Robust, peaceful, and confident, the Commonwealth dispatched a ship to investigate the mystery of a disappearing star, only to inadvertently unleash a predatory alien species that turned on its liberators, striking hard, fast, and utterly without mercy.
The Prime are the Commonwealth's worst nightmare. Coexistence is impossible with the technologically advanced aliens, who are genetically hardwired to exterminate all other forms of life. Twenty-three planets have already fallen to the invaders, with casualties in the hundreds of millions. And no one knows when or where the genocidal Prime will strike next.
Nor are the Prime the only threat. For more than a hundred years, a shadowy cult, the Guardians of Selfhood, has warned that an alien with mind-control abilities impossible to detect or resist -- the Starflyer -- has secretly infiltrated the Commonwealth. Branded as terrorists, the Guardians and their leader, Bradley Johansson, have been hunted by relentless investigator Paula Myo. But now evidence suggests that the Guardians were right all along, and that the Starflyer has placed agents in vital posts throughout the Commonwealth -- agents who are now sabotaging the war effort.
Is the Starflyer an ally of the Prime, or has it orchestrated a fight to the death between the two species for its own advantage? Caught between two deadly enemies, one a brutal invader striking from without, the other a remorseless cancer killing from within, the fractious Commonwealth must unite as never before...
Peter F. Hamilton is a British science fiction author. He is best known for writing space opera. As of the publication of his tenth novel in 2004, his works had sold over two million copies worldwide, making him Britain's biggest-selling science fiction author.
Characters unleashing their full potential and sci-fi capabilities, while the plot is accelerating towards a bombastic showdown in many different constellations, is one of Hamilton´s favorite style vehicles.
The optimistic outlook on human society can´t just be seen in the civilizations and fractions, but even in the tycoons of the future. While they, in other sci-fi and reality, are mostly the purest manifestations of evil, immediately killing billions of humans, animals, or aliens for a permille of extra revenue, Hamiltons´ mighty people use their wealth for useful and post scarcity applications, struggle with the search of the sense of life, seem sympathetic, cool, and badass with their hobbies and eccentric special activities.
These lead to important plot points, research results, ideas, etc. and are a prime model, how punny, example of how Hamilton fuses characters´ motivations, actions, hobbies, preferences, etc. and plot together. While other authors have far too sharp separation lines between worldbuilding, fractions with their ideologies, and characters themselves, everything in Hamilton´s work is organic and just feels right.
That´s why, in contrast to other works, where even a scifiholic like me sometimes gets exhausted, it´s always pure pleasure to read. And the well known tropes are always executed in a fresh, new light, sometimes certainly even first times of such uses of plot vehicles in the special contexts, and open the options, especially for nerds with absolutely no interest in a real life like me again, to compare how other sci-fi behemoths used it, which version and interpretation is the best, and just live in these amazing places. Sigh, how I hate being born centuries or millennia too early, but I should be thankful too, according to what I hear from the philosophizing moral guardian back there, heck.
This wise, just joking, advice is added to all reviews of Hamiltons´series. One of the most fascinating aspects of Hamilton´s future vision is to see the technology and society developing in very detail over long periods of time, making a return to his universe something always stunning and inspiring. It also makes me wonder why he is the only author I know of who did this. One, who is new, lucky you, by the way, ought consider reading it in chronological order, although the series set closest to now, Salvation lost, is still unfinished, so better read before in the following order:
Salvation year 2200 Commonwealth year 2400 The Night´s Dawn trilogy year 2700 The Chronicle of the Fallers year 3400 Void trilogy year 3600
You can of course do as you wish, it´s just how I arrange my rereading to get the most out of it and slowly move further and further away from the boring present.
“Finally, this book is over!” That was my final thought. After an exhausting total of over 2,000 pages in this saga, I was ready for it to wrap up. I enjoyed the story overall but have a few gripes with Peter F. Hamilton.
Hamilton did an excellent job creating the Commonwealth universe. I really enjoyed the technological advancements yet it was familiar and fun. There are more toys to play with and the concept of rejuvenation is really interesting. The progression from modern day to the 24th century feels very natural and organic.
The characters Hamilton created were pretty hit and miss for me. There were a few I really connected with and others that I didn't like. I particularly liked the alien Tochee and wish we got more time with him. Which brings me to my major issue with this saga...
The female characters. I've seen mentioned in other places and I have to agree: Hamilton is not good at writing women. His women are either boring (Paula Myo) or overtly sexual (Mellanie, who couldn't do anything useful without basically whoring herself out). Every female character had to have her looks and sexuality mentioned whereas the men did not. The women seemed to exist for Hamilton to project his juvenile fantasies onto them. It made me groan and roll my eyes repeatedly. I was pretty annoyed and upset particularly about Mellanie and Justine. Justine played a large role in Pandora's Star but, without spoiling anything, after a certain development, Hamilton almost forgot she existed in Judas Unchained. She was barely in the book past the halfway mark.
The main storyline with the Starflyer and war with the Primes was quite fascinating. I enjoyed learning who the Starflyer agents were and the efforts to find them and viewing the war from the Prime point-of-view. The whole thing evolved at a natural timescale and pace until the end.
There are a few things I would have liked to learn more about. Hamilton inroduces a few alien species but never really explores them or their cultures. I would have liked more detail about the SI, Barsoomians, High Angel, and raeil species.
My last issue with this book (both actually) is the length and the pacing at the end. A lot of detail felt superfluous (hang gliding scene, Morton's murder trial in Pandora's Star) and could have been edited out. I understand that it's meant to immerse the reader into the universe and familiarize them but in a 1,000+ page book, that has to be pared down. Because of all of that padding and detail, the end of Unchained felt really rushed and didn't feel like a conclusion. It wrapped up so quickly that there was no room to breath. I would have liked a little more catharsis.
6.0 stars. On my list of "All Time Favorite" Novels. As has been mentioned before, this book is really the second half of a much larger book began in Pandora's Star. When counting the first book, this story comes in at almost 2000 pages. As daunting as that may seem, I was amazed by how easy it was to stay focused on the story. All of the different plot lines were so interesting and well done that I was never waiting for the pace to quicken. No doubt, Hamilton spends considerable time on details and minor plot points, but he does it so well and adds so many interesting bits about the universe that it never seems to drag.
In addition to Hamilton's superb writing, the two greatest attributes on the novel are (1) the incredibly detailed, complex plot, the gradual but steady advancement of which is the common thread throughout the story and (2) the universe of the "Commonwealth" that is as good as any I have ever seen in science fiction (yes including giants like Dune and The Foundation Trilogy).
This series raises the bar considerably on what grand scale space opera should be. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!!
I have a love/hate relationship with Peter Hamilton's books. He's very adept at introducing interesting technology and making a faster-than-light society plausible but, as with a lot of these hard-science, libertarian SF authors, he badly needs an editor. I was skipping over multiple pages of irrelevance in both this book and its prequel, Pandora's Star. He also has far too many "main characters" who (despite 800+ pages) never seem to come alive. They all speak with essentially the same voice. And when he tries to individualize someone they come off as badly stereotyped '60s era hippies -- come on, does anyone seriously say "dude" in the real world much less the imagined future of the 24th century?
And why is Hamilton so obsessed with sex with young (or rejuvenated) women?
Hamilton's treatment of virtual immortality is hit and miss at best. On the one hand, the innate conservatism of an immortal civilization is well developed, represented and believable. On the other hand, the dynamics of the relationship between "old timers" and "first lifers" is unsatisfactory. In four centuries, for example, NO ONE has even attempted to unseat Nigel Sheldon from his position as head of the Sheldon dynasty? Perhaps the Commonwealth's continual expansion is the safety valve but even here, the government (controlled by the eternal heads of these dynasties) controls it. Another point that is brought up briefly is why would anyone want to live forever if their life didn't change -- I mean the characters of a novel (almost by definition) are dynamic, go-get-'em types but most people just plod through their lives and then die. Why would anyone want to do that for lifetime after lifetime?
The aliens are OK. The problem with them (and this is true of nearly every SF story) is that they tend to be one dimensional -- they're all of a singular type and all too often they really do just act like human beings with weird make up. (This is a problem in fantasy stories, too.) On the plus side, I do tip my hat to Hamilton for not allowing the humans to save themselves with an alien "deus ex machina." Ozzie's adventures in "Wonderland" (i.e., the silfen paths) do bring him to the adult silfen and he does find out the origins of the Dyson barriers but the knowledge doesn't really help anyone defeat the Primes.
Overall, if you started with Pandora's Star, you probably should finish the journey with Judas Unchained. If you haven't started down this "silfen path," I recommend Alistair Reynolds, Tony Daniel or Iain Banks. They write similarly grand space opera but are better at it than Hamilton has proven himself to be to date.
After reading the first book, Pandora's Star, I was slightly miffed at just how scattered and sometimes ... dull... it seemed. I only felt that way because the alien bits and the big spaceship stuff and the weird alien stuff simply SHONE for me. I didn't really cotton to all the human-only investigation stuff or the politics until it kinda snuck up on me and grabbed me by the neck because IT WAS IMPORTANT.
Well. It became important eventually. But I should mention that each of these books is roughly the equivalent of four normal novels EACH. That's 8 standard-length novels. A slight digression is more of a novel-length wander. :)
What I am most impressed with is the wide range of genre-writing going on here. There's full-flung mil-SF, political intrigue SF, murder-mystery and spy SF, revolutionary thriller SF, media-scoop SF, as well as hardcore alien Hard-SF with Big Dumb Objects galore, miniature wormhole attacks, rejuvenation, memory cores so you can get a new body, as well as a LOT of nova'd stars. Big-ass scale.
But for me, it's just a matter of having to TRUST the author to get me there. All the other books I'd read by him had the same kind of style. Like a Dickens-like wander getting us the feel of so many levels of the society, or Hugo in the way he did Les Miserables. It's BIG. It requires a LOT of trust from the reader.
Fortunately, my trust was not misplaced. I'm going to rate-up the previous novel and wholeheartedly recommend BOTH books with this caveat. Stick with it. It's VERY rewarding and everything comes together eventually and necessarily.
The first book has a great blow-out at the end, but it is FAR from being wrapped up. This book did a GREAT job with that. :)
If you have read Pandora's Star previously starting on Judas Unchained should feel like coming home, as there would be no need to familiarize yourself with the settings or characters. On the other hand, if you attempt to read this book without having read Pandora's Star first it would be like wandering into somebody else's home by mistake, wondering who changed your furniture, realizing your mistake and make a quick exit before the cops arrive.
Judas Unchained continues the epic story started in Pandora's Star without pausing for breath (because breathing is overrated), I suppose there are people who read "Pandora's" and decided not to bother with the next volume, I further suppose that such people are in the minority. Peter F. must be a very confident author to have the gall to write series that consist of such massive books and expect people to read them. Fat books series are prevalent in modern fantasy epics but rarely found in science fiction. Fortunately for sf readers Hamilton is more than capable to carry it off.
This book is basically about alien invasion and how humanity fend them off whereas the previous volume is more concerned with "WTF is going on?" Like most epic fiction the story features a large cast of characters and several protagonists, the plot is moved forward by switching the narrative between them. Hamilton does this very well for the most part, however the disadvantage of this format is that some characters are more compelling than others and when the reader's perspective is switched to one of the less interesting character it can drag down the pace a little. Still, this is not a major problem because such characters are in the minority and their chapters do not linger on for long. Hamilton's masterful action scenes also compensate for the few instances of drag. My favorite chapter is a deliciously gung-ho scene where a cybernetically enhanced human character faces off an alien modified character. A Marvel/DC style superheroic kickassery ensues with "disrupter pulses" and personal force fields being employed to maximum effect. I do love edifying books but the "F*ck Yeah!" moments are hugely entertaining and make me grin like an idiot ("like" being the operative word). There are also thoughtful passages about existence, humanity, responsibility, redemption etc., with a book this size it is a prerequisite that there is a wide range of elements and moods, nobody likes one single long note that goes on forever, the author does not disappoint here. The whole thing eventually wraps up beautifully and I went to bed in an excellent mood.
A whale of a book, a whale of a time!
Edit March 30, 2015: After reading this I went on to read Hamilton's famed Night's Dawn Trilogy which is indeed very good (and each book very long), but I find the two Commonwealth Saga books to be more polished. At the moment I am reading The Dreaming Void, first of the Void Trilogy which is a direct sequel to the Commonwealth Saga, so far it is wildly entertaining.
Close to three months have passed since I started reading this book. Three months of trying desperately to find something captivating enough to go on.
Peter Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga is not a bad little (heh) duology; it has its interesting concepts, its solid characters, its wonderfully described worlds. It is also filled to the brim with page after page, chapter after chapter, of unnecessary filler material that could easily have been removed for the reader's benefit. In Pandora's Star, the novelty of everything makes it forgivable. In Judas Unchained, these flaws are too apparent.
With proper editing and a cut of at least half the length of both books, this would have been a great story. As it stands, one has to struggle to even pay attention to said story.
Book Review of Judas Unchained (Ass End of The Commonwealth Saga, by Peter F. Hamilton)
In a spirit of full disclosure, I think of myself as a rather lazy person. So it should come as a bit of a surprise to me (and you, if you know me) that I am inspired, nay, compelled to submit a review of Judas Unchained (and the Commonwealth Saga of which it is the ass-end). But it does not surprise me. In fact, I’ve been saying for weeks how much I looked forward to finishing this series just so I could get some things off my chest. But even then, saying the words, I didn’t really believe I’d take the time. So, I give Peter F. Hamilton kudos for one thing (well in fairness, other things too, but I haven’t written those yet) - his jostling me from my torpor was a groundbreaking achievement. Unlike Judas Unchained.
But first, let me set the mood. It was about 3 years ago that I picked up the first volume of Night’s Dawn, in my quest to find truly entertaining space opera. Anyone who has read the series knows of the commitment required to complete it. But I was blown away by the first three chapters – truly excellent sci-fi. Definitely a cut above the typical tripe. Had I finally found space opera worthy of the effort? It seemed possible. So I consumed the first book with some relish. Not that relish; the other relish. Anyway, Hamilton volumes come in at well over 1,000 pages each, and while I knew I had two more to go, I already had some metaphorical intestinal rumblings of, how you say, trepidation, regarding the trajectory Hamilton had set. But I figured, “what the hell, maybe it’s not him, it’s me.” Plus, I had already purchased the other two volumes. And since I am far cheaper than I am discerning, I continued on.
I will spare the details, but as you may have inferred from my tone, I was less than pleased. The reasons were many, but I’ll just list my top three: (1) ghosts; (2) famous syphilitic gangster ghosts; and the coup-de-grace, (3) a deus ex machina. It was a stupid plot full of stupid characters in a universe I would have much preferred see swallowed whole by a different universe wherein books, stupid or otherwise, did not exist. At least I was too old to start cutting myself, thank God (or in this case, thank the mysterious alien race with profoundly superior, utterly inexplicable technology, foresight and timing)! Now there are an infinite number of sins more off-putting than a deus ex machina in general, but few as bad as a deus ex machina after three-fucking-thousand-plus pages. And given the poignant promise of the first three chapters, so many pages prior, it felt less like bad writing and more like a literary exercise in assault by disparity.
Anyhoo, I decided to burn the books. We like to camp, so I thought I would just put the books in the car on the next drive up the mountain and burn them. Preferably while cooking bacon over them. But I never did. My car is small, and space is a precious commodity when going camping. Unlike a Hamilton tome, some people actually have to make choices to leave some things behind. So they remained home unburned. But I resolved to never, EVER, read anything by Hamilton again.
As some say, “that which does not kill us has the capacity to horribly disfigure.” Time passed, and there really is a dearth of good space opera. A friend with typically excellent taste in sci-fi happened to mention Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained. Amid prolific spittle, wild gesticulation, and much gnashing of teeth, I recounted my Night’s Dawn experience, up to and including the planned yet aborted conflagration. He encouraged me to give it a shot. I took his word for it. He’s currently rolled up in a carpet in the trunk of my car.
I finished Judas Unchained in the wee hours of the morning. My experience with the Commonwealth Saga, as with Night’s Dawn, is the epitome of unequivocal and insurmountable ambivalence. It’s not so much that I have a love/hate relationship with Peter (may I call you Peter, Peter?). It’s that I am as intrigued as I am repulsed by the chasm between how good are some aspects and how lame are others. Examples of the good: intricate plot (an improvement on Night’s Dawn), frenetic pace of most action sequences, brilliant description and deployment of technology. Examples of meh: paucity of character development, infuriating and homogenous dialogue, puerile intrapersonal relationships and dynamics. Regarding the good stuff, the plot was particularly entertaining and I really appreciated the lack of a deus ex machina (although, for the record, he did include an aloof, vastly superior alien race with technological prowess defying comprehension, but at least he introduced them early, so whatever). The action sequences were well crafted and vivid. The tech was cool, if not at times merely convenient to further the storyline.
But there simply wasn’t enough of the good to overshadow the bad. And I’d feel differently if Hamilton stood alone on the “good,” but he doesn’t. Iain M. Banks comes to mind. Vernor Vinge is another.
And by “bad,” I mean, “wait, what?” bad. Singularly, no one flaw rises to the level of “the primary antagonist is the ghost of Al Capone” bad. But collectively...it’s more like death by a thousand cuts.
About the characters. Given the staggering number of characters introduced, they were fundamentally the same character. Correction: the men were all the same – two-dimensionally inflexible and unmemorable. Some did have Scottish accents, purportedly. The women were varied, if by “variety” one means they each embodied different stereotypes: the ambitious ball-buster politician with a weakness for hot young terrorists; the slut straight out of pre-pubescent wet dream central casting (you know, for the boy who dreams of one day becoming a sci-fi author so he can meet, and touch, women); the bawdy, military badass whose communication options are limited to “snark”, “skank,” and “snarky skank.” The women who weren’t stereotyped were less interesting and memorable, if not less annoying. None of the characters came across as believable, which is remarkable given the number of characters and the number of pages with which Hamilton had to work. I certainly didn’t care about any of them, individually or collectively, and I like to think of myself as a fairly nice guy. Seriously, for an extinction-level threat to humanity to work for the reader, it might be helpful to create a society, culture and characters one would actually mind seeing wiped out for the rest of the galaxy’s sake. I would have actually routed for the aliens, except I make of point of never throwing my hat in the ring with giant, insectoid, telepathic butternut squash.
About the “Project Runway” Effect. I must say that Hamilton does have an eye for detail and description. This is both good and bad. At times he draws a vivid tableau onto which the action unfolds in a compelling way. At other times, he becomes a bit preoccupied with women’s fashion, which comes off as rather creepy and uncomfortable, as if we have a perspective into a blind spot we were not meant to see.
About the dialogue. First, an author without a sense of humor is incapable of writing funny dialogue. I think that’s a law of physics. Banter can become freakish. Not that every author needs a sense of humor. It’s just that, if you want to write a character with a sense of humor, your own is indispensable. Second, if every character says the same things in the same ways, it’s an act of courtesy to begin or end each line of dialogue with, “Joe said,” “Jane exclaimed,” or some variant thereof. It became so difficult at times to follow who was saying what, especially in the midst of the ubiquitous “witty” repartee, until I remembered that the dialogue didn’t matter anyway and I scanned ahead to the next volley of micro-missiles.
And finally, about the sex. Stop. Just stop. I understand that some teenage boys may read these books. I’d prefer if they didn’t read like a teenage boy wrote them. This becomes particularly abrasive in the context of humans with the ability to live for hundreds of years. I mean, I like a romp in the sack as much as the next guy, but I’m thinking that my expectations might be just a bit different in 300 years, “rejuvenation” or no. Think it through a bit more. Or just stop. We have the internet, we don’t actually need to read porn.
So there you have it. If you are into space opera, have exhausted all other options, don’t mind reading books that are too long full of characters who suck but who have cool toys and blow things up this might be worth your while. But might I suggest a quick scan of Wikipedia, or perhaps take another stab at Iain M. Banks?
There, I said it. I feel better. And as every voracious reader knows, "it's all about me."
As a sage elder statesman once said, “fool me once, shame on….err….me. Fool me twice….you can’t get fooled again!” I’ve been fooled twice...for a net close to 6,000 pages worth. I guess I just can’t get fooled again.
I think I’ll lick my wounds in some non-fiction for a while.
After I finished Pandora's Star, I ordered this sequel online and began it soon after it arrived at my doorstep. This is significant, because while I do not adhere religiously to the general order of my to-read list, I try to follow it in good faith. I couldn't wait over a year to read Judas Unchained, so despite my general moratorium on buying books, I made an exception. And I'm glad I did. Judas Unchained is off the frelling chain!
As with my review for Pandora's Star, I'll try to keep this one essentially spoiler free. Both books are quite long, so I hope my reviews will help you decide whether they are worth the considerable investment of time. And that's all I'm going to say about the length.
Judas Unchained picks up where Pandora's Star left off, but the stakes are higher and the story much more intense. In the last book, MorningLightMountain successfully forced the evacuation of twenty-three Commonwealth worlds, now known as the Lost23. Now it's bootstrapping further into the Commonwealth and attacks forty-eight more planets. Though the Commonwealth just barely fends off a full defeat by the Prime forces, all but one of the worlds have to be evacuated as a result (so they're nicknamed the Second47). Ozzie's still searching along the Silfen paths for their "adult form," which he hopes will have Answers. And Paula Myo, who has spent 130 years pursuing the Guardians of Self-hood, is confronting the fact that their sworn enemy, the Starflyer, seems to be a real threat to the Commonwealth.
As I said in my review, I loved the revelation that the Starflyer is a real entity and not just a wacko conspiracy theory. Now the problem has become one of establishing a web of trust, since there is no way to know who works for the Starflyer. I was totally convinced one person (not saying who) would turn out to be a Starflyer agent, but I was wrong. That's what I like about these books. There are plenty of predictable elements (such as the identity of the Starflyer agent within Paula's old team), but just when you think you have everything figured out, Hamilton works in a little twist.
The Starflyer subplot, which actually kind of becomes the main plot in the second part of the book, is the most interesting part of the story, for me. We know MorningLightMountain is thinking nothing but bad thoughts about humanity, and we know it has to be stopped. Until much later in the book, we don't know anything about the Starflyer's motives, except that they are malicious, or its origins and nature. So I am disappointed with how Paula and Justine are so totally sidelined in this book. The former remains involved for the entire story, but we don't spend much time hovering over her shoulder, as it were, and for the last part of the book she is literally incapacitated by her sense of justice. Justine, on the other hand, while the target of an assassination attempt, seems to drop out of the book entirely by the time the climax comes round. That's a shame, because I loved Justine.
Of the remaining characters whose viewpoints the narrator follows, Mellanie would have to be my favourite. I love how Hamilton manages to portray these conflicting sides to her personality. All at once she's both a spoiled first-lifer brat who craves attention and notoriety, a keen reporter who wants to climb to the top (and isn't afraid of using her body to do it), a scared young woman who feels out of her depth, and a compassionate person trying to do the right thing. Her actions aren't always consistent, because sometimes one or another side seems to win out, and she'll be trying to save herself or do something heroic. For the most part, however, I think we see a solid trajectory from her role as insecure eye-candy in the beginning of Pandora's Star to the self-assured way she handles herself as she helps Ozzie commandeer the Charybdis. The romance between her and Orion is rather predictable, and honestly, it didn't do anything for me. But I guess it is a sensible way for Hamilton to tie up two loose ends at once.
Ozzie was also an interesting character, but he gets very self-righteous, especially toward the end. Hamilton touches on a moral dilemma that's actually more complicated than it seems: whether humanity should wipe out the Primes altogether. Everyone seems to agree that this is a last resort, but because they don't have the capability to re-establish the barrier around Dyson Alpha, Nigel eventually persuades the Commonwealth's War Cabinet to authorize genocide. Ozzie disagrees and, coincidentally, develops a cockamamie scheme to re-establish the barrier! So he steals a starship, initiating what might be the most boring hyperspace chase sequence in all of science fiction.
Before I explain that, let me first talk about the moral dilemma of committing genocide. Unfortunately, the villains in this book are entirely one-dimensional. I don't see how it could be otherwise with the way Hamilton has created the conflict between humanity and aliens who are just so alien that they don't regard any other life as having the right to exist. Nevertheless, it means that there is no room for negotiation or compromise, and there's really no way to sympathize with or pity MorningLightMountain. So on one level, genocide makes sense. Indeed, another reviewer makes a convincing case that containment is just a longer, slower death. I happen to disagree, for I do not share his pessimistic outlook on the Bose motile's mission to change MorningLightMountain from within. And ultimately, there may not be a practical difference between killing MorningLightMountain outright and imprisoning it for the next millions of years, but there is a moral difference. It's about demonstrating a respect for the diversity of life and maintaining that diversity, even if it means keeping that diversity contained. Besides, every species has an expiration date, even if it's measured in the billions of years. The only possible escape from corporeal stagnation that Hamilton offers is the vague notion of "transcendence," and who knows—maybe MorningLightMountain can achieve that inside the barrier!
And now back to my boredom. When I said that Judas Unchained is more intense than Pandora's Star, I meant it in two sense: the stakes are higher, and the action is more condensed. The previous book spent a lot of time developing side plots, and it was not clear until closer to the end how the Primes and the Starflyer would manifest as antagonists. In contrast, we know from the beginning of Judas Unchained that the Primes are going to kick humanity's ass, and the Starflyer is both real and incredibly difficult to fight. As a result, the narrative is a lot more focused on these two plots—though I did enjoy the occasional shout-out to minor events from the previous book, such as the inclusion of Lionwalker Eyre.
Unfortunately, both of the plots seem to slow down and drag during the climax. It's odd. There's an interstellar wormhole train pursuit, with an intense race to get to Far Away and prevent the Starflyer from escaping. But it seems to last forever. This is not a consequence of the book's length but of the way Hamilton structures the action sequences—I'm not sure if I would go as far as calling them padded, because the sequences themselves are short and sweet. However, the events that elapse between the Guardians and Sheldon's group deciding to work together and the climactic moment on Far Away are … convoluted.
Don't get me wrong, I quite enjoyed Judas Unchained—albeit not as much as I enjoyed Pandora's Star. There were several moments throughout the book where I giggled or otherwise reflected upon how awesome it felt to be reading something like this. Hamilton has the ability to make me excited about reading a story in the way that few books or authors do. And she does what good science-fiction authors should do, which is use science fiction to tell an interesting story (sometimes the authors tend to get hung-up on the "science fiction" thing and forget they're telling stories). With Hamilton, there's no worldbuilding, just his world, which we learn about as we experience it. So I'm looking forward to returning to the Commonwealth with his Void series, and to reading more of his books in general.
I'll be honest (or shall we say, realistic?) and admit that these books aren't going to enchant every reader of science-fiction. Without falling into the trap of the fallacies of "hard" and "soft" science fiction, Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained definitely embrace the "technobabble" aspects and tropes of the genre, and not everyone enjoys that. More importantly, there are a lot of characters, and even for an author as skilled as Hamilton, it's difficult to round them out sufficiently. Despite my focus of them in the reviews, I'd definitely characterize these books as more plot-driven than character-driven. So Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained aren't for everyone, but if you do like action-packed science-fiction stories about interstellar conflicts, weird alien mentalities, and wormhole-hopping, then you've got a winner here.
This is the second "half" of the 2,200 page Commonwealth Saga, started in book one "Pandora's Star". This is superb, hard sci-fi, space-faring, wormholes, technology galore and perhaps 100 characters. This saga has one of the most interesting alien species I have ever seen - truly creative imagination and design.
I give these books Top Marks, and will continue to read Mr Hamilton's works.
A creative, innovative and imaginative sci fi setting make for a worthwhile saga albeit it with poor portrayal of women and overall unnecessarily steeped in sex.
This is the conclusion to the duology starting with Pandora's Star. Hamilton does many things well, more than he does wrong. The short of it is that I've never read a sci fi series like this. The Commonwealth is totally immersive. There is an ecology of wormholes, star systems, and inscrutable alien life forms mixed with imminent interstellar threat that make for an engaging read. The world building is absolute, dynamic and unforgettable. Dozens and dozens of worlds are described in detail. The culture is well fleshed out to the reader. Hamilton plays with so many sci fi concepts its hard to keep track. This is a veritable cornucopia of cosmology, space travel, AI and alien life that any sic fi fan boy/girl is going to eat with a spoon.
I don't quite know what these books were. Was I reading a space opera, a crime mystery, a tabloid, political brinkmanship, a spy novel, a telenovela or a war of the worlds? This book had all of that and more. Does it work? Yeah. It does. Hamilton weaves together a crazy amount of subplots that contribute to the overall thrust. It works and it's satisfying.
Now to the bad. Hamilton is terrible at writing women. I spent 2000 pages reading this series and it's undeniable. Women are either sterile and calculating or an object of desire. The character of Mellanie was, quite honesty, pretty deplorable. She's supposed to be a heroine but only gains power and influence by using sex. It's not an exaggeration that almost every man she comes in contact with, there is an inevitable sexual encounter. I was constantly rolling my eyes. This was clearly written by a man. This book was also sexist against men: every man depicted sees all woman as a sexual object. As a man, I was bothered by this. Also, uh, the normalization of polygamy? No thanks.
The pacing ran out of steam. Halfway through this, I wanted to be done. There were too many subplots of one dimensional characters. In fact, I can't think of a single character that really leapt off the page for me. If I could wave a wand, I would've taken out about half the characters and spent more time developing a main cast. The upside of this is that the story and plot are absolutely sweeping and broad, something that probably appeals to a lot of readers.
In the end this is a space epic that is far from being a masterpiece but well worth your time. I give it four stars because the sci fi elements are simply awesome.
I think it's hard to rate and review this as a single book so consider this my rating for the duology. I finished Pandora's Star for the first time a little over a year ago and felt fairly middling on it and decided not to continue. For a variety of reasons I felt, over time, that this was mostly my fault and not the book's. I went in not knowing it was an expansive giant story with a huge cast and only half of the story at that. Also, I was fairy inexperienced with sci fi and audiobooks to the point where I clearly missed things. With the way Hamilton switches povs multiple times within chapters this isn't the easiest series to audio only. This time I paid a lot more attention and realized the two books should really be one gigantic volume. My complaints with book 1 are all answered here. The plot threads that seemed like they didn't matter all end up mattering here. The way Hamilton weaves everything together is quite satisfying and brilliant. You really get to know and get attached to these characters and their eccentricities. And beyond that the way things come crashing to a conclusion in Judas Unchained just had me riveted. The tech is cool. The mysteries and conspiracies kept me guessing. The action is explosive. And he hits on some interesting themes as well in terms of maintaining our humanity in the face of an existential genocidal threat to the human race. I'll be thinking about this one for a long time. Absolutely one of my favorites of the year.
Longer review appearing much later than I anticipated... ah well.
This book picks up immediately after the end of Pandora's Star, and it distinctly benefits from not having to establish as much worldbuilding as its predecessor. Here, instead of introducing the reader to the numerous worlds and characters of the Commonwealth, Hamilton can simply jump right into their stories. With one major exception, the plot feels a lot tighter and less of it seems extraneous to the point. That said, the pacing is still uneven and too slow for the seriousness of what's at stake, and all of the problems with the (lack of) soft SF worldbuilding are still present.
Starting with the soft SF stuff, because I covered that more in depth in my review of the first book: women remain absent from most positions of power or chances to act with authority, though whether this is an oversight is unclear, as Hamilton at one point highlights the fact that there's only one female Dynasty Head; Mellanie Rescorai briefly moves away from being a character centered around sex, with some serious reflection on what it means for her career, and then goes right back; we see more of Nigel Sheldon's harem and it's exactly as shallow as I expected (and his sexual stamina clearly wish-fulfillment for someone); WE CONTINUE TO NOT TALK ABOUT THE EXPLOITATIVE NATURE OF RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN 20-SOMETHINGS AND PEOPLE OVER A HUNDRED YEARS OLD; there are no queer characters really to speak of, etc, etc. At this point I find Commonwealth society actively repulsive, to be honest. The constant modern brand namedrops (especially of cars) don't help with that, as it's just a reminder that in Hamilton's 'ideal' future the rich have continued to get rich and successful, and the poor underclass lives and dies a dozen times in the lifespan of one oligarch.
I want to talk about Mellanie a bit more, because this bothers me on a deep level. Spoilers follow.
There was, however, one thing related to the female cast that I quite liked.
The biggest weakness of this book, though, was definitely the pacing. The sense of imminent threat is minimal for most of it, and this was dramatically exacerbated by Ozzie's arc, which is lightyears away from everyone else's and doesn't connect to the rest of the interplay until near the end. When things were happening in the Commonwealth, the Ozzie chapters (mostly just him, Tochee, and Orion wandering around the floating forest and losing track of time) were nigh on useless. Moreover, when he got to the point of actually making it back, it became clear that the most important part of his travels was something that happened halfway through the last book. The interval in between lessens the emotional impact significantly, and makes his motivations at the end seem to come nearly out of nowhere. The rest of his journey, too, seems irrelevant in hindsight, as the answers to his actual questions have no bearing on the resolution of the book. By the time he leaves Commonwealth space for the second time, there's no tension in his story - for everything before to have been worth the page time, he has to succeed in his goal (which is also much, much less dramatic than the events on Far Away, happening concurrently in the narrative).
This is a story that I feel could have been much more engaging had it either a) been presented in a visual medium (where much of the description would be handled by set design/background art/etc) or b) been tightened into one book, perhaps with a compressed timeline that would make the imminent destruction by aliens feel like more of an encroaching threat. As it is, the plot seems to meander solely to make all of the extraneous characters relevant, when they probably could have been cut in the first place, especially as they offer very little in the way of emotional content.
Executive Summary: An enjoyable conclusion to the Commonwealth Duology. I plan to check out the Void trilogy at some point in the future.
Audio book: John Lee once again does a great job. He doesn't do voices, but he's got a great reading voice that I could listen to for hours and seems well suited to Space Opera. I'm excited to see he reads the Void series for Tantor as well as a few other books I plan to check out.
Full Review This is a long one, but overall I enjoyed it. I think this works best in audio because Mr. Hamilton can sometimes go overboard on the details and I found it easy to miss a little here and there and still not seem to miss any plot points. If I were reading it, I might start skimming or something.
This book picks up right where Pandora's Star leaves off, so you'll want to read that first before jumping into this one.
We're introduced to a few new POV characters in this one, to go along with some old favorites (of mine anyways) like Ozzy and Paula Myo.
I think Mr. Hamilton does a good job in not only tying up all the loose ends but merging the various story lines together into a cohesive finale.
There were some parts of Pandora's Star that felt superfluous (I'm looking at you Hang Gliding scene!) or just more background and depth that felt necessary (like the whole murder/disappearing bodies subplot) that suddenly clicked in with this book.
The real enjoyment for me wasn't necessarily the space battles, the politics or the aliens, but just the Commonwealth itself and the people we meet. Don't get me wrong all that stuff was cool (not to mention I had a hankering for some Starcraft after the scenes with the soldiers in badass armor suits going to toe to toe with aliens that remind me a lot of the Zerg).
The Commonwealth feels very much like our world today, only with a lot more fun toys to play with and near-immortality to allow one to experience them. That is if you're lucky enough to be part of the right family/born on the right planet.
I think Mark really became one of my favorite characters because he uses his intelligence and hard work to get ahead, albeit thanks to taking advantage of some timely opportunities.
I'm excited to check out other stories the Commonwealth, even if they are with a whole other cast of characters. I happened to snag The Dreaming Void as part of an end of year BOGO sale too. I'm hoping some of the characters from this are still alive and kicking and make a cameo or two at least.
“The fact that it was he who in the end had underestimated the Starflyer gave his situation its wretched poignancy.”
Good endings are are hard, great endings are Peter Hamilton. Oh, I had my doubts, my disagreements, a character I could have done without (Orion), but this blockbuster came through! Dreaming heavens, The Planets Revenge lived up to its name.
I would read a whole book on Paula Myo and dearly hope she appears in subsequent books. Perhaps the Cat too?
*audible note: The narrator is generally good but forgot about the accents he had given characters in book one. That was annoying.
Dreaming heavens, finished at last! Fascinating read. Hamilton's science is the kind I like to read and immerse myself in: realistic with a good sprinkling of sci-fi magic here and there to keep the reader wondering. In this book there are lots of these without becoming overwhelming. The story starts where it's left off in Pandora's Star, and one surprising thing I noticed was that it pretty much moved forward with only brief reminders of what had happened in the first book (which I liked because reminders tend to bog down stories as I've seen happen in other series). The cast remains intact; and the hunt for who the Starflier has turned into its spy, the invasion of the Prime and the retaliation of the Commonwealth are pretty gripping. In the ending, everything is accounted for, giving the sense of completion, finality. The only thing I didn't like about this book is its length. Hamilton just about stretched this story in all possible directions. Just read the first 300 pages! It was only when I reached chapter 8 that the story began to pick up. I have nothing against thick books. I've read many which are just as long as the Commonwealth series. But this book is filled with dreary scenes. In some parts, they are like douses of cold water when things are just beginning to get hot. Still, I am eager to read more of Hamilton works. I'm thinking to read the Dreaming Void series next.
Audiobook part 1, 5h 20min, pages 1-159, ★★★☆☆, nothing really stuck with me. It was ok, I guess. Nothing really memorable happened. Or it did, but it was indistinguishable from the end of the last book...
Audiobook part 2, about 1 hour left, DNF on page 334 of the ebook. ★☆☆☆☆
“A ghost in the machine? How appropriate. It is certainly a machine’s ghost.” “Ah, right. So, what’s it doing?” The darkness within Dr. Friland’s hood lessened to reveal a row of smiling teeth. “Whatever it wants.”
Boy, really boring. The mystery/police procedural part is so dry and lifeless, I actually forgot what the crime was, whilst snoozing through this.
Still looking for the Starflyer and who might be playing for which team.
Mellanie is still sleeping her way through the galaxy. You‘d think with her resources she could maybe apply some brainpower here and there. And „women that are happy with the harem arrangement.“ Wow.
I just spent three days finding excuses not to pick this back up. I am a little sad that I wont read more of Ozzie. I had a peek at the last chapter and read the last few pages of the ebook. Sounds as if interesting things happen. But I can‘t face another 29 hours of this audiobook and I am not in the mood to finish reading the ebook either. I can probably find a synopsis somewhere. Sorry, too long, too detailed, too random, too boring for long stretches between the suspenseful stuff.
Another (big) piece of Hamilton's infinite imagination: an epic, marvelous space opera.
One thing I did not get: what is it with Hey, Jude? This song appears a lot in King's Dark Tower and I came across it here too. I think Child in time or Stairway to Heaven would have been much more appropriate :D
Wow! What a ride. This is Space Opera at its finest. This second book in the Commonwealth Saga can’t really be described as a sequel as much as a continuation of the same story. If you put both books together you would be unable to discern where the break between the two would be. As such, a lot of my comments made in my review of the first book still apply http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...
Some of our characters have decided the mythical Starflyer Alien is a real entity who has been subverting key government organisations to direct human affairs for its own ends. Who are it’s agents? Who has it recruited? How do you fight an enemy who wears a human mask to hide the Judas within?
All these questions quickly become academic as the human race faces its own genocide when the Prime aliens consolidate their invasion of the Lost23 outer planets of the Commonwealth to prepare for humanity’s eradication.
But if MorningLightMountain thought we were just going to bend over and take it, It was seriously mistaken. A technological race ensues as both sides scramble to be first to launch their final solution. Will it be us or will it be them? And will humanity have to sacrifice its soul to ensure its own survival?
Having said all that, I do have a few gripes. One is the word/page count. As much as I’m ok with big books this story between the two books racked up a 700000 plus word count. It was not a quick read. As much as I loved the story, by the end I was in danger of Hamilton burn out. Then again, there are quite a number of complex story arcs so I’m not sure how it could be smaller without cutting the soul of the book out. Also, some of the story arcs I felt ended too conveniently. There was one death in particular that really left Hamilton off the hook – I guess when you are near the end of a 1000 page book which is the last part of a 2000 plus page story, asking the reader to sit through another 500 pages so you can wrap up all your arcs properly is a big ask.
Also, I would have liked to have known more about the SI, its motives, it's personality, what it's goals are exactly. The same for the High Angel. Then there were the mysterious genetically modified humans, the Barsoomians which I really wanted to know more about and what their specific interest in Qatux was. Of course the Silfen are still very much a mystery. Then again, if I got all that we probably would have ended up with double the word count. I'm hoping Hamilton revisits them all in later books.
Still, overall, the good by far outweighed my gripes. Hamilton really ramped up the action in this half of the story. There were some real epic one on one fights between super enhanced humans, wetwired to the hilt, and packing more hardware than a Transformers movie, leaving absolute carnage in their wake as they battle through (literally) buildings and busy streets. Fantastic stuff.
Of course we also have space battles and political intrigue with some jaw dropping revelations, especially when we uncover some of the traitors. It all comes to a head in the last quarter of the book where the action really heats up and finishes with a killer ending.
I rated the first book 5 stars, but I’m going to give this one a 4. Not because I enjoyed it less – as I said it was really the same story, but I think the overall story is 4.5 stars, deducting the half star for the reasons I mentioned.
4 stars to average out at 4.5 - Locked and Loaded.
Don’t approach this book as a sequel to Pandora's Star. It is merely a continuation of the story. The two books form a cohesive whole, and are really just parts one and two of the same story. There is no way, really, that the two books can be read separate from one another.
The war between the Commonwealth and the Prime was always going to reach critical mass in this novel, and this is more or less what happens. However, things didn’t pan out quite how I was expecting. In this novel there is a slight shift in perspective, as key figures in the Commonwealth realise that the threat presented by the Prime is not the only threat to humanity. This was already hinted at quite strongly in Pandora’s Star, especially the closing chapters. There is a lot of political manoeuvring in these novels, with the different dynasties reminding me at least a little of the great houses of Frank Herbert’s Dune universe. The greatest difference being that they’re not openly warring against one another. Not openly. At any rate, the bulk of the novel is taken up by strategies devised to root out and address the new threat while the Prime action takes a bit of a back seat. It all connects nicely in the end, of course.
The story has a lot going for it. It’s reasonably fast paced and interesting. There are a lot of really well developed characters, including some really cool aliens. The cliff-hanger ending of Pandora’s Star is addressed fairly quickly. There are lots of cool gadgets and weapons of ridiculous magnitude. It really is Space Opera at its finest, in a world that’s easy to identify with despite having wormholes and FTL spaceflight (people still drive Land Cruisers and Fords, albeit futuristic versions). However, despite all this, I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as Pandora’s Star. Why? Well, two quick reasons. I was a bit irritated by how Hamilton had one of the characters sleep with (almost literally) every other character in the novel at some point or the other. And, frankly, the book is just a bit long, with one or two sections dragging a bit, despite the general good pacing. I’m fairly certain this won’t be a problem for everybody, though, since it is a great story. The high-octane climax makes up for most of the shortcomings anyway. So, four stars it is.
Oh, one more thing: the dramatis personae in the beginning of the book contains spoilers, don’t read it. As a whole, the Commonwealth Saga is a great achievement. Now, if I can find time for the Night’s Dawn Trilogy….
So, I’ve now completed my two book journey into the Commonwealth that started with Pandora's Star. I have to say, it was a marathon (a combined 78.5 hours of audiobook!), but well worth the run. Being a marathon, I found myself struggling to keep up at a few points in this journey, but I’m very glad to have persevered. I ended up going with 4.0/5.0 stars, and really the only reason for the docked star was the length.
As I noted in my review of the first book, I really enjoyed the glimpse of a potential future for the human race that this series presents. I truly love the idea of eventually spreading human life into the galaxy. I really do hope that is an eventuality we achieve.
As to this story and the characters, I was happy with the resolution. There was a good mystery, with lots of facets, that built up and then resolved. I have to admit that I’ve gotten used to my hour or two spent every day with these characters for the last couple of months and I’m really going to miss it. It was fun!
I look forward to trying my next Peter F. Hamilton book in the near future.
Finally finished, whew!...It's a long one, but it kept my attention throughout... I will need less complex but great book to wind down after reading this duology (Pandora Star and Judas Unchained)...open for suggestions...
Judas Unchained is the second half of Pandora's Star. There's no reading one without the other.
Peter F. Hamilton can build and deliver scenes like no other. His passive scenes are elegantly written and always laying the groundwork for something big. I especially loved all of Paula Myo's investigation scenes, carried over from the first book.
Judas Unchained continues building on the already-developed characters and setting. This is easily my favorite cast of characters ever. Each character is unique and contributes something to the story. The setting is satisfyingly familiar and fantastic at the same time, and this second book expands it even further.
Action scenes aren't generally my cup of tea, but the ones in this book are very well-written and exciting.
The ending wraps up the duology neatly and leaves the door open for sequels.
5/5 overall. Judas Unchained is required reading if you finished Pandora's Star. As I mentioned earlier, this is absolutely not a stand-alone book, so you need to read Pandora's Star first.
This is the second volume of the duology, so there are spoilers for the first volume, Pandora's Star, which I reviewed here. This is a re-read for me and because I re-read maybe 5% of books, this alone shows that I liked these enormous volumes.
The book starts where the first one ended, i.e. alien species, uncovered by Earthlings appeared to be of a Highlander mentality (“There can be only one”) and attacked the unprepared humanity, capturing 23 worlds and going for more. Three extremely different women – a genetically modified bred detective, a scion of a wealthy family, and a journalist linked to sentient AIs, join their forces to fight the enemy inside. Ozzie and his companions continue their journey on the Silfen path. More and more people start to believe what looked like a conspiracy theory about Starflyer and its agents. A version of the Manhattan project is started to make an ultimate weapon.
The book masterfully mixes genres, SF adventure, first contact, mil-SF, political intrigue, etc., etc in a single lengthy narrative. There are some drawbacks though, from the fact that not all readers care for all of the plethora of genres to the often quite one-dimensional representation of some characters, especially women, some of whom are over-sexualized without any benefit to the plot.
Combined with 'Pandora's Star' this is by far the longest and most detailed space opera I have ever read. Judas Unchained is listed as the 2nd book of the Commonwealth Saga, but in reality the two books are just one very long story. There's not even a hint of a conclusion at the end of Pandora's Star, so you have to read both together. In paperback, that's 2,000 small type pages. In terms of content, this book hit's all my particular sweet spots required for the genre. There is so much in here that everyone will find something to like. Here are a few off the top of my head: Great world building, many detailed characters, multiple POV's, multiple sub plots that merge and pan out in the end, well thought out aliens, wormholes, spaceships, space battles, futuristic weapons, battle suits, politics, intrigue, spies, criminals, police investigations, morality issues, spirituality, AI's and many more. In fact, that's the problem with these books. There is just so much going on that you really have to be paying close attention to read them. Not the sort of books that could be called 'light reading'. I found it useful to print out a list of characters I found in the internet and have that handy at all times. If you enjoy space opera, then this is a masterwork of that genre and I can whole heatedly recommend the two books. If your not a fan then this will be tough going.
“Enzyme-bonded concrete”. He must really like that idea because it is used ad nauseum. In 1000+ pages that is my only pet peeve, other than the length. He definitely never uses one sentence when a paragraph would do. It is crammed with exciting, imaginative, believable ideas and concepts. Interesting, recognizable, likeable or despicable characters abound. A ruthless, implacable alien enemy, who definitely underestimates human ingenuity and resilience. Liberal peacenik environmental wackos converted to hardcore guerilla resistance when the enemy blasts their little paradise. Bloodthirsty “kill them all and let god sort ‘em out” fanatics forced to reconsider their plan for enemy annihilation. Good guys who don’t stay that way and bad guys that make good. Mystery, romance, sex, betrayal, love, selfless and selfish motivations, space opera, great battles, heroes and villains, fascinating science, moral dilemmas and more. This two part series is absolutely fantastic. But you have to read Pandora’s Star first. He stuffs a lot of extra stories and characters not essential or pertinent to the main story but I didn’t mind. It was all good.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
This is the sequel to "Pandora Star", a book I read in 2007. I was not too keen on following up with JU because it's another 1234 pages to go through and on top of it, online reviews weren't exactly brilliant. However in September I came across a copy priced at £2 and couldn't resist giving it a go.
To start with, what is the story about? The Commonwealth (Humans and all their space colonies) is on the brink of extinction after a violent attack from the Primes (Think Borg without the human shape). Thanks to their technology, humans manage to fight back, but they discover they have a deadlier enemy with The Starflyer. So the war continues, with unsuspected allies, spies, criminals becoming heroes and, in the background, several super intelligent alien species, seemingly too evolved to make a move and stop the bloodshed.
I consider Peter F. Hamilton to be my favourite space opera writer, but I found JU rather tedious. Here is why:
* The novel starts with a long series of dialogues, investigation type, and the first real action scene doesn't happen before page 184. It is followed by regular fights (Mexican standoff, battles between the Primes and Humans, hectic chase after the elusive Starflyer). But for all its technicolor explosions, it still felt dull. Probably because the world in JU is exactly like the one described in Pandora's Star. There is nothing new and exciting. It was like eating a favourite rich meal everyday of the week, for 2 months - the time it took me to read this massive novel.
* Another reason for the overall slow pace of JU is that after reading Pandora's Star, readers know that the Starflyer is dangerous (it's even stated on the back cover of JU). Yet by page 465 the Commonwealth is still uncertain of the menace it represents. This incredible doubt is repeated later on when the allies try to unmask the Starflyer spies who have infiltrated their ranks. It is a frustrating search, because there is no way that readers can guess who they are. The take over by the Starflyer is so complete that these spies aren't even aware of their transformation.
* I can't say that I appreciated the various sex scenes either. They give the impression that the book was solely aimed at teenage males who count "Weird Science" as one of their favourite movies.
* I enjoyed reading Ozzie's extensive trek away from the Commonwealth, but even in Pandora's Star it was obvious that he was destined to save the day and it is exactly what happens. So, no spice as far as this subplot is concerned.
* Pandora's Star was also superior because it had a strong character throughout the book: Investigator Paula Myo. She returns in JU, but only as a guest star. In addition, here the plot feels fractured because there is no real central character. Instead, we have soft-porn star Mellanie Rescorai who makes it through 95% of the book, (before being ditched like an old pair of unwanted socks). JU has several abrupt surprises like that, where events happen without any suspense.
My overall opinion is that "Judas Unchained" is more aimed at people who enjoy military SF than the sense of wonder associated with Space Opera titles.
What I have learned from this book: Despite what writing fiction books like to say, adverbs are not always the public enemy number one. JU is packed with them (here are some of the more exotic ones I've found: xx said hoarsely, breathlessly, bitterly, sagely, brokenly, contentedly, adoringly, etc...). So in SF adverbs don't seem to be the main problem. What is likely to kill it is a lack of original content, something that at least JU isn't suffering from.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Well. That was a wild ride - and Hamilton's obsession with trains is confirmed - Starflyer was a train all that time!
I must admit that Hamilton has a great imagination - the plethora of different words and cultures presented in the Commonwealth series is proof of that. He can also flesh out (some) believable characters in challenging situations. Altogether, the Commonwealth series forms an almost fantastic epic space opera. But my oh my, he needs a more aggressive editor who will slap him occasionally. Hamilton definitely doesn't follow Chekhov's rules about the gun ('If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.') Hamilton can describe the whole manufacturing process of gun and bullet. Then he will just leave it hanging there - forgotten and unused. I'm not kidding, there are so many loose ends and empty branches of stories that it is ridiculous. Mark, Renne, Paul, Colombia, Doi, High Heavens entity and many others just show up, have minor roles in the story and then disappear. And on each of these characters, authors spend tens to hundreds of pages. Meanwhile, bored readers struggle through meaningless passages and hope to return to the main story fast. As a result, the pacing is uneven and there are painful jumps between actions, politics and tens of pages of descriptions of yet new world. The whole series could be reduced by half of its overall length. Just delete the entire Mark storyline for starters - wholly useless and annoying. On the other hand, it seems that there were already some cuts and deletions, and some events don't make any sense. Nigel and Ozzie for example - both behave like stupid kids who fight for the biggest lego piece in kindergarten and then they are suddenly friends again and can share. What was the deal with Paul and life ships? This whole segment seems to be there just to put (useless) Mark in the spaceship, okay, but why was it going on hundreds of pages? What was the deal with Silfen? Did we just really spend hundreds of pages with Ozzie to learn - nothing? What about the whole hunt on Starflyers accountants? It revolved around almost all main characters, and we needed to introduce a whole new world, leading to what? Revealing that Starflyer is real? Not really, not until Toren's treason. And there are many, many other weird inconsistencies. I loved Paul Myo and Adam's storylines. These are the only ones which felt complete and necessary for the story. Mellanie was amazing too but got cut out too quickly in the end. All the others were underused (Ozzie, Wilson, Oscar, Boyle) or overused (frikking Mark, Doi, Justine). So for me, this is the end of my adventures with Hamilton. He would need to switch his writing styles a lot to convince me to try another book from him.
‘Judas desencadenado’ no está a la altura de su predecesora, ‘La estrella de Pandora’. El cliffhanger con el que terminaba ésta, me hacía esperar un inicio más contundente. Pero no ha sido así. La cadencia de la narración, ya desde el principio, es excesivamente pausada y se extiende durante páginas y páginas sin que prácticamente suceda nada. Las piezas tardan excesivo tiempo en ponerse en juego y la trama se pierde en los detalles. Lo que resultaba absorbente y refrescante en el primer libro, ya que te sumergía de lleno en la narración por la riqueza del universo creado por el escritor, en este segundo resulta desesperante. El autor, Peter F. Hamilton, se centra casi exclusivamente en el misterio sobre la identidad del aviador estelar, ese alienígena del que muchos creen que es una leyenda, pasando a ser una especie de novela de espías en un entorno de ciencia ficción. Lo que podría haber resultado interesante en menos páginas, acaba aburriendo, agotando y poniendo nervioso porque te das cuenta que es completamente innecesario y que lo único que sucede es que el bueno de Hamilton está engordando a su criatura. En esta tesitura, me recuerda al segundo volumen de Endymion de Dan Simmon, ‘El ascenso de Endymion’, donde sucedía lo mismo: demasiada paja y mucho miedo por parte de los autores por no querer recortar cuando sea necesario.
La historia de la Federación compuesta por estos dos volúmenes, ‘La estrella de Pandora’ y ‘Judas desencadenado’, se queda en 1600 páginas de letra minúscula. Si a ‘La estrella de Pandora’, que es una gran novela de ciencia ficción, le hubiera añadido lo más elemental del segundo libro, todo hubiese quedado más fluido, y no hubiese importado nada que la historia se hubiese quedado en un novelón de 1000 páginas. Pero 1600, es una absoluta aberración.