scouting mission and becomes the first admiral of the Commonwealth navy. He's out to reclaim some of that lost glory and because he loves exploration. Ozzie has a whole sequence of parts that I did not like. He teams up with a kid who alternatively seems like he's two and then 18. Ostensibly, Ozzie is seeking what the alien Silfden, a fey, carefree culture, know of the Dyson barrier. Ozzie grew up in surfer culture California and says "dude" far too often for my taste. I found quite intriguing the SI character: the AI created by humanity who stores the human memories. The SI has an interest in the Dyson barrier, but it is enigmatic and its interest and motivations are mysterious, which is why it is intriguing. Hamilton knows how to describe various planets and technologies with ease. His ideas on rejuvenation, the Dyson aliens, wormholes, and a host of technologies are wonderfully executed and thought out. However, I found many of the descriptions unnecessary, word padding. Also, much of his dialogue seemed overly wrought--some of the interactions between couples were particularly galling. Still, the scope and the characters he does do well lead me to a lukewarm four stars. PANDORA'S STAR is definitely the set up for book two, which I will read.
IAsimov More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. Mr. Hamilton knits quite an spell binding plot. The future he imagines is plausible and fascinating. However, the book is awfully long. This 900+ pages book could be well fit in 400 pages. Hamilton dwells into long description of characters and planets even if they are secondary or auxiliary to the main plot. The result is, sometimes, a dull and hard to read book. Too many characters make the plot hard to follow and demand a lot even from a skilled reader. The worst part is the end that is only a link to his next book that is also a 900+ pages one. Maybe the author was paid by word he wrote and, therefore, decided to use every single word available in the English language.
lindamb296 More than 1 year ago
Although the plot of this book was totally awesome, the overkill prose and the sadistically anti-clamactic ending proved my time was wasted reading this book. I believe that all fiction should contain prose, of course, but to go into descriptions to the nth degree that this author did was over burdening to the reader and that amount of detail (i.e. the color of the hair folicle [sarcasm intended] was totally unecessary and detracted from the story line. Luckily, I was "reading" this as an audio book and was able to fast forward. Otherwise, I would never have made it through the 25 chapters. All I can say to the author, without spoiling the ending for anyone willing to endulge in this epic prose, is that he owes me $30. The ending was an insult. If you are "reading" this as an audio book, be prepared to be put to sleep... literally. The narrator has a voice that just lulls you to sleep. Don't listen while driving long distances. The only thing about the narrator I didn't like, was his voice fluctuations went from loud to soft to loud. It was difficult to hear in a public place (via Ipod). Such a shame this great story line was wasted in such a sad way.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is really hard for me to find a book that can hold my attention all the way through. However, with this book I was hardly able to put it down! The story was amazing with awesome plot twists and a great character cast that kept this story from ever getting dull. I was actually happy when I found out that the story continued into a second book, which was equally as amazing, if not better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I did not know this was part one of two books...and I'm thrilled. I was almost sad as a reached the last 100 pages, thinking this awesome journey was ending. As I approached the final 50 I couldn't stop reading. Ouch!! I really have lost hours of sleep.
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Best book I have ever read.
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Terrific epic by one of the best Sci Fi authors out there!
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rwgreene More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I have ever read. Can't put it down.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book several years ago. It was my first introduction to Hammilton and his twisting detailed tapestry of a universe. His ability to flesh out so many interesting and real charactter lets you feel at times that you are reading several novels at the same time. This book is a must read for any science fiction fan. It will leave you exauhsted begging for more.
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One of my favorites!
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