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Jack McDevitt



408pp/$25.95/November 2013

Cover by John Harris

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Jack McDevitt first introduced Priscilla Hutchins as a pilot extraordinaire in The Engines of God, however, while a new character, she had sprung forth from McDevitt's pen as a full-fledged pilot of starships.  In Starhawk, he returns to a much younger Priscilla Hutchins as she is just taking her first steps into interstellar space under the tutelage of Jake Loomis, who has been assigned to Hutchins's shakedown flight and to determine if she is ready for her pilot's license.

Although Hutchins passes with flying colors, her test flight in anything but routine as she and Loomis are called upon to perform a rescue of the Gremlin, another spaceship, when an interstellar flying a group of young girls has become stranded in orbit around a distant planet.  McDevitt sets up a situation similar to the one described by Tom Godwin in "The Cold Equations," but McDevitt makes the problem more complex.  Instead of being a man and a girl, Hutchins and Loomis are faced with two ships with diminished air, four adults, and several high school girls.  Not everything goes smoothly in the rescue, which sets the stage for many of Hutchins's experiences immediately after her first flight.

Hutchins finds a job with one of the major interstellar companies, Kosmik, but quickly finds herself flying a desk rather than the spaceships she trained for.  The saboteur who damaged the ship Hutchins and Loomis had to rescue was only part of a larger movement opposed the the terraforming of alien worlds and every time something goes wrong, there is the chance that it has been caused by sabotage, although not necessarily.  Hutchins tries to get back into the pilot's seat, but the political situation is against her as nearly all candidates for the Presidency are opposed to funding space exploration.  Hutchins bides her time between her duties the space station and a possible budding romance with a man from her home town of Princeton, NJ.

McDevitt also follows Loomis, who resigned shortly after returning from the rescue the Gremlin.  After a lifetime of flying, Loomis is trying to settle into a more relaxed life on Earth, surrounded by nature and a small town, meeting a young woman and seeing where the relationship would take him. Although he claims to be happy, it is clear that Loomis is haunted by his own failure in the Gremlin rescue, despite no blame being assigned to him by his comrades.  Eventually, he finds the need to redeem himself, at least in his own eyes.

Starhawk contains all of the things one has come to expect from one of Jack McDevitt's novels.  McDevitt throws out plenty of cool ideas, many of which he doesn't fully follow up on, but which help to give his universe a more complete feel.  Given that the book is a throwback to Hutchins's beginnings, McDevitt also has several call backs to some of his own early works, such as "Melville on Iapetus" and The Engines of God, which bookend Hutchins's adventures.  McDevitt's own writing is more sure and smooth now than it was when he published The Engines of God in 1994, which makes Hutchins's lack of confidence and knowledge a little jarring, but more realistic.

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