Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton Pan $139 At 1,144 pages and with 43 main characters - including chief executives, television presenters, socialites, detectives, pilots, soldiers, engineers, orphans, aunties, lovers and aliens - plus multiple plot lines and complications, Pandora's Star is a massive undertaking. It's set in the 24th century, when humans have colonised more than 600 planets, linked by wormholes. With Earth at its centre, the Intersolar Commonwealth has grown into a wealthy society in which rejuvenation allows its citizens to live for centuries. When an astronomer observes a star more than a thousand light years away vanish, the anxious commonwealth builds the first faster-than-light starship (conventional wormholes can't reach that far) and assembles a team to check it out. Captained by Wilson Kime, an ex-Nasa astronaut who's a little too eager to relive his glory days, the Second Chance sets off.