Top critical review
More of the same, really.
on 2 February 2010
Once more, Hutch is piloting a group of alien-hunters. This time it is the much maligned First Contact Society, who have discovered part of a transmission emanating in orbit around a neutron star.
As much as one wants to love this book (and one can't really fault it as a decent SF novel) one can't help feeling that McDevitt is repeating himself on several levels. Again Hutch gets close to a man, and she loses him. Almost simultaneously, the artist Tor, one of Hutch's ex-lovers, manages to grab himself a berth on this new expedition, along with an undertaker and a famous starlet.
It appears there is a network of stealth satellites scattered through at least our part of the galaxy and they are recording and transmitting data to somewhere else.
The party discover, refuelling from a gas-giant's plentiful hydrogen, an asteroid converted into a ship which, it transpires, is a vast travelling storehouse of images and artefacts collected from thousands of races.
Hutch does not want any of her passengers to die, but they insist on exploring the Chindi - as they name the ship - and, as was expected, it decides to leave.
There is then a race against time to rescue Hutch's ex-lover, left behind on the giant asteroid ship.
Again, McDevitt's Americocentricity is irritating, although I was amused that Hutch, accessing the news from Earth, was reading about a new serial killer in Derbyshire, a county not really famed for its violence and multiple murder mayhem.
McDevitt's aliens are irritating too, as so far, the races have not been alien enough. In the Chindi one of the first things the explorers find is a tableaux of some world where a wolf-like creature is standing before a table wearing a dinner jacket.
Thinking this through, quite apart from any issues of sexism, one has to say that the jacket, not even specifically the dinner jacket, as a fashion phenomenon, is not that recent and occupies a tiny fraction of the diverse gallimaufry of humanwear, and is also a generally western concept. For an alien race of wolf-like creatures to have come up with something similar and to have been discovered by humanity in the epoch in which this fashion was popular rather stretches my disbelief. These are Star Trek aliens, furry or bumpy-headed humanoids who think the same way we do, or at least, the same way Americans do.