Visions of Paradise

Saturday, June 07, 2008


While Jack McDevitt is one of my very favorite current sf writers, I prefer his Alex Benedict series of historical mysteries to his Academy series of space operas. Chindi is the third book in the latter series and it illustrates both the strengths and the weaknesses of the series.

Protagonist Priscilla Hutchins–Hutch–wants to retire from the Academy but is encouraged to go on one last mission, taking members of the First Contact Society on a wild goose chase looking for aliens. Her passengers consist of a variety of alien seekers, particularly George. the wealthy owner of the yacht and organizer of the trip; Alyx, a gorgeous actress who immediately attracts the interest of the men on the trip; and Tor, an artist who still loves Hutch years after their relationship ended.

All three of these main characters start out as stereotypes but gradually develop more depth and believability as the novel progresses. Their hunt for aliens leads them to a series of stealth devices watching a neutron star which are sending a series of transmissions which Hutch’s group follows across the galaxy. First they discover a dead world in the aftermath of an ancient nuclear war, then they hit the jackpot when they find a world inhabited by angels with fangs and claws who behave in a decidedly un-angelic manner. Their most important discovery is a huge spaceship–a chindi–which seems to be the hub of the information-gathering system involving the stealth devices.

As usual for an Academy novel, the heart of the novel is a scientific mystery involving the source of the stealth devices and the chindi, as well as artifacts from ancient races on the various worlds they encounter. But unusually for McDevitt the mystery does not rise to the forefront of importance but tends to fade a bit into the background in favor of the exciting scenes which always spot a McDevitt novel. In this instance though, those scenes grow uncontrollably until they dominate the novel, particularly the last rescue scene which is the entire focus of the novel’s last hundred pages.

So while I recommend Chindi as enjoyable reading, it does not have nearly the depth of interest as such novels as Polaris, Seeker and Infinity Beach. It is mostly an interlude between other, better McDevitt novels.


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