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Jack McDevitt
Ace Books, 403 pages

Jack McDevitt
Jack McDevitt won the Philip K. Dick Award for his first novel, The Hercules Text, and the first UPC prize for his novella, "Ships in the Night." He has been nominated for the Nebula and Hugo. McDevitt has been a taxi driver, a naval officer, an English teacher, a customs officer, and a motivational trainer. Currently, he lives with his wife and three children in Brunswick, GA.

Jack McDevitt Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Moonfall
SF Site Review: Deepsix
SF Site Reading List: Jack McDevitt
SF Site Review: Infinity Beach
SF Site Review: Infinity Beach
SF Site Review: Moonfall
SF Site Review: Eternity Road
Jack McDevitt Reviews
Engines of God Review
Ancient Shores Review

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

Our corner of the galaxy is littered with the remnants of ancient civilizations. Clues that point to the existence of several space-faring civilizations abound, but no evidence that any of them still survive. It's a scenario that readers of past Jack McDevitt novels such as The Engines of God and Deepsix will find quite familiar, and indeed, the alien archeology story itself is a time-honored one in SF. What counts is how well you pull it off, and in Chindi, Jack McDevitt has written a whirlwind of a novel, as the Captain and crew of the City of Memphis journey from one awe-inspiring, death-defying adventure to the next.

It starts when a strange signal, and the relay system passing it on, is discovered around a nearby neutron star. Priscilla Hutchins, a starship captain who has become a little bored with the routine of hauling freight from one star system to the next, is hired to lead an expedition to follow the signal and find out who or what is at the other end.

Hired is an important term here. The crew of the City of Memphis is made up of amateurs, members of the Contact Society, looked down upon by the professionals due to their fascination with finding living aliens. Conflicts arise, as at each new discovery, the crew wants to jump right in, less than enamored with the Captain's advice that examining alien ruins should be left to real archaeologists, and of the captain's fears of rushing into the unknown. There is reason for that fear. The dangers are real, and hit the crew hard. By the time an alien spacecraft is located, the Captain and crew are at the point where they must either learn to work together, or give up. And there's a final complication, one of the passengers is a past romantic interest of the Captain.

It's a mark of McDevitt's skill as a writer that the story and its conclusion work on both human terms, and as a space-adventure. The alien ruins are convincingly mysterious and enigmatic. Both the danger and wonder of space come through, and we care about it all because the characters are real people, with faults and strengths, fears and courage. Priscilla Hutchins in particular is a strong character, her struggles with the other characters and her own uncertainties are the main lens through which we see most of the events in the novel. All in all, it's a winning combination, and makes Chindi a book well worth reading.

Copyright © 2002 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson spends much of his time avoiding Minnesota's best known alien artifact, the Mall of America. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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