on 19 June 2013
I read the first Alex Benedict book a few years ago and quite liked it so I tried the second in the series just recently when I saw it was available on Kindle. Since then, in addition to Polaris I have read Seeker, The Devil's Eye, Echo and Firebird. The plot of all the books deals with a high level antiques dealer/archeologist/graverobber (take your pick), who works with a glamourous female space pilot/sidekick. Together they search out mysteries and often solve crimes. It is a fairly basic formula but ingeniously delivered in a satisfying but not too racy manner. The books are certainly clever and often thought-provoking. Even if my basic description suggests something that has been done time and time again, I can certainly understand why Jack McDevitt has many devoted fans. I don't think I am one of them, but I have found myself looking out for more of his books. Now there's a mystery for you...
on 25 July 2015
I’ve read a couple of McDevitt’s books and thoroughly enjoyed them. So when I got the opportunity to scoop another offering off the shelves, I didn’t hesitate. Would I enjoy it as much? Oh yes. As ever, McDevitt takes his time to set the scene. There is a fairly long prologue where we are in third person pov, which swings around from passenger to passenger as they witness the death of a star. And even when the first person narrator, Chase Kolpath, takes up the story, you needn’t start bracing yourself for full-on action any time soon. Alex Benedict, Chase’s boss, is primarily a dealt in ancient artefacts and his increasing interest in the disappearance of the Polaris is a gradual affair. In the meantime, we get plenty of slices of Chase’s everyday life and her attitude and approach to her job and her boss.
She is a confident, outgoing woman who thoroughly enjoys her adventurous life – most of the time. I find her an engaging protagonist who manages to be involved in all the main events without coming across as an adrenaline junkie. It was also a refreshing change that there is no romantic relationship between Alex and Chase, so we don’t have to wade through any burning looks or longings in amongst the sleuthing. This adventure is where Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone meets Sherlock Holmes… McDevitt gives us plenty of routine, everyday details about Alex and Chase, which isn’t as mundane as it sounds, given that it’s set in the far future – and yet as the narrator is the junior partner and Alex tends to be the one who comes up with the brilliant insights, there is more than a touch of Sherlock thrown into the mix.
For a while in the middle, I began to wonder if the story would ever truly take off as they visited yet another character on the edge of this mystery about vanished passengers. As they were all celebrities in a variety of fields, Chase and Alex had plenty of dead ends to run down and red herrings to lay to rest. But I needn’t have worried – once they became close enough to the solution for the perpetrators to feel threatened, and they are suddenly under attack, the whole atmosphere changes and becomes charged with tension. I stayed up far later than I should to discover what happens next.
A slow-burn mystery like this has to have a really solid, satisfactory ending – and McDevitt absolutely achieves this. I didn’t see the denouement coming and yet it made perfect sense – I even backtracked, looking for the relevant clues that I’d originally missed, which for me is always the sign of a cracking conclusion.
And the icing on the cake, is that entwined in the mystery is a major moral question that we will be shortly having to face in reality – not in such an extreme way, but nevertheless we should be considering how we tackle such an issue, given that Earth’s population is growing at an increasing rate. Which is why I particularly love science fiction – the very best story encapsulates pure escapism, alongside a highly pertinent ongoing social issue that our increasing technological capabilities will sharpen into a moral or social dilemma. Great stuff!
on 28 October 2013
First book by this author that I have read. You do not need to have read the previous book in the series it is a complete story. Well written, good technical science fiction, very detailed plot that keeps you guessing. Reminded me slightly of Alaister Reynolds, will definitely read more by this author.