Posts Tagged ‘Jack McDevitt’

Plodding pacing and a wooden narrator make reading Jack McDevitt’s ‘Octavia Gone’ feel too much like a chore

July 14, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 14, 2019

Octavia Gone, a recently released Jack McDevitt novel, is the eighth novel in the author’s Alex Benedict series. I’ve previously read Polaris and Seeker, respectively the second and third books in this science fiction sequence, and I thought that the new entry has a lot in common with those volumes — for better and for worse.

Genius treasure hunter and antique merchant Alex Benedict and his sidekick, starship pilot Chase Kolpath, once again find themselves investigating a disappearance in deep space. The subject of their probe this time is Octavia, a distant research station orbiting a wormhole.

The outpost is paired with a cannon that peppers the phenomenon with pods in an attempt to locate the opposite end of the wormhole. After Octavia drops out of contact, a starship that’s dispatched to investigate finds the cannon. However, there’s no sign of the station itself, the quartet of people it carries or the short-range shuttle they used to transit between station and cannon.

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Treasure hunter Alex Benedict rides again in Jack McDevitt’s entertaining ‘Seeker’

November 2, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 2, 2014

I had one reservation before purchasing Seeker, Jack McDevitt’s 2005 science fiction novel.

It wasn’t the writer, whose work I’ve enjoyed.

It wasn’t the book’s premise, which sounded great: The incidental discovery of an artifact from a long-lost spaceship sets two treasure hunters on a quest to locate the vessel and the vanished colony that it helped establish millennia ago.

No, it was the book’s characters — or, maybe more to the point, its series. Seeker is the third of six books in McDevitt’s Alex Benedict sequence, which revolve around an incredibly intelligent antiquities dealer from a prosperous colony world called Rimway.

Last year, I read Polaris, the second Alex Benedict novel, and found myself disappointed in its pacing, even though it boasts an intriguing premise (as Seeker does) and a rousing action finale.

Still, I was willing to gives McDevitt another go, and I’m glad I did.

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Measures of redemption and enlightenment await characters in Jack McDevitt’s ‘Odyssey’

February 4, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 4, 2013

Jack McDevitt’s 2006 novel, Odyssey, opens as humanity has reached a precarious point. Early in the year 2235, interest in space exploration is fading just as concern about runaway global warming is ramping up. To make matters worse, the Academy loses a starship while political factions ready their push to cut money from the North American Union’s government-funded astronautics organization.

The person at the heart of this mess is one Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins, the former starship captain extraordinaire who has traded her commission for matrimony, motherhood and a powerful job as the Academy’s operations director. She takes point on the effort to locate and recover the missing ship even as the Academy’s commissioner enrolls her in public-relations outreach to influential NAU Sen. Hiram Taylor and his 15-year-old daughter, Amy.

Hutch easily wins the affection of the space-happy Amy Taylor, but the search and rescue operation is a bit more problematic. So is the appearance of an immense previously undetected asteroid, which barely misses smashing into Earth but does leave more egg on the Academy’s face.

But, although it takes a frustratingly long time to develop, there are more things aspace in Odyssey than political maneuvering. A private company, Orion Tours, has reported another in a series of increasingly common sightings of UFOs. These so-called moonriders are presumably the work of an intelligent species, which humans have yet to find in exploring numerous star systems near Earth.

Orion and the Academy agree to deploy automatic monitors in the star systems where the mysterious flyers have been seen. And this is where things start to get going.

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Outer space mystery ‘Polaris’ attracts but does not hold attention

August 15, 2012

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 15, 2012

I recently read and raved about Chindi, a 2002 novel by the prolific science fiction author Jack McDevitt. Therefore, it was with great anticipation that I plunged into his 2004 offering, a far-future mystery called Polaris.

I found the setup for this book irresistible. (I purchased both it and Chindi on a recent trip to the new location of Falls River Books in Raleigh, N.C.) Polaris is an interstellar yacht carrying some of the Confederacy’s most celebrated figures on a once-in-a-lifetime junket: They have traveled to an uninhabited solar system to watch its encounter with a disruptive rogue star.

But the captain and her six passengers never return from their voyage. A rescue crew finds an empty Polaris drifting in space. The disappearance of the seven souls she carried is never explained. 

Sixty years later, adventurous antiquities dealers Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath manage to acquire some objects from the Polaris moments before a bomb destroys an exhibition of artifacts from the ship. The pair soon twig to a mysterious conspiracy. Someone is very interested in the surviving items — and may be willing to kill for them. Read the rest of this entry »

McDevitt probes alien mysteries in ‘Chindi’

August 12, 2012

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 12, 2012

Jack McDevitt’s 2002 novel, Chindi, is a fun science fiction romp about explorers who get in over their heads.

This is the third of at least six novels in McDevitt’s so-called Academy sequence, which involves the 23rd century exploits of interstellar voyagers pursuing relics of ancient spacefarers. The hero of Chindi and its predecessors is a no-nonsense captain known as Hutch.

I hadn’t previously encountered Priscilla Hutchins, and I don’t believe I’ve read any of McDevitt’s novels before. But Chindi grabbed my attention almost immediately, and I plowed through the book enthusiastically. Read the rest of this entry »

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