Genre Science Fiction Publisher Ace Year Published 2004 Review Posted on 6/1/2005 Reviewer Rating
8 out of 10
Polaris, by Jack McDevitt
Reviewed by S. Fazekas
If you've read this book, why not
The challenges conferred by immortality and societal changes wrought by overpopulation are two deep questions Jack McDevitt ponders in his newest investigative story, Polaris.
In this sequel to his masterpiece, A Talent for War, McDevitt brings back Alex Benedict and Chase Kolpath to solve another mystery. The Polaris is a luxury spaceship with a mysterious past. Six dignitaries used the ship to observe a rare stellar event in a far star system. The Polaris was the last ship to leave the scene--and without its passengers. Alex and Chase must overcome superstition, rumors of an as-yet undiscovered alien race and threats upon their lives as they unravel the mystery. In fact, there are other mysteries the pair must solve before the end, and they do so with style and resourcefulness.
The story contains the usual earmarks of McDevitt's multiple-Nebula nominee style: taut prose, immense backstory, an eminently believable universe and characters most readers can easily identify with. While McDevitt carries you along in the plot he invites you to think about questions of societal significance. The latter would be no mean feat by itself in a science fiction novel, but to wrap these questions inside a mystery makes this story premise challenging indeed. McDevitt brings it off beautifully. He kept my interest while poking me in the chest with important questions to ponder.
Now that I've seen Alex and Chase once again, it's clear they have matured somewhat from their days of hunting for Christopher Sim. They are rich and not a little famous, yet still more akin to 'the average Joe' than most novel heroes. They would become truly memorable characters had they a few more memorable idiosyncrasies. There also seems to be less action than in most of McDevitt's other works, and I wondered at that until I recognized the questions he posed. This is a more reflective work than his usual fare.
All in all, I found Polaris to be an excellent read and I look forward to the next installment of Alex and Chase's adventures. Now that McDevitt has been nominated several times for a Nebula, it would seem that this is the book that should win it for him.