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Engines of God, Deepsix, Chindi, Omega- they're all the same
on 10 January 2005
Omega is the 4th in McDevitt's "Hutchins" series, a set of tales about interstellar archaeology featuring one Priscilla Hutchins as a main character. While this sounds like an interesting premise (and on a couple of occasions, it is), McDevitt has managed to write a series of deeply formulaic stories which differ only marginally from each other. To wit :
-Archaeologists discover Something Big on an alien world.
(Despite claims that intelligent life is rare, it seems to be all over the place in McDevitt's books)
-A mission is mounted to uncover What It Is.
-Mission goes horribly wrong, People Die.
-There Is No Resolution.
If you're buying Omega to find out what the Omega clouds actually are (they're first mentioned in The Engines of God), I wouldn't bother because really, you don't find out beyond a mild supposition one of the characters has. That's it - regardless of what it says on the flyleaf, you don't actually, definitely find out what they are.
If you must read this, treat it like A.N. Other sci-fi novel - a standalone story - McDevitt is, wisely, careful not to alienate new readers by giving a little backstory to previously mentioned plot elements from other novels. You won't be totally lost.
I bought this together with McDevitt's much earlier novel, A Talent For War, and his earlier work is enormously better. Talent For War is actually rather thought-provoking and moving in places, and this is at a time when I'm only 60 pages in. Had I known, I wouldn't have bothered with Omega first.
To re-iterate, if you're looking for something different and interesting, read A Talent For War instead. Past this point, McDevitt takes the same theme and beats it to death with minor variations.