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Polaris (An Alex Benedict Novel) Mass Market Paperback – October 25, 2005

3.8 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This SF mystery's smooth and exciting surface makes it difficult to appreciate how exceptionally good it is at combining action and ideas. After a string of well-developed space operas, McDevitt returns to the lead characters of his second novel, A Talent for War (1988): antiquarian entrepreneur Alex Benedict (think Indiana Jones with an eye for profit) and his beautiful assistant, Chase Kolpath (think smart, sexy Dr. Watson). Decades earlier, in a future version of the Marie Celeste incident, the spaceship Polaris was discovered drifting and empty, its captain and passengers apparently vanished in an instant. Now, Alex and Chase realize that someone is tracking down relics of the Polaris and is willing to kill anyone who gets in the way. Alex is first of all a businessman, but he becomes stubbornly fascinated with the impossible puzzle. While Chase saves Alex's neck from increasingly ingenious attacks, he untangles a complex plot. The real problem turns out to be not how the mass disappearance was done but the tangled motives behind it. McDevitt does a fine job of creating different worlds for Alex and Chase to explore as they hunt clues. Through Chase's wry narration, the novel also succeeds in presenting characters who may be concealing important facets of themselves. That's appropriate in an SF mystery novel, but especially in one that turns out to have a surprisingly serious human core.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

A mystery surrounds the starship Polaris, whose crew vanished while observing a stellar collision. Some 60 years later, two freelance archaeologists discover a good many artifacts that belonged to the vanished crew, the appearance of which attracts much attention--frivolous, festive, larcenous, and even outright homicidal. The archaeologists set out to track down whoever is out to get them and to recover the stolen artifacts, if possible, and at least protect the surviving ones. They lead a merry chase, involving both interstellar voyages and 14-hour train trips (McDevitt sees railroads in any civilized future) and revealing a good many carefully guarded secrets about both VIPs and ordinary citizens. The traveling affords readers a panoramic view of humanity 2,000 years hence, and that at book's end only part of the mystery has been revealed bodes strongly of a sequel, which would be no bad thing at all, at all. Another highly intelligent, absorbing portrayal of the far future from a leading creator of such tales. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: An Alex Benedict Novel (Book 2)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ace (October 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441012531
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441012534
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #606,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Sixty years ago (in a future so distant that space travel is commonplace), the luxury yacht Polaris carried a group of curious, science-minded (and very wealthy) passengers to Delta Karpis, once a typical G class star but now unique and of extraordinary interest as it was about to collide with a dwarf star. Having witnessed this astonishing once in a lifetime stellar event, the Polaris announced its imminent departure for earth and then was never heard from again. Search parties eventually found the Polaris empty and adrift, its passengers clearly having left or vanished with considerable speed - a space-faring celestial Marie Celeste, as it were! When prominent antiquities dealer, Alex Benedict, and his assistant, Chase Kolpath, managed to acquire a number of artifacts from the salvaged Polaris, it became clear that Benedict and Kolpath were targeted for elimination. Someone was desperate to ensure that the truth behind the Polaris story was never revealed to an unsuspecting world.

A diverting, enjoyable, if somewhat predictable mystery, "Polaris" will provide any sci-fi fan with some enjoyable hours of reading ... lots of whiz bang high-tech gadgetry, a dash of celestial mechanics and the science of stellar evolution plus a very provocative series of philosophical divertimenti pondering the potential effects of science's ability to stop or reverse the aging process. "To age or not to age, this is the question", McDevitt puts forward some extremely interesting arguments on both sides as to how the world might react and evolve were it possible to stop aging and prolong life indefinitely. And how does that fit into the mystery plot? Ah ... for that, you're just going to have to pick it up and read it!
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a sequel to "A Talent For War", which McDevitt wrote over 10 years ago. That book was a stirring elegy of a future star spanning mankind at war with an alien race. He imbued that book with a grand backdrop, and invoked timeless qualities of heroism and sacrifice. The book had a typical print run for a paperback and quickly sold out. Even in used bookstores, it was hard to find, and people hung onto their copies. It was reissued about a year ago.

So when I saw this book, I read it eagerly. Hoping for a similarly engaging plot. As a twist, this book is told from the vantage point of the female character, Chase Kolpath, who is the secondary persona in the earlier novel. It expands on her personality, and gives another look at Alex Benedict, who was the main character in Talent.

But, the plot is tepid. Sadly, nothing to match the grandeur of Talent. Also, the plot unfolding contains elements that have been seen in McDevitt's earlier works. Somewhat predictable.

A portion of this book also deals with the topic of aging. His story is set millenia in the future. With faster than light travel and artificial intelligence software as a viable construct. Many futuristic details. But, the human lifespan is still only some 120 years. A marginal improvment over what we already have. This seems very implausible, given the other advances in the book over the postulated time period. It is as though our biology and medicine sputtered to a stop right about now.

But there is one nice item in the book - the quote in my subject line.
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Format: Hardcover
McDevitt is capable of turning out thoughtful, literate, involving science fiction novels of very high quality indeed. Unfortunately, this isn't one of them. This is a not-quite-sequel to his excellent A TALENT FOR WAR, in that it is set in the same future and shares some of the same characters several thousand years from now, in a diverse, dispersed human galactic civilization. A space-going yacht, POLARIS, accompanies a group of scientific research ships to witness and record a rare stellar event. Aboard are half a dozen scientific, philosophical, and political luminaries. And they never return, though the ship itself is found, mysterious empty of life. Sixty years later, the disappearance of the passengers of POLARIS is still one of the great modern mysteries. Alex Benedict, now a prominent antiquities dealer, acquires a number of the personal possessions found on the derelict ship -- just before the rest of the artifacts are destroyed in an explosion. And now someone, or some organization, is trying to kill him off, too. What does he unknowingly possess that could be that important? Well, McDevitt never quite makes it worth the reader's while to want to find out. The minutiae of life in his future are interesting at the beginning and help supply verisimilitude, but it gets a little old to be reading detailed descriptions of the lives of very minor characters when you're three hundred pages into the book. Also, it's an old sf device to casually mention the names of future historical figures in the company of names we would recognize from our own times, but McDevitt does this far, far too often -- and usually without giving any hint of who these great figures are.Read more ›
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