Ossus Library Index
Science Fiction Index


A novel by Peter F. Hamilton
(2005, Del Rey Books)

Commonwealth Saga, book 1

In a Commonwealth of diverse human planets, the discovery of a disappearing star triggers a mission to investigate, and the political fallout and terrorist groups that try to stop it.


+ -- First reading (ebook)
July 6th to August 10th, 2021


I loved the way the author gives us a taste of so many different planets, and the diversity of the Commonwealth. The same attribute made the book long in the middle, when we’d already gone through a dozen planets, and he kept throwing more and more of them after us. I could have done without several of the storylines, like Justine’s, Mark’s, and the early Paula Myo case. While I liked Ozzie, I grew bored of his journey across multiple planets. Still, the technology and culture was amazing, and the big highlight of the book. I also liked the way the author gave us a truly terrifying alien in MorningLightMountin. Is there actually a Starflyer, controlling things behind the scene? The Brotherhood seemed extremist when the story began, but maybe they were right to try and destroy the mission to the Dyson star. The book ends on a cliff-hanger, which became obvious as I approached the end of the book, and there was no way the author could resolve the problem by the last pages. It was a very fun ride, but it was also a long one.

Spoiler review:

The detail of the societies and technology of the Commonwealth was so rich that it was almost overwhelming. In such a huge political grouping, the differences in opinions and the ability to literally go wherever people want and find a compatible society is almost guaranteed. But it’s still not enough for some people. Of course there are large crime gatherings, and people who want power over a huge swath of humanity. So it’s no surprise that when a crisis erupts, there is plenty of blame when the peace is interrupted.

The crisis in question comes when an astronomer sees a star blip out of existence, and it is confirmed that the star has been completely hidden. The evidence for a hugely technological society is overwhelming –the only question is whether they are peaceful or aggressive. Humanity is also split as to whether a ship should be sent to find out what is out there.

The crisis divides planets, and triggers attacks to try and destroy the ship being built to go beyond anywhere humanity has ever traveled before. Normal wormhole travel is only possible to where humanity has delivered wormhole generators. I enjoyed the trip out to the Dyson pair of stars, but it wasn’t more engaging than the rest of the book. My favorite parts were probably Nigel’s high-tech world, and Paula’s later investigation, and the exciting attack on the starship. It was so engaging, and the author put a lot of pages into the description, which was worth it.

I’m not sure what Ozzie’s journey is supposed to accomplish. I suppose the Silfen might save the day at the end, but with their lackadaisical attitude, I’m not sure how. I liked Ozzie as a character, and the way he tried to remain independent, but had to warm to the child who followed him. Their journey, while neat in seeing new places and the strange Silfen roads, became boring as nothing happened. Even the ice city where the Silfen sometimes stopped wasn’t very interesting. And when they left, and followed the fast Silfen, it was a race against time, but not that interesting. This story ends on a cliff-hanger, and I am interested in finding out what comes of that strange waterfall-ring system.

While the Prime aliens, of which MorningLightMountain is the most advanced and eventually the only one, seem to be the villains, especially after attacking the Commonwealth worlds when the Dyson sphere is removed, I think the Starflyer alilen is the actual villain. Somebody allowed the astronomer to go deeper into the strange space station to be captured, and it wasn’t the crew of the starship. Somebody turned off the Dyson sphere exactly as the starship arrived. As fanatical as the Brotherhood against the supposed Starflyer was at the start of the book, they now seem a lot more reasonable.

Justine appeared in the later Void trilogy, and here we see her as a youngster, enjoying the thrills such as volcano diving from the outer atmosphere, where she meets with Kazimir, whom I believe is in the military forces in that Void book, assuming he’s resurected. Here, he’s a revolutionary, but he also worships Justine. Not sure where this is going, except that she’s an influential politician and may have a role in subduing the Prime.

The story of Paula’s earlier case against the man with the teen lover easily became wearying, and the way it turned her into a reporter at the scene of the Prime beachhead after her lover was sentenced didn’t improve my attitude towards her. But she now has incredible powers, thanks to the sentient AI that will lead humanity’s fight against the Prime.

The battle that ends the book, where the Prime takes over several human worlds, and is being fought by the AI, Nigel and others, was well described and was a fitting way to start a cliff-hanger. There was so much going on throughout this book, but most of it was fairly easy to keep track of. So many storylines showed life in the Commonwealth, but I suspect that many of them will become important as humanity fights the Primes. Looking forward to the next book to conclude this, but not right away. I still need time to digest what happened, and it’s a very deep and heavy book. I’ll take something lighter, then return. I really do enjoy this author’s novels, exactly because of that.


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