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  • Written by Peter F. Hamilton
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  • Written by Peter F. Hamilton
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Written by Peter F. HamiltonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Peter F. Hamilton

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On Sale: March 02, 2004
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-345-47219-9
Published by : Del Rey Ballantine Group
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Critics have compared the engrossing space operas of Peter F. Hamilton to the classic sagas of such sf giants as Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert. But Hamilton’s bestselling fiction—powered by a fearless imagination and world-class storytelling skills—has also earned him comparison to Tolstoy and Dickens. Hugely ambitious, wildly entertaining, philosophically stimulating: the novels of Peter F. Hamilton will change the way you think about science fiction. Now, with Pandora’s Star, he begins a new multivolume adventure, one that promises to be his most mind-blowing yet.

The year is 2380. The Intersolar Commonwealth, a sphere of stars some four hundred light-years in diameter, contains more than six hundred worlds, interconnected by a web of transport “tunnels” known as wormholes. At the farthest edge of the Commonwealth, astronomer Dudley Bose observes the impossible: Over one thousand light-years away, a star . . . vanishes. It does not go supernova. It does not collapse into a black hole. It simply disappears. Since the location is too distant to reach by wormhole, a faster-than-light starship, the Second Chance, is dispatched to learn what has occurred and whether it represents a threat. In command is Wilson Kime, a five-time rejuvenated ex-NASA pilot whose glory days are centuries behind him.

Opposed to the mission are the Guardians of Selfhood, a cult that believes the human race is being manipulated by an alien entity they call the Starflyer. Bradley Johansson, leader of the Guardians, warns of sabotage, fearing the Starflyer means to use the starship’s mission for its own ends.

Pursued by a Commonwealth special agent convinced the Guardians are crazy but dangerous, Johansson flees. But the danger is not averted. Aboard the Second Chance, Kime wonders if his crew has been infiltrated. Soon enough, he will have other worries. A thousand light-years away, something truly incredible is waiting: a deadly discovery whose unleashing will threaten to destroy the Commonwealth . . . and humanity itself.

Could it be that Johansson was right?



From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

ONE

The star vanished from the center of the telescope’s image in less time than a single human heartbeat. There was no mistake, Dudley Bose was looking right at it when it happened. He blinked in surprise, drawing back from the eyepiece. “That’s not right,” he muttered.

He shivered slightly in reaction to the cold air around him, slapping gloved hands against his arms. His wife, Wendy, had insisted he wrap up well against the night, and he’d dutifully left the house in a thick woolen coat and sturdy hiking trousers. As always when the sun fell below Gralmond’s horizon, any warmth in the planet’s thinner-than-average atmosphere dissipated almost immediately. With the telescope housing open to the elements at two o’clock in the morning, the temperature had dropped enough to turn his every breath into a stream of gray mist.

Dudley shook the fatigue from his head, and leaned back into the eyepiece. The starfield pattern was the same—there had been no slippage in the telescope’s alignment—but Dyson Alpha was still missing. “It couldn’t be that fast,” he said.

He’d been observing the Dyson Pair for fourteen months now, searching for the first clues of the envelopment that would so dramatically alter the emission spectrum. Until tonight there had been no change to the tiny yellow speck of light twelve hundred forty light-years away from Gralmond that was Dyson Alpha.

He’d known there would be a change; it was the astronomy department at Oxford University back on Earth that had first noticed the anomoly during a routine sky scan back in 2170, two hundred and ten years ago. Since the previous scan twenty years earlier, two stars, a K-type and an M-type three years apart, had changed their emission spectrum completely to nonvisible infrared. For a few brief months the discovery had caused some excited debate among the remnants of the astronomy fraternity about how they could decay into red giants so quickly, and the extraordinary coincidence of two stellar neighbors doing so simultaneously. Then a newly settled planet fifty light-years farther out from Earth reported that the pair were still visible in their original spectrum. Working back across the distance, checking the spectrum at various distances from Earth, allowed astronomers to work out that the change to both stars had occurred over a period of approximately seven or eight years.

Given that amount of time, the nature of the change ceased to become a question of astronomy; stars of that category took a great deal longer to transform into red giants. Their emission hadn’t changed due to any natural stellar process; it was the direct result of technological intervention on the grandest possible scale.

Somebody had built a solid shell around each star. It was a feat whose scale was rivaled only by its time frame. Eight years was astonishingly swift to fabricate such a gigantic structure, and this advanced civilization had apparently built two at the same time. Even so, the concept wasn’t entirely new to the human race.

In the twenty-first century, a physicist named Freeman Dyson had postulated that the artifacts of a technologically advanced civilization would ultimately surround their star in order to utilize all of its energy. Now someone had turned his ancient hypothesis into reality. It was inevitable that the two stars would be formally christened the Dyson Pair.

Speculative papers were written after the Oxford announcement, and theoretical studies performed into how to dismantle Jovian-size planets to produce such a shell. But there was no real urgency connected to the discovery. The human race had already encountered several sentient alien species, all of them reassuringly harmless; and the Intersolar Commonwealth was expanding steadily. It would be a matter of only a few centuries until a wormhole was opened to the Dyson Pair. Any lingering questions about their construction could be answered then by the aliens themselves.

Now he’d seen that the envelopment was instantaneous, Dudley was left with a whole new set of very uncomfortable questions about the composition of the shell structure. An eight-year construction period for any solid shell that size had been assessed as remarkable, but obviously achievable. When he’d begun the observation he’d expected to note a year-by-year eclipse of the star’s light as more and more segments were produced and locked into place. This changed everything. To appear so abruptly, the shell couldn’t be solid. It had to be some kind of force field. Why would anyone surround a star with a force field?

“Are we recording?” he asked his e-butler.

“We are not,” the e-butler replied. “No electronic sensors are currently active at the telescope focus.” The voice was slightly thin, treble-boosted; a tone that had been getting worse over the last few years. Dudley suspected the OCtattoo on his ear was starting to degenerate; organic circuitry was always susceptible to antibody attack, and his was over twenty-five years old. Not that the glittery scarlet and turquoise spiral on his skin had changed. A classic spree of youthful dynamism after his last rejuvenation had made him choose a visible pattern, stylish and chic in those days. Now it was rather embarrassing for a middle-aged professor to sport around the campus. He should have had the old pattern erased and replaced it with something more discreet; but somehow he’d never gotten around to it, despite his wife’s repeated requests.

“Damnit,” Dudley grunted bitterly. But the idea of his e-butler taking the initiative had been a pretty forlorn hope. Dyson Alpha had risen only forty minutes earlier. Dudley had been setting up the observation, performing his standard final verification—an essential task, thanks to the poorly maintained mechanical systems that orientated the telescope. He never ordered the sensor activation until the checks were complete. That prissy routine might have just cost him the entire observation project.

Dudley went back for another look. The little star was still stubbornly absent in the visual spectrum. “Bring the sensors on-line now, will you please. I need to have some sort of record of tonight.”

“Recording now,” his e-butler said. “The sensors could benefit from recalibrating, the entire image is considerably short of optimum.”

“Yeah, I’ll get on to it,” Dudley replied absently. The state of the sensors was a hardware problem; one that he ought to assign to his students (all three of them). Along with a hundred other tasks, he thought wearily.

He pushed back from the telescope, and used his feet to propel the black leather office chair across the bare concrete floor of the observatory. The rattling noise from its old castors echoed thinly around the cavernous interior. There was enough vacant space for a host of sophisticated ancillary systems, which could bring the observatory up to near-professional standards; it could even house a larger telescope. But the Gralmond university lacked the funds for such an upgrade, and had so far failed to secure any commercial sponsorship from CST—Compression Space Transport, the only company truly interested in such matters. The astronomy department survived on a collection of meager government grants, and a few endowments from pure-science foundations. Even an Earth-based educational charity made an annual donation.

Beside the door was the long wooden bench that served as a de facto office for the whole department. It was covered with banks of aging, secondhand electronic equipment and hi-rez display portals. Dudley’s briefcase was also there, containing his late-night snacks and a flask of tea.

He opened the case and started munching on a chocolate cookie as the sensor images swam up into the display portals. “Put the infrared on the primary display,” he told the e-butler.

Holographic speckles in the large main portal shoaled into a false color image of the starfield, centered around the Dyson Pair. Dyson Alpha was now emitting a faint infrared signature. Slightly to one side and two light-years farther away, Dyson Beta continued to shine normally in its M-type spectrum.

“So that really was the envelopment event,” Dudley mused. It would be two years before anyone could prove whether the same thing had happened simultaneously at Dyson Beta. At least people would have to acknowledge that the Dyson Alpha event occurred in under twenty-three hours—the time since his last recorded observation. It was a start, but a bad one. After all, he’d just witnessed something utterly astounding. But without a recording to back him up, his report was likely to generate only disbelief, and a mountainous struggle to maintain his already none-too-high reputation.

Dudley was ninety-two, in his second life, and fast approaching time for another rejuvenation. Despite his body having the physical age of a standard fifty-year-old, the prospect of a long, degrading campaign within academia was one he regarded with dread. For a supposedly advanced civilization, the Intersolar Commonwealth could be appallingly backward at times, not to mention cruel.

Maybe it won’t be that bad, he told himself. The lie was comforting enough to get him through the rest of the night’s shift.

The Carlton AllLander drove Dudley home just after dawn. Like the astronomer, the vehicle was old and worn, but perfectly capable of doing its job. It had a cheap diesel engine, common enough on a semifrontier world like Gralmond, although its drive array was a thoroughly modern photo- neural processor. With its high suspension and deep-tread tires it could plow along the dirt track to the observatory in all weather and seasons, including the meter-deep snow of Gralmond’s winters.

This morning all it had to surmount was a light drizzle and a thin slick of mud on the track. The observatory was situated on the high moorland ninety kilometers to the east of Leonida City, the planet’s capital. Not exactly a mountaintop perch, but it was the highest land within any reasonable distance, and unlikely ever to suffer from light pollution. It was forty minutes before the Carlton started to descend into the lower valleys where the main highway meandered along the base of the slopes. Only then were there any signs of human activity. A few farmsteads had been built in sheltered folds of the land where dense stretches of dark native evergreen cynomel trees occupied the ground above every stream and river. Grazing meadows had been established on the bleak hillsides, where animals shivered in the cold winds blowing down off the moorland.

All the while as the Carlton bobbed cautiously along the track, Dudley pondered how he could realistically break the news. Even a twenty-three-hour envelopment was a concept that the Commonwealth’s small fraternity of professional astronomers would dismiss out of hand. To claim it had happened in a split second would open him to complete ridicule, and invariably to an in-house status review from the university. As to the physicists and engineers who heard his claim . . . they’d gleefully contribute to the case against him.

Had he been at the start of his career he might have done it, achieving a degree of notoriety before finally proving himself right. The little man overcoming formidable odds, a semiheroic, or at least romantically poetic, figure. But now, taking such risks was too great. He needed another eight years of uninterrupted employment, even on the university’s demeaningly low salary, before his R&R pension was full; without that money there was no way he could pay for a rejuvenation. And who in the last decades of the twenty-fourth century was going to employ a discredited astronomer?

He stared out at the landscape beyond the vehicle’s windows, unconsciously stroking the OCtattoo on his ear. A wan light was illuminating the low undulating landscape of drab, damp cordgrass, revealing miserable-looking terrestrial cows and herds of the local bovine nygine. There must have been a horizon out there, but the bleak, gray sky made it hard to tell where it began. As vistas went, this had to be one of the most depressing of all the inhabited worlds.

Dudley closed his eyes and sighed. “And yet it moves,” he whispered.

As rebellions went, Dudley’s was fairly pitiful. He knew he couldn’t ignore what he’d seen out there among the eternal, unchanging constellations. Somewhat thankfully, he realized, he still had enough dignity left to make sure he didn’t take the easy burial option. Yet announcing the envelopment to the public would be the end of his own particular world. What others regarded as his essential meekness, he liked to think of as a caution that went with age. Similar to wisdom, really.

Old habits die hard, so he broke the problem down into stages, the way he always taught his students, and set about solving each one with as much logic as he could apply. Very simply, his overwhelming priority was to confirm the speed of envelopment. A wavefront of proof that was currently receding from Gralmond at the speed of light. And Gralmond was almost the farthest extent of the Commonwealth in this section of space. Almost, but not quite.

The Intersolar Commonwealth occupied a roughly spherical volume of space with Earth at the center, measuring four hundred light-years across. Gralmond was two hundred forty light-years from Earth, among the last of the second expansion phase planets to be settled. It didn’t require a great deal of calculation for Dudley to find that the next planet to witness the envelopment would be Tanyata, right on the edge of phase two space. Tanyata was even less developed than Gralmond—there was certainly no university yet—but a unisphere datasearch did find him a list of local amateur astronomers. There was one name on it.

Five months and three days after the evening he’d seen Dyson Alpha vanish, Dudley nervously waved good-bye to his wife as the Carlton pulled out of their driveway. She thought his trip to Tanyata was legitimate, sanctioned by the university. Even after eleven years of marriage, he didn’t have the courage to tell her the absolute truth. Or maybe it was that after five marriages he knew what to keep quiet about.


From the Hardcover edition.
Peter F. Hamilton|Author Q&A

About Peter F. Hamilton

Peter F. Hamilton - Pandora's Star
Peter F. Hamilton is the author of numerous novels, including The Dreaming Void,Fallen Dragon, Judas Unchained, Pandora’s Star, and the acclaimed epic Night’s Dawn trilogy (The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist, and The Naked God). He lives with his family in England.

Author Q&A

Peter F. Hamilton has, according to the Denver Post, a “rare talent”--that of being able to create big-screen science fiction, broad enough in scope that it compares to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy and Frank Herbert’s Dune saga. Del Rey had the rare opportunity to talk to Hamilton about the alien races, strange future societies, mind-expanding new technologies, and non-stop action that contribute to his latest epic novel, Pandora’s Star.

Del Rey:Pandora’s Star takes place in a 24th century that reminds me a lot of the Clinton era of peace and prosperity right up to the moment that the dot.com meltdown and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center dealt a one-two punch. In your future, the equivalent “punch” is the discovery of an aggressive and malevolent force previously unknown to humanity. Were the real-world events of 2001 an influence on your story?

Peter Hamilton:There’s actually a terrorist attack in Pandora’s Star that the majority of humanity watches unfolding through media news shows. Someone else remarked that this is what we all did on 9/11, a parallel which never occurred to me as I was writing it. Given the universal access which the civilization of Pandora’s Star has to all data and news, the scene was constructed without any thought of resonance to today’s events; it was simply inevitable to them. However, as the whole Commonwealth society is a loose extrapolation of current society, such parallels will be inescapable.

DR:You postulate a number of scientific advancements which seem inevitable in the course of human advancement, even if it will be a while before we’ll have them. For example, the invention of wormholes, which provide instant access from planet to planet, would springboard us into being a space faring society. What actual research is being done that might lay the groundwork for such technology?

PH:Wormholes as such aren’t an invention. Today they exist as a mathematical possibility, although admittedly a very esoteric one. It is the technology of ‘exotic’ matter which is the breakthrough you need to turn them into a reality. This energy type will allow wormholes to be held open, providing a short cut between different parts of the universe. There is a lot of research into quantum entanglement being conducted at the moment, which again is a theory that allows for faster-than-light communication. As for this becoming a practical transportation technology, I don’t expect it to be any time in the near, or even medium future.

DR:Another technologically cool idea in Pandora’s Star is Vinmar, a planet inhabited solely by artificial intelligences. The SIs (Sentient Intelligences) originated from over reliance on artificial intelligence “smartware” created to run the wormhole network. How far along are we in the development of true artificial intelligence, and do we need to be worried about what it might someday turn into?

PH:Depending on which computer experts you listen to, a true AI is either just round the corner, or completely impossible. Either one provides SF writers with plenty of scope to use in stories. However, the evolution of an AI into something new is a singularity event, a change which is impossible to predict or explain. In short, we don’t know if it would become hostile. In Pandora’s Star I’ve chosen this evolved AI to be indifferent to us. Almost.

DR:On the far edges of human-colonized space, a mysterious ruined ship is discovered. No trace of life is found inside, but a clan of fanatic doomsayers called the Guardians of Selfhood is convinced that an alien intelligence has invaded human space. Without giving anything away, what can you tell us about the mysterious Starflyer?

PH:According to the Guardians who are opposing it, the Starflyer is a uniquely malevolent alien secretly manipulating the human race for its own purpose. Of course, everyone else in the Commonwealth thinks the Guardians are a bunch of conspiracy theorist nutters run along cult lines to support their founder.

DR:Pandora’s Star contains more subplots than a daytime soap opera. Yet you keep each one well under control–and as the pages fly by, the dovetailing of story lines becomes more and more apparent. How do you plan out a novel of this magnitude? Is there a giant grid on the wall of your office?

PH: No grid, but certainly a bulky folder of notes. Planning out the characters, the worlds they’re on, and the way they interact took me a good four months to work out before starting to write the book proper.

DR:One of my favorite characters in Pandora’s Star is detective Paula Myo, who has never lost a case. I won’t reveal her life’s story here, since it makes fascinating reading, but suffice it to say that she is the result of genetic engineering. We’ve heard claims of human cloning recently, and we’ve already seen the beneficent results of in-vitro genetic surgery. Can you see society in general turning to more and more specific forms of genetic manipulation in order to have the children of their dreams?

PH:At the moment the field is alive with controversy. For the near future I can see the rich using this technology to modify their children. In which case a new and very artificial divide will certainly exist. We may even see humanity branching off into sub-species.

DR:Your wormhole technology allows for almost infinite human expansion into the stars. Which colony in the story is your favorite, and will we see more of it?

PH:It has to be Far Away, a planet whose biosphere was ruined by a massive solar flare and which was virtually dead when discovered. A situation which allows humans to reseed it however they want, creating a whole patchwork of different and exotic life forms rubbing up against each other. It will be featured quite heavily in volume two.

DR:You’re working now on the completion of this vast epic, to be titled Judas Unleashed. Having fun?

PH: Oh yes. Pulling together all the plot strands, hopefully in a fashion that people can’t predict, is always satisfying.


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise

Praise

“The depth and clarity of the future Hamilton envisions is as complex and involving as they come.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The author’s expansive vision of the future combines action and intrigue on a panoramic scale.”
—Library Journal

“Astounding . . . Thrilling . . . Hamilton uses technology to excellent effect.”
—Science Fiction Age

“Shows how thought-provoking yet entertaining science fiction can be. Some of the best fiction . . . in years.”
—Midwest Book Review

“[Hamilton is] taking on one of sf’s (and maybe all of literature’s) primal jobs: the creation of a world with the scale and complexity of the real one.”
Locus

“[Hamilton is] a rare talent.”
—The Denver Post



From the Hardcover edition.

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