4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Return to Form,
This review is from: Polaris (Alex Benedict) (Mass Market Paperback)
The existing review from dark genius adequately summarises the plot of this book and it would serve no point for me to add to it.
In this novel Jack McDevitt returns to the universe of his second, and very definitely his best, novel, A Talent for War. It is worth pausing to consider the singular excellence of that work. It must be amongst the finest works of science-fiction ever written. On the cover of Polaris a quote from Stephen King puts forward McDevitt as the successor to Asimov and Clarke; yet Asimov never wrote anything as good as Talent, and of Clarke's work only City and the Stars and Childhood's End compete (I am talking here of literary merit). Mr McDevitt's more frequent works in more recent years have shown some falling away. The first of the Hutchins books was very good, but there was a tendency to become obsessed with the Big Dumb Objects theme and also with thriller style writing, even when the thrills were achieved by way of unlikely rescues in space.
Polaris still has a good deal of this kind of action, but there is an excellent problem (though the reader spots at least part of the solution annoyingly earlier than the narrator). Though there is perhaps a little too much action, in that it takes away from the problem, the problem is the central point of this novel -- this is definitely an example of the old Amis definition of science-fiction as "the plot as hero". It is a good piece of science-fiction with a detective theme; moreover it plays fair with the reader. The solution is one that the reader could have guessed at on the information given in the book.
If anyone has not yet read Talent for War (and those reading my comments will realise that I strongly recommend that they do), they really should read it before reading this novel, as, though the references to the conclusion of the earlier book are in passing, it would definitely reduce the pleasure of first reading of Talent to have read this first.