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Cryptic: The Best Short Fiction of Jack McDevitt Hardcover – 27 Feb 2009

4 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 590 pages
  • Publisher: Subterranean Press; 1 edition (27 Feb. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596061952
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596061958
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.7 x 5.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,705,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed Jack McDevitt's previous book of short stories, Standard Candles, because it captured a similar range of subjects and style as his novel-length fiction. The thirty-eight stories in this volume provide much the same experience. Many deal with familiar McDevitt themes such the rediscovery of space travel, whether humanity is alone in the universe, and the emotional consequences of scientific discovery. Some are startling and brilliant; only a few disappoint.

My seven favorites are described below.

"In the Tower" follows the grieving lover of a dead artist as she investigates his former life, friends and paintings for clues about his terminal unhappiness. The story she uncovers invades the heart and mind with Lovecraftian horror.

"Dutchman" takes us on board an abandoned Dellacondan starship thought to have been destroyed in battle long ago. Hugh Scott and the captain of the Tenandrome make discoveries that play a central role in McDevitt's novel A Talent For War. There are some spoilers...

In "Promises to Keep" a member of an historic expedition to Callisto shares personal recollections of the voyage and the voyagers. His story is a little different from the official version.

"Report From the Rear" shows the kind of reporting necessary to cover a fast-breaking war and get the story told on time. And the material this process produces.

In "Black to Move" we land on the first living world Earth's explorers have ever found and contemplate the empty city left by its former inhabitants.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9c9b2c90) out of 5 stars 49 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9aeed6e4) out of 5 stars Short Hops Through McDevitt Space 19 Nov. 2010
By John M. Ford - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed Jack McDevitt's previous book of short stories, Standard Candles, because it captured a similar range of subjects and style as his novel-length fiction. The thirty-eight stories in this volume provide much the same experience. Many deal with familiar McDevitt themes such the rediscovery of space travel, whether humanity is alone in the universe, and the emotional consequences of scientific discovery. Some are startling and brilliant; only a few disappoint.

My seven favorites are described below.

"In the Tower" follows the grieving lover of a dead artist as she investigates his former life, friends and paintings for clues about his terminal unhappiness. The story she uncovers invades the heart and mind with Lovecraftian horror.

"Dutchman" takes us on board an abandoned Dellacondan starship thought to have been destroyed in battle long ago. Hugh Scott and the captain of the Tenandrome make discoveries that play a central role in McDevitt's novel A Talent For War. There are some spoilers...

In "Promises to Keep" a member of an historic expedition to Callisto shares personal recollections of the voyage and the voyagers. His story is a little different from the official version.

"Report From the Rear" shows the kind of reporting necessary to cover a fast-breaking war and get the story told on time. And the material this process produces.

In "Black to Move" we land on the first living world Earth's explorers have ever found and contemplate the empty city left by its former inhabitants. A first contact specialist uses a chess-like game to understand their psychology--and perhaps their intentions.

"Gus" is a departure from McDevitt's often less-than-friendly treatment of religion. Monsignor Chesley disapproves of the seminary's AI simulation of Saint Augustine. After many long evenings of private discussion, Chesley begins to have doubts. As does St. Augustine.

"Cruising Through Deuteronomy" raises questions about a time traveler's faith in his technology, in important events of the past, and in those around him.

McDevitt fans should read this collection to enjoy their author's storytelling in its briefer form and for the added perspective on McDevitt's novels. The novella version of "Time Travelers Never Die," for example, is differs interestingly--and is superior to--the Time Travelers Never Die novel. The book is a good place to make first contact with this author, too. And discover that you are not alone.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9aef133c) out of 5 stars Worth every penny. 19 Oct. 2012
By Kerry Nietz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
I've been a Jack McDevitt fan for some time now. I've read many of his novels, and at least one earlier collection of his short stories. So I couldn't resist this collection when I saw it was available. (And at under 5 bucks to boot!)

"Cryptic" has nearly forty stories, covering everything from time travel to space exploration to galactic conflict. Some of the stories, like "The Fort Moxi Branch" and "Auld Lang Boom" have a genuine Bradbury feel, while others, like "Lighthouse" and "Melville on Iapetus" are reminiscent of something Clarke might write.

Really, there is a lot to enjoy her for fan and newcomer alike. My personal favorites are the previous mentioned "Melville" (about a space relic), "Gus" (about a very special painting), "Kiminsky at War" (a scientist who gets a little too involved), and "Time Travelers Never Die" (an excellent time travel tale).

A caveat to the reader: McDevitt's universe is arguably a lonely one, where aliens are few, space is vast and dangerous, and even God is impersonal and uninvolved. Within that structure, though, he crafts wonderfully executed tales.

This is a great collection. Worth every penny.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9aef157c) out of 5 stars A Shipload of McDevitt 4 Jun. 2013
By Evil Overlord - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Jack McDevitt is at his best in ruins. I first encountered him in The Engines of God, the first of a series in which humans seem to constantly stumble across alien ruins created by the Monument Makers. I went on to Eternity Road, in which post-apocalyptic humans look for the mysteries behind vast ruins. Even his other series, starting with A Talent For War and Polaris, is about a tomb-raider. These novels have generally been intriguing from start to finish. McDevitt is an expert at creating and keeping a sense of wonder and discovery, and I've bought all his books.

I was excited, therefore, to find Cryptic, which not only promised to be interesting, but was good value for money. It's paid off.

The collection is broken into sections, which aren't really explained despite a sizable foreword. The stories aren't presented chronologically, but the book reads as if they were. The first section, "Unlikely Connections", contains some of the weakest. Frankly, some of them are just not very good, though they're not bad either. Persevere past the first few, and you'll reach some stronger collaborations with Michael Shara. In section 2, "Lost Treasure", McDevitt starts to hit his stride, including with a companion to Eternity Road.

The rest of the sections are at or slightly below that level, which makes this a very satisfying read. There are ancient ruins, distant worlds, and a sense of loneliness throughout. There are very few actual aliens, but there's a good mix of philosophy and light-handed theological speculation. There are quite a lot of historical references - much more so than McDevitt's novels. It's never too dense though - I'm sure it adds to the story for those who like it, but it didn't get in the way for those of us who don't.

Aside from the weak opening section, the only negative her is also a positive. This is a lot of McDevitt. In terms of value, you're unlikely to do better - this is a boatload of stories for a pretty low price. But I'd advise reading some, taking a break, coming back, etc. There's a certain sameness that pervades the stories, making them a touch predictable, at least in terms of their resolution and emotional impact. Spaced apart, it's easier to see them for the (mostly) excellent stories they are).

All in all, a substantial collection of very good stories by an excellent writer.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9aef1720) out of 5 stars So happy I read this 1 Nov. 2013
By Mrs. P. J. Singleton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I only like 3 authors of sci-fi that has to do with space travel. JACK McDEVITT, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Anne McCaffrey. Their writing is believable and makes me wish I lived in their world's. KRENTZ,S for the dust bunnies, McCaffrey"s for the dragons and designers, and McDEVITT"s for the great characters.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9aef15f4) out of 5 stars Thought-provoking stories 10 Aug. 2011
By RIJU GANGULY - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Science Fiction, like many other genres, have die-hard supporters as well as vociferous critics. The critics too often criticise the stories for having wooden characters, absurd science, and excessive fascination with spaceships & stars (is it co-incidental that these two components make up the logo of the Galactic Empire conceived by Isaac Asimov, in his "Foundation"-saga?). The supporters, with equal vehemence, emphasise the action-driven plots, the sense of wonder conveyed by the scenario where often the lone warrior (again, mostly man, and hence criticised by feminists) fights for the destiny of mankind. In the tussle between these two, we have often had compromises where good old story-telling had to be severely compromised through super-slow character building and heady philosophy, perfected by Robert Silverberg and Kim Stanley Robinson, but mostly mediocre works like those being endorsed by even respected editors like Gardner Dozois. Otherwise, there were editors who were not ready to go beyond the ABC (Asimov-Bradbury-Clarke) regime and denounced everything else as pulp-era throwbacks. There were exceptions, but too few amidst all the morass.

Fortunately, Jack McDevitt, who has built up an impressive collection of sci-fi novels, got an opportunity to showcase his story-telling art through shorter works via this beautiful hardback collection brought out by the good people at Subterranean Press. The best thing about these stories are that they compell you to think like the protagonist, and often the others as well. They would drive you up against pretty disturbing notions (although nothing deviant, he is very proper in that sense), and can generate a few nightmares that would stay with you fro quite some time. But the best thing about this collection was that there were hardly any outright clunkers in here, while each story had challenged my notions about several things that we generally take-for-granted. If you prefer your science fiction to be of thoughtful-yet-enjoyable variety, this is the right book for you.
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