Monday, October 01, 2007

Pandora's Star

Tuesday, July 31

I am currently reading Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton. I'm on page 163 of 1144, which seems a ridiculous length for a novel, but it's so good I'm already one tenth in. I've decided to simply add my experiences to this post as I go along.

In a book of this size, you're bound to stumble across a curious turn of words here and there, but some of them seem intentional, such as "[...] Wilson walked along a long, meandering gravel track [...]", or when describing the layout of a starship development complex, "[t]he complex layout was simple enough." I like to think that Hamilton wrote these phrases off the top of his head, spotted the rhymes and ostensible paradoxes and amusedly decided to keep them, wondering if his readers would spot them as well. This sort of shared jokes with the reader appeals to me, because then I get to squeal "I caught them, Mr Hamilton, aren't I clever, look at meeee!" Needless to say, it's a deeply satisfying experience.

Thursday, August 16

I'm now at page 422. It took Hamilton around 200 pages to impart much the same information as the summary on the back of the book, while adding a substantial amount of detail and a secondary plotline. He sheds light on the year 2380, when the human race is organised in an Intersolar Commonwealth. Through the use of wormhole technology, it spans several solar systems, as the name implies. During these 400-odd pages he has also relatively briefly, albeit in great detail, touched upon the lives of three seemingly random inhabitants of the Commonwealth. It's a titillating technique that leaves me wondering if and how he'll reintroduce them into the main story.

During their travels, humans have chanced upon a few sentient alien races. These are casually referred to early on in the book as if we already know who they are: for example, the Silfen and the High Angel, both with such interesting names it's almost painful to have to read through nearly 300 pages until Hamilton actually starts delving deeper into who these alien races are. I have to say, this book is definitely not for the inexperienced or impatient reader, but having said that, it's consistently well written and never dull.

Monday, August 27

Page 562, and still no end in sight... Sorry, for a moment there I imagined dedicating a blog solely to a page-by-page report on my arduous progress through this book. I quickly abandoned the idea, as my progress isn't arduous at all. By mid-book, famous police investigator Paula Myo solves a case, one of the seemingly ephemeral characters I mentioned earlier has been fleshed out and given a very foreboding plot, and finally a specially built starship, the Second Chance, sets off towards the titular star of the book. There's a substantial change of pace at this point as Hamilton exclusively reserves a whole chapter for describing the journey of the Second Chance and its thrilling encounters with alien technology. The story-telling is more focused, and the book subsequently becomes a real page-turner. I'd say the pacing is flawless; I'm at the first peak of the rollercoaster, and I just hit the point of no return. I'm glad I held out -- a normal-length book would be over by now.

Wednesday, August 29

I've only read a couple of pages since the last update, but I just wanted to hypothesize about the alien encounter in the middle of the book, and the reason their civilisation seems unexplainable to the crew of the Second Chance.

Click to view spoiler

Tuesday, September 11

Current page is 735. I was pleasantly surprised that one of the fleetingly mentioned characters from the first half of the book was reintroduced on page 666 and revealed to be the first-born of the head of a ridiculously rich and powerful family. The story took a break from the action and focused on political intrigue for what seemed to be a very long chapter, albeit strangely fascinating. Hamilton also adds in a loose end from the Paula Myo case in the form of the defendant's girlfriend, now broke and helpless. At this point, I was disappointed that Hamilton blatantly reused not one, but fully two concepts from his earlier novel Mindstar Rising, which rather taints the experience for me. I'm hoping he at least takes this storyline in another direction than he did in the earlier instance.

There's still a character that pops up now and then who doesn't have a clear purpose. So far, he hasn't had any impact on any of the major storylines, but he has served as an outside spectator, adding vivid detail to the Commonwealth universe. Also, one of the storylines (an exploration of the exotic worlds inhabited by the Silfen) is finally getting interesting.

Tuesday, September 25

On page 894, Hamilton returns to the outside spectator's view of the main plot. It's actually a welcome human perspective now that the Commonwealth is preparing for war, and still the politicians are thinking in terms of polls. Tension is building, and it seems like the focus of the storytelling is shifting more often, quickening the pace. As for the alien threat, it's been thoroughly explained at this point, and I was basically right. Yeah, I'm smarter than the brightest minds of the 24th century.

Monday, October 1st

Finally put aside some time to finish the book this week-end. Strangely, the side-plot involving the exploration of the Silfen worlds slowed down again, and contrasted rather heavily against the action-packed war against the alien invasion. I would have welcomed an even more focused storytelling near the end, since at times I felt that I had to trudge through some less interesting paragraphs to get to the juicy bits. Thankfully, the pacing was high and I was quickly rewarded for my perseverence. The pace revved up considerably toward the end while weaving together several plotlines, which made for a raffling finale.

It was also a rather special feeling to pass the 1000-page mark. Reading a book this long actually feels like somewhat of an accomplishment, and it was definitely good enough for me to immediately get started on the sequel, Judas Unchained, which weighs in at a hefty 1234 pages.

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