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Jack McDevitt

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Lieutenant Junior Grade Jack McDevitt, USN is “a former English teacher, naval officer, Philadelphia taxi driver, customs officer, and motivational trainer.  He is a noted author of science fiction novels including the Alex Benedict Series: The Devil's Eye; Seeker; A Talent For War; The Engines of God; and, Polaris.  He is also the author of Cauldron; Deepsix; Odyssey; Omega; Chindi; Ancient Shores; Moonfall; Infinity Beach; The Hercules Text; and, Eternity Road.

The Library Journal said of Eternity Road, “after a cataclysmic viral plague wiped out humanity sometime in the 21st century, the next civilization arose in isolated pockets. In the Mississippi Valley, Illyrians built their town on what had been the Roadmakers' Memphis. Some believed in the mythical Haven on the eastern ocean where books and other technological wonders had been saved. When all but one member of an expedition dies trying to find Haven, the leader's son joins a second party on the long overland trek east. Unfortunately, the book raises more questions than it answers about the knowledge that was lost, leaving the reader unsatisfied. From the author of Ancient Shores (HarperCollins, 1996); a possible candidate to sf collections.”

 

Amazon.com said of Infinity Beach, “What happens when first contact goes horribly wrong? When that initial meeting between two sentient species leads to utter confusion and misunderstanding, murder and hijacking, and a tight-lipped cover-up for years afterward? Jack McDevitt sets this situation up in Infinity Beach, describing humanity at the end of the third millennium as a solitary race, seemingly alone in the cosmos even after colonizing many worlds beyond Earth: "The universe has come to resemble a magnificent but sterile wilderness, an ocean which boasts no friendly coast, no sails, no sign that any have passed this way before." But a ship in search of life returned years earlier under suspicious circumstances, with two crew members missing, one presumed dead in an unexplained explosion, and the fourth retired into silence. Tales of apparitions, strange lights, and voices near the explosion site persist. No one's talking, but the scientist sister (and clone) of one of the missing shipmates starts asking questions and finds herself at the heart of a complex and frightening puzzle.

 

McDevitt, an accomplished storyteller and perennial Nebula runner-up, proves to have an excellent ear for such drama, telling a solid story that exudes mood and atmosphere while still staying tense enough to keep those pages turning. By turns a murder mystery, ghost story, and solid sci-fi thriller, Infinity Beach takes one of the genre's more prosaic schticks--first contact--and gives it a twist with style and skill: when you do make contact, what you find might scare you.”

 

One reader said of Moonfall, “Forget "Armeggedon". Forget "Deep Impact". This is THE space/disaster book that SHOULD have been made into a movie. Jack McDevitt's "Moonfall" presents the reader with a gripping plot, solid character development, and cutting edge "hard" science fiction. From the opening of "Moonbase" to the final hair-raising solutions, this book is not to be missed.

From the coattail-riding Vice-President who wants to be a real hero; the chaplain (yes, unlike many SF writers, McDevitt is not ashamed to recognize that most people have and need a faith) who truly discovers his own faith; the young wife who discovers that her "Casper Milquetoast" husband is far more of a hero than she ever believed; to the brilliant young scientist who finally discovers the solution which may save the planet, McDevitt's characters are deep and believable. Finally, McDevitt's science is plausible. This is not a novel of the 24th century; rather it is set in the mid 21st century, using technological concepts quite feasible in the near future.”

 

Publisher’s Weekly said of Ancient Shores, “Early in the next century, outside a North Dakota town, farmer Tom Lasker digs up a boat on his land. Not only is the vessel crafted from an unknown element, but Lasker's farm is on land that has been dry for 10,000 years. A search for further artifacts unearths a building of the same material and age that turns out to be an interdimensional transportation device. The building sits on land owned by the Sioux, who want to use it to regain their old way of life on another world; meanwhile, the U.S. government, fearful of change, wants to destroy the building. Right up to the climax, McDevitt (Engines of God) tells his complex and suspenseful story with meticulous attention to detail, deft characterizations and graceful prose. That climax, though, is another matter, featuring out-of-the-blue heroic intervention in a conflict between the feds and the Indians by, among others, astronaut Walter Schirra, cosmologist Stephen Hawking and SF writers Ursula K. LeGuin, Carl Sagan and Gregory Benford. "If the government wants to kill anyone else, it'll have to start with us," announces Stephen Jay Gould. That absurdity aside, this is the big-vision, large-scale novel McDevitt's readers have been waiting for.”

 

Publisher’s Weekly said of Polaris, “This SF mystery's smooth and exciting surface makes it difficult to appreciate how exceptionally good it is at combining action and ideas. After a string of well-developed space operas, McDevitt returns to the lead characters of his second novel, A Talent for War (1988): antiquarian entrepreneur Alex Benedict (think Indiana Jones with an eye for profit) and his beautiful assistant, Chase Kolpath (think smart, sexy Dr. Watson). Decades earlier, in a future version of the Marie Celeste incident, the spaceship Polaris was discovered drifting and empty, its captain and passengers apparently vanished in an instant. Now, Alex and Chase realize that someone is tracking down relics of the Polaris and is willing to kill anyone who gets in the way. Alex is first of all a businessman, but he becomes stubbornly fascinated with the impossible puzzle. While Chase saves Alex's neck from increasingly ingenious attacks, he untangles a complex plot. The real problem turns out to be not how the mass disappearance was done but the tangled motives behind it. McDevitt does a fine job of creating different worlds for Alex and Chase to explore as they hunt clues. Through Chase's wry narration, the novel also succeeds in presenting characters who may be concealing important facets of themselves. That's appropriate in an SF mystery novel, but especially in one that turns out to have a surprisingly serious human core.

 

Publisher’s Weekly said of The Devil's Eye: An Alex Benedict Novel, “McDevitt fills the fourth far-future Alex Benedict adventure (after 2005's Nebula-winning Seeker) with historical details and thrilling stunts as well as sharp political allegory. When famous horror writer Vicki Greene leaves antiquities dealer Alex a desperate message and then voluntarily has her memory erased, he and his pilot companion, Chase Kolpath, follow clues literally to the end of the galaxy, where Vicky had been researching her next novel. Official threats and a kidnapping reveal a planet-threatening catastrophe, covered up for years by hapless bureaucrats. As panic ensues and evacuation looks hopeless, the space opera turns into commentary on government reaction to emergencies and the values of openness. McDevitt balances the two sides of his story well, never losing sight of either the fast-paced action or the message behind it.”

 

Amazon.com said of Deepsix, it “is concerned with the motivating force that drives all scientists--the quest for truth, for expanding the limits of human knowledge. How much are we willing to risk for that moment of discovery, of knowing what no other soul yet knows? Our time? Our reputations? Our careers? Our lives?

 

The premise is this: just weeks before the planet Deepsix will be destroyed by a collision with a gas giant, ruins are detected on its surface, suggesting the presence of civilization. The Academy diverts scientists from the nearest spaceship to go down and explore, and they are joined by their century's Ellsworth Toohey: a misogynistic, sanctimonious gadfly who has never before been off of Earth's surface. The party's landers are destroyed in an earthquake induced by the approaching gas giant, so now they must find a way to get off of Deepsix before it is destroyed by the collision. Needless to say, their excavations are placed on the back burner.

 

The physics describing the space travel and the archeology used to reconstruct the lost culture of Deepsix are interesting and explained well. There is plenty of action and suspense--will the party survive? And the evolving characters and group dynamics are more complex than those usually found in science fiction books, making Deepsix a worthwhile read.”

 

One reader said of Omega, “this was, hands down, the best McDevitt I've read to date. If you've not read McDevitt, and are at all a fan of Science Fiction, you need to go out there and find yourself a copy of 'The Engines of God,' 'Infinity Beach,' 'Deepsix,' and 'Chindi.' Now. If you're not a huge fan of Science Fiction, let me tell you, though there's some astrophysics in there, McDevitt writes a lot more sociologically, adventure-action, and philosophically than nearly any other contemporary science fiction author I know, with the exception of Robert J. Sawyer. That said, his style is quite deft, as is Sawyer's, and a lot of people just don't 'get' it - as is obvious from some of the reviews written here. I happily suggest reading a chapter in the store prior to purchase, though I've yet to meet someone while working in my bookstore's Sci-Fi section who didn't like McDevitt.

 

The story picks up the character of Priscilla Hutchins (who, now married and with a kiddy, plays a much more administrative and planet-bound role) and the storyline of the Omega clouds. Strange clouds that pop up, find anything remotely geometrical (especially, say, buildings), and blast them to bits. They're all over the universe, but why worry, as the one heading towards earth is not due for another, oh, nine hundred years. Yawn. But one of them being tracked by the Academy makes a right turn, and this time, in McDevitt's nearly lifeless galaxy, seems to be setting its sights on levelling an alien race who are somewhere around the Ancient Greece level of evolution. In about nine months.”

 

Publisher’s Weekly said of Chindi, “In this sequel to last year's well-received Deepsix, McDevitt tells a curiously old-fashioned tale of interstellar adventure. Reminiscent of Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama, the story sends veteran space pilot Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchins and a crew of rich, amateur SETI enthusiasts off on a star-hopping jaunt in search of the mysterious aliens who have placed a series of "stealthed" satellites around an unknown number of planets. After visiting several worlds, and losing two of her dilettantes to a murderous group of alien angels, Hutch follows the interstellar trail to a bizarre, obviously artificial planetary system. There, two spectacular gas giants orbit each other closely, partially sharing the same atmosphere, while a large moon circles them in a theoretically impossible circumpolar orbit. The explorers soon discover a number of puzzling alien artifacts, including a gigantic spaceship that fails to respond to their signals. First contact is McDevitt's favorite theme, and he's also good at creating large and rather spectacular astronomical phenomena. Where this novel falls short, however, is in the creation of characters. Hutch, beautiful and supremely competent, is an adequate hero, but virtually everyone else is a cartoon. The book abounds in foolhardy dilettantes, glory-hogging bureaucrats and capable space pilots. Oddly, in a novel set some 200 years in the future, McDevitt's cast is almost exclusively white and Anglo-Saxon. This is a serviceable enough space opera, but it operates far from the genre's cutting edge.”


Crypic: The Best Short Fiction of Jack McDevitt
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A Talent For War
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Deepsix
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Chindi
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The Engines of God
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Eternity Road
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Standard Candles: The Best Short Fiction of Jack McDevitt
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Omega
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Cauldron (Priscilla Hutchins)
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The Devil's Eye: An Alex Benedict Novel
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Polaris (Alex Benedict)
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Seeker (Alex Benedict)
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Odyssey
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Moonfall
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Ancient Shores
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Infinity Beach
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According to the book description of Cauldron, “When a young physicist unveils an efficient star drive capable of reaching the core of the galaxy, veteran star pilot Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins finds herself back in the deepest reaches of space, and on the verge of discovering the origins of the deadly omega clouds that continue to haunt her.”

 

According to the book description of A Talent For War, “Christopher Sim changed mankind's history forever when he forged a rag-tag group of misfits into the weapon that broke the alien Ashiyyur. But now, one man believes Sim was a fraud, and Alex must follow the legend into the heart of the alien galaxy to confront a truth far stranger than any fiction.”

 

Booklist said of The Engines of God, “By the end of the twenty-second century, Earth's ravaged environment has become a time bomb ticking down to global self-destruction. Despite the fortuitous arrival of faster-than-light space travel, the search for a new home has so far located only one candidate--Quraqua, a desolate planet scheduled for terraformation within a few months. For interstellar archaeologist Richard Wald and starship pilot Priscilla Hutchins, the looming renovation threatens critical research on the enigmatic alien ruins on Quraqua and its moon, which include a bizarre false city dubbed Oz. Rousing little interest on Earth and facing an unyielding terraformation committee, Wald and his team undertake a last round of life-threatening expeditions to decipher Oz's secrets before they are swallowed forever by an emerging new world. With plenty of startling plot twists, a heavy dose of intrigue, and an unusual amount of character development for science fiction, McDevitt holds us fast right through to a thrilling finish. The yarn's less pure sf, though, than a rousing archaeological adventure transplanted to another star system.”

 

Publisher’s Weekly said of Seeker, “Ideas abound in McDevitt's classy riff on the familiar lost-space-colony theme. In 2688, interstellar transports Seeker and Bremerhaven left a theocratic Orwellian Earth to found a dictator-free society, Margolia—and vanished. Nine thousand years later, with a flawed humanity spread over 100-odd worlds, Margolia and its ships have become Atlantis-type myths, but after a cup from Seeker falls into the hands of antiquarian Alex Benedict, the hero of McDevitt's Polaris (2004), Alex determines to win everlasting fame and vaster fortune by finding them. Female pilot Chase Kolpath, this book's narrator, gutsily tracks the ancient Seeker on a breathless trek across star systems and through an intriguing mystery plot, a bevy of fully realized characters, ingenious AI ships and avatars of long-departed personalities who offer advice and entertainment. The scientific interpolations are as convincing as the far-future planetscapes and human and alien societies, bolstering an irresistible tractor beam of heavy-duty action. This novel delivers everything it promises—with a galactic wallop.”

 

One reader said of Odyessy, “after taking a look at some of the other reviews, I have to say that I think that some people need to read Mr. McDevitt's other works extensively before they slam "Odyssey." A Jack McDevitt novel is not space opera. If you want Star Wars type of action read David Weber and John Ringo. I have nothing against the space opera genre by the way, but that is not McDevitt's style. There IS acton in "Odyssey," it is just that it is subtle and does not jump out and slam you in the face. McDevitt is a thinking person's writer and this book makes very pertinent statements about our world today. For instance, doesn't Orion Tours remind you of a certain company that Darth Cheney is involved with? He also tackles other issues, such as religious fanaticism, global warming, the underfunding of NASA and the logical reasons for having a space program.

 

Also, one reviewer could not see any connection with Homer's "The Odyssey." They are all through the book, go ahead and THINK and you'll find the connections. Hutch IS Odysseus; the weary wanderer who just wants the peace of home and the explorer, hungry to know what is beyond the horizon. Mr. McDevitt is subtle, NOT boring. His type of writing might not be for everyone: hell, musically I prefer the Byrds to the Beatles, but they both have merit. Different strokes for different folks, but at least be fair when you examine a work.”

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