We opened the box….

Pandora's Star (Commonwealth Saga, #1)Pandora’s Star by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very long book and really should be read with the plan to continue with Judas Unchained. The story unfolds with the speed of a geriatric snail, so bring patience and time and appreciation for the little things along. I took me two months to get through the audiobook—ok, I am slow with audio—and I did it with the print version next to me, to double-check on details.
The world building is great, this is full of great ideas. And when there is action, it is well done. Characters take their time to develop and the aliens are truly scary in their otherness. This is good, although I wonder what it would be like at half the page count…

Thoughts and comments, while working my way through this monster:
————
Audiobook Part 1: 6 h 56 min (183 pages), Chapters 1-6, ★★★½☆
Glacially slow set-up and introduction of a variety of characters. Very little plot progression. I liked what was there. Alas, it was not for the impatient and easily bored (aka ME!). I wonder how all these very different stories will come together.

————
Audiobook Part 2: 7 h 22 min (pages 184-376), Chapter 7-11, ★★★★★
Interesting biology and chemistry! Really cool idea, although Merredin is not necessarily a planet I would like to visit. Just that by itself is a great plot bunny for a colonization/first contact novel! There are several other planets and constructs in this part of the book, that would make for great settings for separate novels. The world building here is fascinating.

With all people living multiple lives, I would love to have a timeline sketched out at the back of the book. If I should ever decide to re-read this book, I plan to make annotations and try to figure out a timeline myself.

You definitely need patience with this book. Interesting things happen and then you switch POV and…. something else happens and it‘s all a very loooong game….

But by Chapter 10 (yes, yes, almost 300 pages of set-up), things are starting to come together, the many characters are becoming familiar names and the plot picks up the pace.

————
Audiobook Part 3: 7 h 30 min (pages 377-574), Chapters 12-16, ★★★★☆
The characters are finally familiar and we are getting into the meat of the story.

————
Audiobook Part 4: 8 h 52 min (pages 575-806), Chapters 17-21, ★★★★☆
Chapter 18 was horrific! We are moving towards a climax… maybe… Besides the action I still enjoyed Ozzie‘s chapters the most.

————
Audiobook Part 5: 6 h 48 min (pages 807-988), Chapters 22-25, ★★★★☆
Wow, I finished! I thought this would never end. There was some light wrapping up of the status quo at the end, but I guess it would be a good strategy to have Judas Unchained ready to go! I pretty much continued with the audio straight away.

————
On the Marie Celeste of the Commonwealth universe: https://peterfhamilton.fandom.com/wik…
And the RL Mary Celeste: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Ce…

The Commonwealth, publication order:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/1085…

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Meh? Not sure…

Interference (Semiosis Duology, #2)Interference by Sue Burke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had trouble to remember the book title, whilst reading this. In my head I was reading Inheritance. You have to deal with what you were given, good or bad. That holds true for Karola from Earth as much as for the people on Pax.

I made an effort to finish Semiosis, because I liked the world-building so much. I wasn‘t a fan of the pacing or the tone. So I went into this with some trepidation. And it took me longer than usual to read the first two chapters. At which point I was pretty much done and could have gladly stopped reading.

I came to dislike the almost infantile tone of the communication between the characters and their internal thoughts. Why did they all sound as if they were a bit simple? No complex thought processes or critical thinking seemed to be present.

In Chapter 3 the new explorers from Earth arrived on Pax. Great opportunity to give the reader an external view of that society. I did not like the execution at all. The characters were not believable and bordered on caricatures. They had the emotional maturity and mental capacities of gnats. I almost DNFd right there and then!

Curiosity kept me going. I enjoyed chapters 4 and 5 a lot more. The chapter with Queen Thunderclap gave some nice insights into the societal structure of the glassmakers.

Chapter 5 was fun for its action and Stevland, my favourite character, finally showing up again a little more prominently.

The author shines when she goes into the scientific aspects of her story. Society, biology, cultural understanding and interaction. Writing believable, realistic characters is most definitely not her strength.

One of the biggest missed chances of this novel in my opinion is further exploration of Karola‘s character. And of the coral plain. I would really liked to have dived into that ecosystem more deeply.

Chapter 6, finally, was a Stevland chapter. And the longest chapter of the book. I liked it, but it also confused me. The story didn‘t gell for me, there were things that did not make sense.

The last chapter was was fun and the epilogue left the reader with interest in more.

Bottom line, it was allover the place. Some parts I actively disliked, sometimes I was bored, sometimes it was fun and I was fascinated. As a whole it was not a gripping read. I might pick up something else by the author, but she will not become an instant buy.

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Update on the Commonwealth

Pandora's Star (Commonwealth Saga, #1)Pandora’s Star by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am listening to the audiobook, with the odd peek at my paperback. As this is a doorstopper, the audio comes in 5 parts. I‘ll update as I go along…

————
Audiobook Part 1: 6 h 56 min (183 pages), Chapters 1-6, ★★★½☆
Glacially slow set-up and introduction of a variety of characters. Very little plot progression. I liked what was there. Alas, it was not for the impatient and easily bored (aka ME!). I wonder how all these very different stories will come together.

Chapter list with characters (potential spoilers):

– Prologue
NASA Captain-Pilot Wilson Kime, stepping on Mars in third place…
Nigel Sheldon and college geek with wild Afro (Ozzie), appearing in an opening in space…

– Chapter One
Dudley Bose and the vanishing star…
Dyson Alpha, the vanishing star…
Lion Walker Eyre, man with a telescope.

– Chapter Two
Adam Elvin, man of mystery and many faces, weapons procurer.
Nigel Murphy, a comrade with weapons.
Sabbah, undercover comrade.
Rachael Lancier, arms dealer.
Chief Investigator Paula Myo.
Don Mares and Maggie Lidsey, Police detectives.
Tarlo and Renne, Investigators from the Directorate.

– Chapter Three
Rafael Columbia, chief of the Intersolar Serious Crimes Directorate. Bunch of other committee members.
Tara Jennifer Shaheef, woman out of luck.
Wyobie Cotal, lover boy.

– Chapter Four
Justine Burnelli, having fun with a hyperglider. Her friend Estella.
Kazimir McFoster, wild man in a kilt.

– Chapter Five
Wilson Kime again, retired. Emily, his grand daughter.
Paula Myo, chasing Elvin…
Wyobie Cotal again, diminished…

– Chapter Six
Mark Vernon, fist lifer on Augusta.
Liz, his beautiful wife, not a first lifer…
Barry, their son. Sandy, baby girl.
Marty, Mark‘s dad, and Amanda, his girlfriend. Slightly scandalous.
Tarlo and Renne again, investigating…
April Gallar Halgarth, girl with memory problems.

————
Audiobook Part 2: 7 h 22 min (pages 184-376), Chapter 7-11, ★★★★★

Interesting biology and chemistry! Really cool idea, although Merredin is not necessarily a planet I would like to visit. Just that by itself is a great plot bunny for a colonization/first contact novel! There are several other planets and constructs in this part of the book, that would make for great settings for separate novels. The world building here is fascinating.

With all people living multiple lives, I would love to have a timeline sketched out at the back of the book. If I should ever decide to re-read this book, I plan to make annotations and try to figure out a timeline myself.

You definitely need patience with this book. Interesting things happen and then you switch POV and…. something else happens and it‘s all a very loooong game….

But by Chapter 10 (yes, yes, almost 300 pages of set-up), things are starting to come together, the many characters are becoming familiar names and the plot picks up the pace.

Chapter list with characters, settings and spoilery ramblings: (spoilers!!!)

– Chapter Seven
Oscar Monroe, wormhole builder and planetary explorer, showing up again on Merredin.
Dudley Bose, Leonida City, discoverer of astronomical phenomena, feeling entitled… His wife Wendy and Brad, with Earle, the News man, no last name…

– Chapter Eight
Ozzie Fernandez Isaac, on his asteroid and travelling the Path.
Nine Sky, the elf…ehem… Silfen.
Orion, the orphan boy.

Elves! Who could say no to that! Silvergalde is a more tempting planet. And down the rabbit hole we go!

– Chapter Nine
Adam Elvin showing up again, on Lothian. Very Scottish…
Bradley Johansson—I feel like I should know him from a previous chapter.
Tara Jennifer Shaheef and her new husband, deSavoel.
Morton, Tara‘s Ex. His girlfriend Melanie.

Starting to wonder. Well, continuing to wonder… why Tara and Wyobie were killed. And I am also starting to want a timeline… Morton has been rejuvenated twice since Tara‘s death and mentioned 40 years since….

– Chapter 10
Oscar Monroe (wormhole builder, chapter 7), McClain Gilbert, and the High Angel—another very cool idea worthy of its own novel.
Paula and Hoshe, meeting the Raiel and passing Tara‘s memories to Qatux. Another cool concept. Human ethics. Judging others through your own lens—should you or shouldn‘t you?
Ron Tannie, regretting taking this job on Anshun. Wowza, this is the action I like to see in a good SF opera! And well played, Wilson!
Lennie Al Husan, reporter on Anshun—at this point I wonder if all these seemingly random characters will end up as personnel and passengers on the Second Chance?

– Chapter 11
Meeting Sara and old Bill, the Korrok-hi. Cocktail hour on the ice planet.
Rafael Columbia shows up again and proves to be an idiot that Paula is not too fussed with.
At this point in the narrative, I would say that Ozzie is one of my favourite characters. Together with Wilson and Paula Myo.

————
Still to come:
Part 2: 7 h 22 min
Part 3: 7 h 30 min
Part 4: 8 h 52 min
Part 5: 6 h 48 min

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Star Trekking, bit by bit

Pandora's Star (Commonwealth Saga, #1)Pandora’s Star by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am listening to the audiobook, with the odd peek at my paperback. As this is a doorstopper, the audio comes in 5 parts. I‘ll update as I go along…

Audiobook Part 1: 6 h 56 min (183 pages), Chapters 1-6, ★★★½☆
Glacially slow set-up and introduction of a variety of characters. Very little plot progression. I liked what was there. Alas, it was not for the impatient and easily bored (aka ME!). I wonder how all these very different stories will come together.

Still to come:
Part 2: 7 h 22 min
Part 3: 7 h 30 min
Part 4: 8 h 52 min
Part 5: 6 h 48 min

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It‘s not just the thought that counts.

The Contingency (The Contingency War, #1)The Contingency by G.J. Ogden
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The writing:
Verbose, with overlong sentences. Everything explained truly well, including the obvious, which really takes the fun out of things. Repetitive. Juvenile humour. Overabundance of metaphors. Some grammatical blunders. The writing irritated me so much that I had a hard time immersing myself into the story.
With the plot twist in the middle of the book, the writing became tighter and more focussed for a while, but then wandered off again into over-explaining mode. It almost felt as if written by somebody else for a while. Alas, …

The characters:
Barely developed characters. Interchangeable and immature. Casey reminded me of Jar Jar Binks and was really annoying. The Hedalt remained blanks. In that case it would have been nice to get at least a little information. If the humans didn’t know what the Hedalt look like, why not say so? Did I miss something in the beginning?

The plot:
Light space opera. Not a lot of world building, very little backstory.
Nice twist in the middle. It took the tale into a more unusual direction and offered something new. The next major plot development after that was a bit too much too soon. It all needed more depth, there wasn‘t enough meat to it.
The epilogue (wasn‘t called that, but felt like it) was nice. The story idea was not bad and had its moments.
I wish the first half of the book had been only half or a third as long. As it was, the plotting felt uneven.

Would I recommend this or get it for a friend? No.

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley as well as BookSirens, in exchange for an honest review, thank you! Sorry, I just didn‘t like this much.

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Anemone?

Maelstrom (Rifters, #2)Maelstrom by Peter Watts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The sequel to the first Rifters novel, Starfish. Difficult. Lenie Clarke comes to shore and with her the apocalypse, of a sort (two sorts, actually).

The first half of the book was confusing. Multiple viewpoints with different agendas, some of them of the artificial kind. I was pretty lost. Cyberpunk meets the apocalypse meets a revenge story and…. it was a mess. I skimmed some of the more indecipherable parts. I contemplated to DNF, but my curiosity kept me going. It was a case of „what the hell did I just read“, but it had its moments.

A plot finally coalesced about two-thirds into the book and it was pretty slim. This book is more about the noise than about the red thread. The ending was satisfying enough. I might even pick up the third book at some point.

★★¾☆☆

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