Book Review: Judas Unchained

After reading the first book in this 2-part series, I wasn’t especially looking forward to Judas Unchained.  While I must say that this second book brought a lot of the elements of mystery from Pandora’s Star together, the end was rather predictable and some portions of the book(s) seemed utterly unnecessary or long.  This review is also unnecessarily long.

The Book

Judas Unchained51waWAjvOpL
Author: Peter Hamilton
First published in 2006 – this was a book one of my friends owns and wanted me to read.
Amazon Link

This book, like the first in the series, is incredibly complex and just filled to the brim with information.  You can’t really let up paying attention to the book, because you’ll have to spend time re-reading to understand the next passages. While marvelously and incredibly put together, I found Judas Unchained to have too many foundational premises to be truly enjoyable.

Non-Spoiler Review

As the puzzles from Pandora’s Star are unleashed here, I wondered if the two books had originally been written as a single behemoth and were published separately simply because of the sheer mass of the two of them.  The book didn’t really spend any time summarizing what had happened in the prior volume, and I was glad I had the opportunity to read them back to back.  If you do go into this series, definitely get both books before you start.

In Pandora’s Star, it felt like nothing really got tied up or explained.  About halfway through this book, though, some of the more intriguing elements to this mystery started coming together.  When I had the information to know what was going on, I started enjoying the book a bit more.  I felt like the buildup had finally paid off, and I was being rewarded by… knowing the ending.

Which was a letdown.  Because the revelations happened at about the middle of the book, I had a long, long bit of reading to do before the end, which happened pretty much as I suspected it would.  If you put the two books together, the climax and denouement happened at the relative ratios you would expect, but that translated to about 100,000 or 150,000 words of falling action and resolution (see more in the Spoilers).  There were also entire characters and storylines in the book that I found incredibly unnecessary.

Overall, I can see why people who are into this sort of thing (like the friend who lent me the book) would like it.  It’s incredibly complex, rich, and full of sci-fi coolness.  But when you have a book that contains massive amounts of unnecessary scenes as well as an abrupt ending to the first volume, I’m willing to call this one ‘not worth the time I spent.’

2/5 Discoball Snowcones

2 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

This book was basically a sci-fi mystery, so if you think you might want to read an incredibly complex sci-fi headscratcher, don’t read the spoilers.  You might even rather read my review for Pandora’s Star first.

Anyway, Judas Unchained finally paid off in terms of giving me something for all the buildup.  I was pleasantly surprised by the continued greatness and growth of the Mellanie character, though as the story wrapped up, I couldn’t figure out why the SI cared about her or anyone.  Mellanie, despite starting off as a gold-digging college student, became an excellent investigative reporter who was absolutely instrumental in saving the human race.  I’ve never seen a character like her come off so well in a book before, and I do have to credit Hamilton for that (despite the weird part where she decided to marry the boy Orion, who I took to be… 14?  I was absolutely displeased with that).

The character I was most excited to see come up again – and who, I must say, signaled the coming of the most exciting piece of both books, was the astronomer who had been abducted, killed, and memories subsequently downloaded into an alien body.  The ‘Bose motile,’ as he was known, was imperative to solve the Prime situation and recapture the villainous MorningLightMountain.

Even with all the above, though, I barely scratched the surface of the part of the book that commanded the majority of the wordcount.  The Starflyer, who turned out to be an evil alienPrime (an offshoot of the Primes of MorningLightMountain), was revealed and killed in a somewhat satisfying manner by the end of the book. I did feel like the humans were cutting it too close, and there simply was too much information floating around for centuries that the Starflyer was real.  When the mystery finally got solved, I didn’t believe the characters when they said the Starflyer’s motivations were too perfect to be figured out.

Plot hole #1: if the alienPrime Starflyer was, as theorized, left outside the Dyson Alpha and Beta barriers when they were erected, why did it travel to Commonwealth space?  Why didn’t it just turn around and open its own barrier?  Was it afraid of the Anomines?  If it had hundreds of years of food supplies, why did it travel so far anyway?  Its motivations were basically garbage.

That’s leaving out another important event.  In a long, boring, incredibly unnecessary portion of the book, Ozzie figures out how to recapture the Primes and stop genocide.  At the very end of the book, he and the Bose motile go to Prime space to try and rehabilitate MorningLightMountain by introducing emotions to it.

That could never work.

Why?

The alienPrime had altered its own DNA to become more like the species it met in Dyson Beta.  It had also spent centuries among humans, messing with their DNA and their memories in order to absorb and manipulate politics.  If after all that, the alienPrime could not be rescued from pure evil, why would you ever think MorningLightMountain could be? It’s ludicrous.  They should have just killed all the Primes.  Do they seriously think genocide by slow starvation is that much better than genocide by supernova?  Ridiculous. Not only that, it was proven by Ozzie and Bose that travel through the barrier is possible through the Silfen paths.  MorningLightMountain isn’t truly imprisoned, and it will kill everyone without hesitation when it learns to make use of them.

Anyway, it was a very ok book.  I never plan on reading them again, but there were parts I found incredibly creative.

Next week:

I’m looking forward to this next mid-aughts adventure: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell!  I’ve seen the BBC series, so that will probably cloud my judgment, but oh well!  Super hyped.

7 thoughts on “Book Review: Judas Unchained

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      It’s one of those books that I think benefitted greatly from when it was published – just before epublishing exploded, but after the author had been established. I don’t think it’d get the same praise if it had been publushed this year.

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      Mellanie was definitely one of the best parts of the story. If the author had cut down some of the stuff and focused on fewer characters, I think the story would have vastly improved.

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