Visions of Paradise

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cauldron

I’ve raved about the fiction of Jack McDevitt previously, and Cauldron illustrates much of what he does best. It is the concluding novel in the Academy series, and it provides closure to several of the mysteries which had been unanswered in previous novels: it explores the origin of the “chindi,” from the novel of that name (and does not find at all what they were expecting) and also the origin of the “omega clouds,” which have been hovering in the background of all six Academy novels, and was the main emphasis of several of them.

The basic premise is that a new, improved faster-than-light drive is discovered which is thirty times faster than the prior drive, and which permits travelers to reach portions of the galaxy which were previously out of reach. Two superluminals containing five people (including the main character of the series, Priscilla Hutchins) go in search of the answers to four mysteries. The trip is thoroughly fascinating, including believable characters whom the reader can empathize with. The long passages spent on a spacecraft are fascinating and the explorations spark thought-provoking implications. One of the novel’s major strengths though is the sense of wonder which is evoked by the explorations, especially in the origins of the “omega clouds,” which I had not expected to be resolved satisfactorily, but McDevitt did so in a manner which was both fulfilling and thrilling.

Cauldron is McDevitt at his finest writing, more evidence that he is one of the very best storytellers currently working. I recommend this novel highly (moreso if you have read the entire series preceding it.)

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