bookrev: sEEkEr by Jack McDevitt

Winner of the 2006 Nebula for best novel.Seeker

My first McDevitt read certainly won’t be my last. Seeker is a page-turner, a combo mystery/sci-fi novel that was an excellent first read for me of 2008.

sEEkEr is the third of McDevitt’s Alex Benedict novel. Benedict is a seeker himself of antiquities, and has a knack for piecing the mystery of ancient civilization together and figuring out where in the known universe to look. This novel is told from the perspective of Chase Kolpath, Benedict’s partner, pilot and swell looker (to believe the text). Since I have not read the first two Benedict novels, I do not know whose perspective they are written in.

The titular sEEkEr (and I never figured why it was spelt that way on the title) is a ship that left earth many millineum ago with a group of folks unsatisfied with the politics and culture of earth at that time. They kept their destination secret, and, as their civilization was never found, much speculation, including fictional accounts, have turned them into the Atlantis of their time.

Benedict and Kolpath find an artifact that belonged to the Seeker, and they use that to piece together the puzzle of where the ship may be and, after that, where this lost civilization may have landed.

There are several descriptive and creative pieces to this story I enjoyed, such as:

  • Avatars of dead people: probably not a sci-fi first, but to use avatars built by your AI assistant to try and recreate past events to solve a mystery is cool, and the interaction was well written (don’t forget that they’re avatars);
  • Spending time alone amongst telepathic aliens: the travel descriptions, where the hotels and the food were all “foreign”, reminded me of my first trips overseas, where everything is different, and any familiar face is instantly a friend for life. Throw in an alien species that can read your thoughts, and you’ve got a very well described uncomfortable (and learning) situation for Chase;
  • Astrophysics: the descriptions of brown dwarfs, plane of orbit, orbital intersections and the like were well done, not overtly mathematical (which is fine in some instances) but not brushed over either.

More McDevitt is in my future.

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