Pandora’s Star By Peter F. Hamilton

Pandora’s Star is the first part of the Commonwealth Saga, by Peter F. Hamilton. It is a science-fiction novel, with hard science fiction parts. The novel tells the story of a vast cast of characters, needing a dramatis personae at the beginning of each part.

The story takes place in the 24th century, almost 300 years after the development of the artificial wormhole creating technology was discovered. The Commonwealth does not have any large space ships or navies, but a network of trains running through portals linking all of the planets together.

Peter F. Hamilton’s Commonwealth Saga chronicles the imminent threat upon a galactic civilization called the Commonwealth from a new alien species, called the Prime.

The Commonwealth has over 600 colonized worlds and is linked by a series of wormholes. Phase three space is currently being developed, at a much slower rate than Phase two space.

The wormhole network has brought a sort of rigidity to human civilization, which was confronted by a few alien species, but none were aggressive. The Silfen are a mysterious race of travelers that seem to travel through the stars thanks to their paths, of which humans have no knowledge.

The High Angel is a sentient generational ship of alien origin meant to gather different forms of life. Humans have been accepted there, but the Angel hasn’t revealed its true purpose.

Hamilton has a large cast of characters in his two novels and over 2000 pages in the Commonwealth Saga. That would be his only problem, since the telling of the story comes from so many different viewpoints.

The Commonwealth resembles the Hegemony of Man from Dan Simmon’s Hyperion Cantos. As with the Hegemony, the Commonwealth doesn’t have a lot of contact with AIs. The AIs seceded peacefully from human affairs and have taken the form of a Sentient Intelligence. They sporadically interact with humanity. Ozzie Fernandez Isaac and Nigel Sheldon elaborated new restricted AIs called Restricted Intelligences for large systems. These restrictions stop the AI from attaining sentience.

Ozzie and Sheldon are also responsible for the artificial wormhole technology with makes the Commonwealth possible. They had a breakthrough in the early 21st century, when they arrived before the first manned flight to Mars. They said hello to Commander Wilson Kime, who wasn’t too happy about this. Commander Kime arrived on Mars thanks to the first manned expedition to the planet. The need for space ships and space travel was negated thanks to the FTL possibilities of the gateways.

The other major technology that changed the structure of the society was the fact that all humans have implanted memorycells, which store their experiences. When they get too old, they rejuvenate. The memorycells are there in order to prevent a loss of continuity. If they suffer bodyloss, they can be re-lifed in a new clone and their experiences will survive.

Most humans have implanted intelligent systems called e-butlers that help them with day to day dealings, such as taking care of their homes, doing transactions. The other part of this are Organic Circuitry Tattoos or OCtattoos which take over the computing part of their lives. Some are bank systems others are just more intelligent agents.

Some people who have lived for a long time elect to have part of their memories stored in secure data vaults. Others prefer to have them with them at all times. When this happens, they have to expand their consciousness across arrays made available to them thanks to the prevalence of computers everywhere. A few people in the novel who do this are Nigel Sheldon and Gore Burnelli, two heads of the most important Intersolar Dynasties.

The known universe is ruled democratically, but this has devolved in a sort of plutocracy, with the Grand Families and the Intersolar Dynasties pulling the strings. This kind of reminds me of the House concept from Frank Herbert’s Dune novels.

Most planets are connected thanks to pan-world trains, which travel through artificial wormholes.

The narrative is split among a variety of viewpoints. All of it happens when Dudley Bose, an astronomer, discovers that two stars 700 light years away, disappear from view. He reports his findings and the Commonwealth decides to send a spaceship to investigate. Wilson Kime is designated as the captain, thanks to Nigel Sheldon, and he chooses his crew carefully for the expedition.

Paula Myo, Chief Investigator for Intersolar Security Directorate, is trying to find Bradley Johnsson, the head of the terrorists Guardians of Selfhood from the planet Far Away. She has been trying for over 130 years to get to him, to no avail. She is always on the hunt for Adam Elvin, one of Johnsson’s suppliers. She gets mixed up in a political battle between the Burnellis and the Halgarth’s, when the Directorate gets absorbed into the new Commonwealth Navy. Johnsson believes that a mysterious alien called the Starflyer has infiltrated the highest levels of the Commonwealth and is directing it to humanity’s doom. This comes to paroxysm, when he orchestrates the attack on Anchus and the construction of the Second Chance, the spaceship that humanity sends to investigate the Dyson Pair.

Ozzie goes on a journey to find out how the Silfen travel from world to world and what happens to them when they grow up. He believes that the Silfen humans see are only the non-mature form of their culture. He goes on a trek and is joined by Orion, a young teenage boy and Tochee, a strange alien who speaks through the ultraviolet spectrum. Towards the end of the novel, he is on the right path and is able to escape the Ice Citadel. But to where?

Wilson Kime is called forth to captain the first ship of the Commonwealth, which saw no need for spaceships after the wormhole network was created. The narrative takes place in 2380 and spaceship technology has not advanced. However, thanks to the artificial wormhole generator, it is possible to make a portable one. Kime is forced to take Bose with him, as a political move.

Mellanie Rescorai is a young first-life Olympic diver who is having an affair with Morton, a man who Myo suspects of having killed his wife and lover. Rescorai has a strange relationship with the SI and acts as their agent. She has strange implants that enable her to function above normal parameters. On top of that, she isn’t afraid to act. She becomes a reporter and works for Alessandra Baron.

When the Second Chance arrives at the Dyson Pair, they realize that it’s a megastructure and its construction is way beyond humanity’s technology at the moment. They investigate a strange generator.

When the barrier fails, the humans discover a strange warlike species inside the solar system. They investigate it long enough to loose two crewmen before jumping away. The species is able to adapt very quickly, since its sole purpose is to evolve and assimilate more systems.

The ship comes back to Commonwealth space and delivers the bad news. Immediately, more ships are constructed. Planetary defenses are created, but humanity believes that they are not in danger. That is, until the Prime strike against humanity and 23 planets are lost to them.

The Prime attack has begun, and Myo is sensing that there are problems within the Commonwealth, problems making this invasion easier. The Grand Families and Intersolar Dynasties are jockeying for position, so that they can be part of the defense of the Commonwealth.

The Prime are distinctly different from any other organisms or life that the humans have encountered, mainly because the Prime are composed of one continuous consciousness and a number of motile agents. Like a queen bee, the Prime sits on top of its hive assimilating new territories, bioforming new environments to its own design. It does not have electronics, only millions of other immotiles like itself that it controls and trillions of motiles doing its business.

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Author: range

I'm mathematician/IT strategist/blogger from Canada living in Taipei.