Wednesday, December 15, 2004

McDevitt: Omega—Intelligence Under a Dark Cloud


I should know by now. Any book by Jack McDevitt is going to take time and effort to get into, even require backing up to reread whole sections. Omega is no exception. Part of the truly vast McDevitt universe that includes The Engines of God, Deepsix and the truly awesome Chindi, Omega brings back Priscilla Hutchins ("Hutch"), now agency director, as well as a host of other well-realized McDevitt characters.

He does character interaction so well that sometimes we become immersed in the soap-opera contentions of his people, and lose track of the bigger picture—in this case, an intelligence-destroying cloud that is bearing down on Earth. And that inattention becomes part of his story, for Earth is also unconcerned. The threat is 900 years in the future, and "there'll be time later". Then explorers discover a living civilization bare years away from the cloud's destruction, and Hutch must organize the effort to save them without running afoul of the agency's prime directive.

In typical McDevitt-fashion, characters grouse about food, worry about their love lives, back-bite and nit-pick—and ponder issues like intelligent design and the original source of evil. In one scene, an explorer muses about the city-blasting clouds,
[I'm not sure] which explanation [scares me more.] Either they're natural, which leads to the conclusion that the universe, or God, however you want to put it, doesn't approve of intelligence. Or they're built and set loose. That means somebody who's very bright has gone to a lot of trouble to kill every stranger he can find.

You need a big canvas for these concepts. McDevitt has shown time and again that he can handle the challenge.

Each novel stands on its own, but reading them in sequence may reduce the effort needed to take on the next.


Blogger samraat said...

4/03/2010 9:20 PM  

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