NESFA Members' Reviews


by Jack McDevitt

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Ace, 2002, $22.95, 403 pp

Chindi is a sort-of sequel to Deepsix. Priscilla Hutchins, one of the main characters of Deepsix is the heroine of Chindi.

Like Deepsix, Chindi is set about 200 years from now in a universe where mankind has FTL travel and is busy exploring and settling. No space-traveling aliens have been discovered, though the remnants of several have been found and one world inhabited by savages has been discovered.

The world has not changed a bit in those 200 years: All of the people are Americans (there is one exotic guy: a German) and daily life seems unchanged. There is a lot of high-tech, but it’s strangely disconnected – I noted this in my review of Deepsix– there’s FTL and gravity compensators and AIs and magic spacesuits, but otherwise it’s all pretty much plain-old-2002 outside. This world is our world (2002’s middle America) with all its attitudes and technology intact with a few really neat gadgets sitting around hardly being used. McDevitt makes no attempt whatsoever to create a consistent universe or to explore any of the consequences of the things he imagines. The SF background in these books is purely background. It’s ill-thought-out, and it affects no one. The strength of the book is that it’s a pretty decent adventure story.

Priscilla Hutchins – Hutch – is captain of a spaceship working for the Academy of Sciences hauling researchers here and there. The A of S, apparently a privately-funded organization, asks her to captain a ship owned by The Contact Society, a group of rich people interested in hunting for space-traveling aliens. She agrees and during the course of the voyage, they discover alien artifacts and still-operating alien satellites which seem to be observing various planets and sending the information on to other near-by stars.

Hutch’s ship follows and discovers that the next star has more satellites which transmit yet further. They follow the chain of transmitters and at each planet they have adventures, discover wonders, and get a couple more people killed.

The bottom line? A good book, but by no means a great one. The story is gripping, but it’s little more than a series of adventures. The SF is only there as backdrop, though it’s fun backdrop.

The book is also marred by many minor errors – lapses in continuity or just plain silliness. (One that struck me was an off-hand comment that humanity had around 20 superluminal ships in service. At the time they said this, they’d already destroyed two through mishaps in the previous 100 pages. Had 10% of humanity’s interstellar spaceships just been destroyed, there’s have been a real ruckus – instead, hardly any notice was taken.)

I’m afraid that this is yet another frustratingly near-miss by McDevitt. He ought to be one of our finest writers, but never seems to quite get it together.

See also my review of McDevitt's books: Infinity Beach, Deepsix, Chindi

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