If you have read other books by McDevitt, such as Chindi, Deepsix, etc, you might have been expecting our favourite heroine, Priscilla Hutchins, to be running a "just-in-time" rescue somewhere in the universe, again. Well, you might be in for a shock to find Hutch desk bound now.
A rescue is still required though!
A remote planet appears to be drawing one of the feared Omega clouds. On investigation, it shows to be populated by a low tech. civilisation of a previously unknown species. With just a few months before the cloud hits the planet and causes the typical mass extinction that Omega clouds are good at, Hutch hobbles together a rescue package which involves despatching a ship of experts and goods and redirecting other vessels in the vicinity of space, to prepare for the rescue.
The basic plans involve luring the Omega cloud away from the planet, camouflaging the city structures that attract the clouds in the first place and evacuating the population and helping them to survive the aftermath.
There are, of course, a whole number of things to impede the plan and many problems to overcome along the way. Not least of these is the law that prevents the humans from making their presence known to the newly discovered aliens.
This is a surprisingly gripping book. There are many well developed characters and Hutch quickly becomes a minor, background one.
There are a few points where you say to yourself "well, that's not going to work" or "why on earth did they do that?" and some of the science is a bit shaky (like assuming the Omega clouds "see" on the same wavelengths we do), but on the whole it is a satisfying tale.
What is very good is the approach to gathering data and studying the aliens and their culture. Particularly good is the linguist team cracking the alien language.
All in all, a good read. This is a stand-alone book, so those not yet familiar with McDevitts works should also find this a good read.