Pandora's Star, by Peter F. Hamilton, is a massive, ambitious, cool space opera. I've never read anything from Hamilton before, and am glad I got this audiobook on a whim. If you love epic storytelling, on a truly galactic scale, Pandora's is something to look into.
The book begins with a great bit of humor. I still smile when thinking about the scene. This is how it begins: It's around 2080, and the first astronauts are landing on mars. It's a huge accomplishment for NASA and the human race. Wilson Kime, the Mars mission pilot, sets foot on the red planet and discovers that he isn't, in fact, the first man to walk on an alien world. Two hippies have beaten the NASA team there, and one is waiting for them in a home-made spacesuit, with the greeting, "Yo, dudes, how's it hanging?" Kime and the astronauts are shocked speechless.
The rest of the story picks up 300 years later. Space travel was halted before it ever began, thanks to the two hippies, Nigel and Ozzy. Humanity has spread throughout the stars via wormhole generators, which the two Californians created. They've become the wealthiest men in the Common Wealth--600 worlds colonized and settled by mankind. That's right, they're still alive 300 years later. Not only have wormholes been created to travel faster than light, but the human body can be rejuvenated, so that no one need pass from mortality. Family dynasties now rule the galaxy, ever increasing their wealth, power, and influence. Capitalism has thrived in Hamilton's future.
The plot of the book is set when an astronomer witnesses the disappearance of a large star, called Dyson Alpha. It is totally unexplainable, as the star didn't go supernova and explode. Eventually, the government of the Common Wealth decides to send a starship to investigate. Wilson Kime--the only living starship pilot--is offered the captaincy, by none other than the hippie who screwed him on mars three centuries before.
There are so many subplots in Pandora's Star that I can't remember them all. There is a terrorist organization opposed to the mission to Dyson Alpha, claiming an alien is manipulating humanity into releasing some unknown terror. There is a police investigator investigating things. There is a fanatical warrior who falls in love with a powerful Common Wealth woman. Ozzy (one of the two who discovered wormholes) sets out on a weird journey following "paths" among the stars, created by elf-like aliens. Like I said: lots of subplots. Most of them intersect with the main plot at one point, but a few are left unfinished for the sequel, Judas unchained. Each storyline is filled with interesting people, usually doing interesting things. There were some slow chapters, but the overall pace of the book moved along at an entertaining speed. (That isn't to say this was an action-packed book. It wasn't, but you don't always need a crap-load of action to have a good pace.)
I liked the book. Like it enough that I will definitely be reading the sequel... especially since Pandora's Star is only half of the story. It ends with several cliffhangers, which would probably be annoying if the second and final book wasn't already published. Since it's out, however, all that is needed to finish the story is me getting the next half.
John Lee narrated the audiobook. He's narrated lots of popular novels, like Pillars of the Earth, and George R.R. Martin's A Feast for Crows (which has sense been re-recorded because Martin's fans booed a new narrator on the series's fourth book). Needless to say, he's a great reader.
Pandora's Star gets 4 stars out of 5, and has a content warning for adult language and sex. If epic space operas are what float your boat, you won't be sorry for checking this one out. Also, catch my review of The Prefect, by Alastair Reynolds. Both books are in the same vein.