Pandora’s Star is the poorly written introduction to a two-part story set in the near-singularity future. It has artificial intelligence, alternative life forms, wormhole travel, galactic colonization, and some childish love stories. Normally I would say that’s a recipe for success, but the writing just couldn’t really carry the story.
Hamilton attempts to provide rich textures and back stories, carefully weaving together many lives and environments. In reality, most of the characters feel bolted on, most of the texture feels awkward, and the extensive distribution of story arcs all but falls apart when he finally gets around to moving the plot forward. Foreshadowing is as heavy handed as it gets, and the predictability of the “surprises” borders on absurd. My favorite part is how every time there’s a piece of machinery, he attempts to add some historical relevance by using a manufacturer (or concatenation of manufacturers) from present day; things like “A Boeing-Jaguar MXL542 [I made this up, but it’s similar to what you will find] pulled into the station.” Combine this with huge companies that were built in the post-Earth colonization that strangely don’t build anything that’s mentioned in print, and all of Hamilton’s attempts at texture and chrome don’t even make sense.
This is unfortunate, because the core story and the problems it describes (post-upload humans discover an embargoed intelligence that wants to colonize everything and kill everybody, but there are some other things in the chamber already) could be an interesting tale, but the awkward exposition makes it frustrating.
The book ends in (a literal, as it turns out) cliff hanger. Most serial novels at least try to provide some closure to the events, but Hamilton instead opts for a “this is the end of the book, tune in to the next book to get any sort of anything.” For added color, there’s also a prequel that even Publisher’s Weekly acknowledges is just Hamilton doing his worst to write some boring erotic crap.
Not wanting to give up on something I’ve started, I’ll probably plow through the sequel; having finished the first 9% already, during which nothing has happened, I don’t have a lot of hope for a redeeming finish.
Compared to good writers that write science fiction, I guess I’m just a little unimpressed at Hamilton. This is only one book, and maybe it’s the odd one out, but Hamilton reads like a Dan Brown of post-singularity science fiction. Not recommended. 5/10.