Book Review: Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton
Judas Unchained is the conclusion of the Commonwealth Saga which began with Pandora’s Star. The Saga is really just one huge two part novel, the previous book ended with multiple cliffhangers and apart from a little bit of recap at the start Judas Unchained jumps straight back in to the action. Since this is the conclusion of the story I won’t go into too much detail here but this really is an epic story covering an entire society. There are a huge amount of different characters and plot threads. I left about a month or so in between reading these two books so at first it was a little daunting trying trying to remember who everyone was and where they all were especially when Hamilton started introducing new characters. I found my feet soon enough though and once things got moving I never again felt confused. It’s especially impressive how Hamilton can successfully juggle so many plot threads and form them into one complete story without overwhelming the reader. I don’t know of any other writer that is capable of telling story’s of this scale while still making the book extremely readable.
There is a nice moral debate at the centre of this story concerning weapons built to deal with the invading alien threat. This aspect of the plot gives Judas Unchained a weight that wasn’t present in the first book. It’s more than just a glitzy, ultra-violent space opera, there are some real questions asked here. Where I didn’t think this matched up to the first book was the pacing. Pandora’s Star was a very well paced story. It started slowly and steadily built up steam, coming to a very exciting conclusion. In Judas Unchained though the story seemed to be constantly speeding up and then slowing down, stopping and starting. It was a bit frustrating at times when things seemed to be getting going then we’d jump to another plot line and everything would slow down again.
As the end of a story though the book works very well. All the important plot threads have very satisfying conclusions and every character gets there moment to shine. Some of the minor plot points are left open ended, I assume some of those will be picked up in The Void Trilogy which is set in the same universe as this and is now pretty high up on my To be Read list.