Reading Jack McDevitt

Seeker by Jack McDevitt
I’ve almost finished reading every Jack McDevitt novel on the shelf and am wondering how long it’s going to take for this Georgia-based author to deliver his next book to his publishers. If you enjoy mystery, archaeology, adventure and disaster on a cosmic scale then you need to trot down to your nearest bookseller and announce in a very clear voice “I would very much like to purchase a book by Mister Jack McDevitt please M’am”. Just be sure that (unlike me) you begin reading McDevitt’s books in the proper order…

I’m a very monogamous reader and once I find an author whose style captures my imagination I’ll mainline that author until I’ve exhausted the supply, trying to read everything they’ve ever written… preferably in chronological order. Doing this with McDevitt’s books took a mild bit of effort on my part however as the paperbacks don’t provide a listing of his published works in any sort of order; particularly a problem when it comes to lining up on his “Priscilla Hutchins” and “Alex Benedict” series, easily the most popular of his works.

McDevitt has a gift for character sketches, making it almost impossible to anticipate whether someone will last the entire book or get eaten by a giant star goat (of which there are thankfully few in his books). The universe his “Hutchins” and “Benedict” characters occupy is comfortable reading (to me anyway) because it’s largely a projection of our modern western world with but a few changes: people live longer, interstellar travel has been achieved, friendly artificial intelligences are integrated into homes, vehicles and spacecraft. Religion exists in the background most of McDevitt’s books but whenever it comes to the fore it seems to be the one thing that he handles with wooden hands and a tin ear, unable to craft people who are both passionate and reasonable. It’s obvious that McDevitt is much more interested in interstellar collisions and alien archaeology and like many science geeks he chafes at the retarding effect that organized religion has traditionally imposed on the sciences. But that’s okay, Jack is writing to tell fun adventures. If you’re looking for powerfully written, character-driven sci-fi stories you should slide farther down the bookshelf to Stephen R. Donaldson’s “Gap Cycle”.

If you’re thinking of reading McDevitt I suggest that you begin with his “Alex Benedict” series which is set about 10,000 years in our future. Alex Benedict is an antiquities dealer with a Sherlock Holmes-like gift for tracking down long lost space stations and abandoned settlements, selling his finds to the highest bidder. His sexy assistant Chase Kolpath is a starship pilot and the main character of most of the books in this series. In fact, Jack McDevitt seems to prefer writing strong female leads.

Here’s the order to read that series:

  • A Talent for War (1989)
  • Polaris (2004)
  • Seeker (2005)


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