"In his ability to absolutely rivet the reader, it seems to me that McDevitt is the logical heir to Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke." --Stephen King
"One of the most satisfying writers in the field." --Charles Sheffield
"You should definitely read Jack McDevitt." --Gregory Benford
On a routine survey mission studying a neutron star, an Academy starship receives a transmission in an unknown language. Before leaving the area, the starship launches a series of satellites to find the signal--and perhaps discover its origins.
Five years later, a satellite finally encounters the signal--which is believed to be of extraterrestrial origin by the Contact Society, a wealthy group of enthusiasts who fund research into the existence of alien life. Providing a starship for the Academy to be piloted by Captain Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchins, the Contact Society embarks on a mission to find the source of the transmission.
Across a myriad of stars, from world to world, Hutch and her crew follow the signal, but find only puzzles and lethal surprises.
Then, in a planetary system far beyond the bounds of previous exploration, they discover an object. It is immense, ominous, and mysterious. And it may hold the answer not only to the questions of the Contact Society, but to those of every person who has ever looked to the sky and wondered if we were alone . . .
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.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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October 27, 2003
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