Being a huge fan of the 'Night's Dawn' trilogy, I was naturally very happy to get my hands on this book. If you liked 'Night's Dawn', there's a chance you will find something to your liking in here - but don't expect anything approaching the quality of 'The Neutronium Alchemist'.
In this series (completed by 'Judas Unchained' next year), Hamilton seems to set out to do something similar to what he did in 'Night's Dawn': present a riveting, complex world and then take a sledgehammer to it. The universe in 'Pandora's Star' sure is awfully detailed, and parts of it (such as the trains that travel between worlds) are surely fascinating.
However, the world just doesn't click as neatly as 'Night's Dawn', and I was left with the feeling that, as detailed as this novel was, I just didn't buy into it. There's a LOT of pages in this book used to describe the world, but instead of being mesmerising, they tend to be very frustrating as the author takes the reader by the hand to guide him through yet another human colony vaguely based on Western places, such as Venice or California.
I think this is one of these books that would have benefited from having less, not more. Some parts were very carefully crafted and interesting, while other sub-plots were frustrating for being so boring and leading nowhere. In some cases (the fanfic-level chapter on the court case of a rich businessman, to quote one) was so poorly written and so unappealing that they almost convinced me to put down the book and pick up something else.
Because of the number of secondary characters in the novel, some characters become such clichés that they`re actually painful to read. Mark, the "everyday normal guy" witnessing the events of the novel in the midst of his very boring life, made me groan every time his name showed up. Mellanie, the nubian naive girl who gets mistreated by the rich man she loves blindly, was also very painful to read so stereotypical she was. It's a pity, because they ultimately bury great characters such as Nigel Sheldon or Ozzie, that show a bit more fleshing out. Oh, and to show you how poorly fleshed-out these secondary characters turned out to be, I was unable to find one woman in the novel that was not somehow beautiful and closer to a man's fantasy than an actual believeable woman.
Still; throughout all these gripes is an interesting bit of space opera waiting to unfold. The beauty of 'Night's Dawn' was to see a fully realized world fall to pieces under a new threat. 'Judas Unchained' promises to do exactly that to the world of 'Pandora's Star'. This promise has kept me going through this very long novel: that all I read so far was preparation for Peter Hamilton taking an awesome sledgehammer to his carefully constructed world. That is not to say I harbor fantasies of revenge upon this long novel, but rather that this long preparation might be worth it once Hamilton turns things upside down.
If the followup is up to par with Hamilton's previous works, then this novel might be worth slowly wading through. Here's hoping that it will be: because Pandora's Star in itself is ambitious, but so flawed that it failed to fire up my imagination and really engage me.