by Jack McDevitt
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Ace Hardcover Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 044101433x
Date: 07 November, 2006 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Pricilla Hutchins and Gregory MacAllister return and are the two major points of view. Readers may remember the two from an earlier McDevitt novel Deep Six. This is another McDevitt space thriller. In the near future the earth faces many challenges. Years of neglect and inaction have created many global atmospheric problems. Politicians say that the world needs to focus on home. This means cutting the extravagance of the Academy missions. Note that military and social spending is off the table for cuts even in this futuristic novel.
At a perilous time for the Academy, along come increasing reports of "moonriders". To prevent the total destruction of the space programs a scheme is hatched. The appointed head of the Academy arranges for the most photogenic pilot, an influential senator’s daughter, a famous and influential curmudgeon, and the Academy's publicity director to go place monitors in likely locations to learn about these mysterious appearances. During the mission close contact leads to fear and more questions. Are the "moonriders" dangerous?
With McDevitt's work you know the basic plot. Something amazing is found, a mission is sent to investigate, and something will go wrong leading to a narrow escape and somebody dies. Don't misinterpret my comment. Formulaic doesn't equal bad. I love Louis L'Amour westerns and I believe he only had three plots. It is the pace and flavor of McDevitt's writing that make him worth reading.
You do not need to read any of the other related Hutch novels to follow this story. It might help understand a few of the references, but is not essential. McDevitt uses brief headlines and blurbs to progress an unrelated plot throughout the novel. These news briefs also provide insight to public opinion.
I enjoyed this novel and recommend it to all space adventure enthusiasts.
Ern: McDevitt's work is highly reminiscent of the best of Clarke, framed by what we've learned about the universe since then. Bill's right that the story arc here is classic McDevitt, and he's also right that it's a good thing. I pushed aside a stack of books that need reviews to settle in and relax with Odyssey for a few hours and my only regret at the end was that I'd run out of book. You can jump into the Academy novels at any point along the way without spoiling the fun, though there's nothing wrong with going back to the first Priscilla Hutchinson novel, The Engines of God.