Jack McDevitt – The Engines of God… Reviewed

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If a weird ancient and not human statue doesn’t make you curious enough to go exploring with a team of human archeologists across the universe, I’m really not sure that anything will get you going.

This book is epic in scale. Five interplanetary “local” (read in the Milky Way) civilizations with repeated patterns of collapse and reconstruction across thousands of years of galactic history all trying to discover the cause of collapse. two of these cultures died out thousands of years before human beings had civilization, let alone space travel.

Was this what Earth is fated to encounter?

The book is good… Oddly not great.

As imaginative as the whole layout is, there seems to be something almost formulaic in both books I’ve read by McDevitt. It isn’t formulaic by analysis but by feel. For some reason I feel like I’ve met the characters before or seen this movie.

Stephen King says they see whiffs of Arthur C. Clarke or Asimov in McDevitt, and I totally see it. The parallels are there, they all three of them write books epic in scale, but for some reason this just feels more like a formula, something constructed around a template for interstellar archeologists saving the universe.

It’s actually a little tragic.

The humanity of the characters and the science behind the science fiction definitely is more realistic and more close to home than either Asimov or Clarke. The over arching archeology transports you into a myth of epic proportions, but the characters act more like normal human beings with normal human idiosyncrasies and social problems.

The main character is a space liner pilot who is only invited along for the first part of the trip as a protege and colleague in training to a great interstellar archeologist. Together they are trying to unravel a mystery of two failed civilizations with artifacts in their orbit from a third mysterious civilization that also left a statue on the doorstep to home. A living civilization is in the midst of observation during a civil war and clear signs of a collapse in their past and objects in their orbit. Are these the calling cards of a destroying species?

They partner up with a team of archeologists investigating a civilization on a almost habitable world slated to be terraformed in a hurry. This drives the conflict in the story as the deadline to figure out the galactic doomsday message about the “Engines of God” grows near.

All in all, it’s a good read. Even with the weird feeling it left, I still enjoyed it. I liked the characters… But still I would only rate it as good and enjoyable but not great or compelling.

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About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
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