Commonwealth Saga by Peter F Hamilton

February 19, 2009 at 1:28 am | Posted in 4 stars, Book Reviews, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

For reasons that I’m not totally clear on, doorstop science fiction is a lot more rare than doorstop fantasy.  Presumably it has something to do with the relative popularity of fantasy.  Peter F. Hamilton has been writing science fiction in the extra-long format for quite a while, however, and apparently that practice has paid off.  I can’t really speak for his earlier work, as in my only previous attempt I bounced off his Night’s Dawn trilogy (I actually finished an entire “book” but given the percentage of the whole I think it qualifies as a bounce), but the Commonwealth Saga holds together pretty well across its vast length.

It’s two books, not a trilogy, with far better titles than the whole thing: Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained.  Don’t be deceived, though, this is a single work.  Hamilton has a huge cast of viewpoint characters to capture his epic from all possible angles and mostly avoids the common failing of having one thread be far more interesting than the others.  Oh, there were one or two characters without a lot to do until the end, but under the circumstances I would call it quite successful.

The allure of this sort of book lies in the intricacies of its plot.  The characters are decently drawn and the ideas are fairly standard, but the hugely complicated story is the star of the show.  Gripping throughout, it stumbled only at the end, where everything resolved more or less as I was expecting many hundreds of pages earlier.  That’s not a very harsh criticism, not when the most common failing of a science fiction novel is the “you mean that was the ending?” ending.  I’ll have to read more by Hamilton in the future.

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