A quick note before I begin this post – I recently decided to get back to reading core SF and to fill some gaps in my reading. To me, the central core of the genre consists of the kind of thing Asimov or Clarke used to do so well: deep space, far future and tech based speculation. For my money, the current master of the form is Alastair Reynolds, but I wanted to give others a chance, so over the next few days you will see reviews regarding books by James S.A. Corey and the late Iain Banks (the ones with the M in the writer name).
Today, we start with Peter F. Hamilton.
Of the three writers involved in this particular quest, Hamilton is the only one whose novels I’d been exposed to previously. I even wrote a review of Misspent Youth for SFReader. In that review, I had a problem with Hamilton’s writing: he seems to start off extremely slowly, and to create characters that can be extremely annoying–or at least seem that way yo me.
However, the final ten percent of the book showed a pickup in pace.
Pandora’s Star, the book I chose as Hamilton’s representative in the reading of core SF, suffers from almost exactly the same issue. You end up hating many of the characters… and then they become important when the pace picks up (and boy, does it ever pick up) in the latter half of the book. The main difference is that this book is much longer than Misspent Youth, so both the suffering and the payoff are much more prolonged.
To be completely fair to Pandora’s Star, the very first few pages are actually quite funny, but then it reverted to the same form as the other book and I had decided to pan the novel at about 40% through. And then things exploded in the second half, and it became truly interesting. I find Hamilton at his best when he is writing action and events as opposed to characters. Or perhaps he is just a master at setting things up so you leave the book feeling that he is amazing at that–one way or the other, his books end well.
Well enough in this case that I will eventually be adding the second book in this series to my TBR pile. I want to know how the longer arc ends, even if I don’t care about most of the characters. The events are compelling enough.
So yes, this is a kind of tortured review. I like the setting, like the tech, love the conflict… but I have a hard time rooting for some of the characters. Maybe that’s the point, or maybe it’s just my own spin on normal human beings that others won’t find too much fault with… but that is what I’m left with after reading this one.
Still… I’m going to be buying book 2, so take that as you will!