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Cryptic: The Best Short Fiction of Jack McDevitt [Kindle Edition]

Jack McDevitt
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jack McDevitt loves a good mystery. And he enjoys baffling his readers with enigmas like why, after so many years of listening with no results, would a SETI director hear an artificial signal and keep it quiet? Why might an astronomer at a space station, facing imminent death from a solar radiation blast, send off a frantic message that he had discovered a Clyde Tombaugh Special? Tombaugh, of course, was the discoverer of Pluto.

What really happened to Christopher Sim, the George Washington of the war against the Ashiyyur? Why had a beloved artist at the top of his profession, with everything to live for, killed himself? Why had a brilliant young biologist discovered how life got started on Earth, but neglected to tell anyone?

And there are of course other anomalies to be encountered in McDevitt's work: A computer threatens the literary world, while a time traveler worries the churches. One artificial intelligence runs for president, and another claims to be a Catholic and demands access to the sacraments. Two friends discover that whenever they get together, shuttles crash, wars break out, or tidal waves hammer a coastline.

A researcher watches endless fighting on another world and finally rebels against the Academy's hands-off doctrine. Meantime, a crewman stranded light-years from Earth, entertains himself by intercepting radio broadcasts from home, originally transmitted during World War II.

Among other questions these tales will answer: What might happen when people in a research lab literally try to play God. Why you don't ever, ever, want to turn out the lights at Bolton's Tower in the Dakotas. Why someone might want to blow up a star. And why it would be a really good idea if Hatch kept his hands off the mallet. These, and twenty-three other cosmic rides, await the reader.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This career-spanning collection of 38 stories offers perspectives on various aspects of history, whether actual (Time Travellers Never Die), alternate (The Tomb) or conjectured (Ignition). Character actions grow out of remembered or recovered stories (To Hell with the Stars), while AIs are programmed to emulate St. Augustine (Gus) and George Washington (The Candidate). The hard SF shell of McDevitt's work often contains a romantic core, where a skeptical faith sustains and motivates his protagonists to struggle on (Indomitable, Never Despair). Never predictable in outcome, conflicts are resolved by a well-formed argument that enables the well-aimed blaster (Kaminsky at War). McDevitt's fondness for ideas such as idealism's triumph over pragmatism is a little too apparent in this single-volume setting, but his strong, clear voice easily sustains each individual story. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 891 KB
  • Print Length: 450 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Subterranean Press (August 3, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003Y8XR5U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,588 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short Hops Through McDevitt Space November 19, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed Jack McDevitt's previous book of short stories, Standard Candles, because it captured a similar range of subjects and style as his novel-length fiction. The thirty-eight stories in this volume provide much the same experience. Many deal with familiar McDevitt themes such the rediscovery of space travel, whether humanity is alone in the universe, and the emotional consequences of scientific discovery. Some are startling and brilliant; only a few disappoint.

My seven favorites are described below.

"In the Tower" follows the grieving lover of a dead artist as she investigates his former life, friends and paintings for clues about his terminal unhappiness. The story she uncovers invades the heart and mind with Lovecraftian horror.

"Dutchman" takes us on board an abandoned Dellacondan starship thought to have been destroyed in battle long ago. Hugh Scott and the captain of the Tenandrome make discoveries that play a central role in McDevitt's novel A Talent For War. There are some spoilers...

In "Promises to Keep" a member of an historic expedition to Callisto shares personal recollections of the voyage and the voyagers. His story is a little different from the official version.

"Report From the Rear" shows the kind of reporting necessary to cover a fast-breaking war and get the story told on time. And the material this process produces.

In "Black to Move" we land on the first living world Earth's explorers have ever found and contemplate the empty city left by its former inhabitants.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth every penny. October 19, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
I've been a Jack McDevitt fan for some time now. I've read many of his novels, and at least one earlier collection of his short stories. So I couldn't resist this collection when I saw it was available. (And at under 5 bucks to boot!)

"Cryptic" has nearly forty stories, covering everything from time travel to space exploration to galactic conflict. Some of the stories, like "The Fort Moxi Branch" and "Auld Lang Boom" have a genuine Bradbury feel, while others, like "Lighthouse" and "Melville on Iapetus" are reminiscent of something Clarke might write.

Really, there is a lot to enjoy her for fan and newcomer alike. My personal favorites are the previous mentioned "Melville" (about a space relic), "Gus" (about a very special painting), "Kiminsky at War" (a scientist who gets a little too involved), and "Time Travelers Never Die" (an excellent time travel tale).

A caveat to the reader: McDevitt's universe is arguably a lonely one, where aliens are few, space is vast and dangerous, and even God is impersonal and uninvolved. Within that structure, though, he crafts wonderfully executed tales.

This is a great collection. Worth every penny.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This short fiction is excellent, in my opinion, just as good has his "Standard Candles." I have enjoyed all of Mr. McDevitt's work, beginning with "A Talent for War." Any offering by him is an instant buy for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So happy I read this November 1, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I only like 3 authors of sci-fi that has to do with space travel. JACK McDEVITT, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Anne McCaffrey. Their writing is believable and makes me wish I lived in their world's. KRENTZ,S for the dust bunnies, McCaffrey"s for the dragons and designers, and McDEVITT"s for the great characters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read October 31, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I can never get enough of Jack McDevitt. This collection of short stories includes some new to me as well as some familiar ones.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So glad I bought this book! October 19, 2013
By Molly
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have most of Jack McDevitt's books, so I had to get this one too. Excellent stories. You won't regret it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Jack McDevitt July 16, 2013
By Ganesh
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
All Jack McDevitt is best! The narratives are strong, as usual. The stories are a great ride, and satisfying. Enjoy!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Shipload of McDevitt June 4, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Jack McDevitt is at his best in ruins. I first encountered him in The Engines of God, the first of a series in which humans seem to constantly stumble across alien ruins created by the Monument Makers. I went on to Eternity Road, in which post-apocalyptic humans look for the mysteries behind vast ruins. Even his other series, starting with A Talent For War and Polaris, is about a tomb-raider. These novels have generally been intriguing from start to finish. McDevitt is an expert at creating and keeping a sense of wonder and discovery, and I've bought all his books.

I was excited, therefore, to find Cryptic, which not only promised to be interesting, but was good value for money. It's paid off.

The collection is broken into sections, which aren't really explained despite a sizable foreword. The stories aren't presented chronologically, but the book reads as if they were. The first section, "Unlikely Connections", contains some of the weakest. Frankly, some of them are just not very good, though they're not bad either. Persevere past the first few, and you'll reach some stronger collaborations with Michael Shara. In section 2, "Lost Treasure", McDevitt starts to hit his stride, including with a companion to Eternity Road.

The rest of the sections are at or slightly below that level, which makes this a very satisfying read. There are ancient ruins, distant worlds, and a sense of loneliness throughout.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A chronicle of skill
In this wide-ranging collection we often see the genesis of later novels, like the first visit to the monument on Iapetus and the discovery of Christopher Sim's derelict... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent collection of stories from Jack mcdevitt
This collection contains stories written by mcdevitt across his career. A nice touch to this collection of stories is that they're divided by theme. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Patrick Belsheim
5.0 out of 5 stars Great collection, better than novels
I've greatly enjoyed Jack McDevitt's novels over the years, but the pleasure has waned - I have found them getting pretty repetitious. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Glenn Nelson
4.0 out of 5 stars Best Short Fiction of McDevitt -- Enjoyable Read
I really like Jack's novels but I thought I'd take a shot at his short fiction works.

I especially liked his time travel stories, including Times Arrow and Time... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Scotman's Critic's Corner
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
So many wonderful stories. It was hard to put the book down. I especially enjoyed the tie ins with his other books. Keep going Jack!
Published 16 months ago by John F. Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars Always good stuff
Jack would do well writing in any genre. Science fiction is just a comfortable medium for him. It was fun to see some of the short stores "grow" into full-blown novels.
Published 18 months ago by Hubert C Tarrant Jr
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the mix of stories
I like how in short stories the author often dives right in, and it's a few pages before you grasp the full background of the story. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Daniel Gulino
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