[Firebird] [by: Jack McDevitt] Paperback – September 24, 2012
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Top reviews from the United States
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Another cool Alex Benedict novel by Jack McDevitt.
Plots and Points:
In this one, McDevitt breaks away from formula for a bit. He has Chase meet a client who has an artifact (yeah, that part of the formula is the same!). She is the sister-in-law of Christopher Robin (no relation to Winnie the Pooh) who is a physicist who mysteriously disappeared years ago. She wants to sell his stuff.
Chase never heard of the guy and wants to blow her off. Alex though has other ideas.
Interesting how the tale leads to other digressions that I thought we did not need for the book to move along:
- an abandoned planet with old technology including old Artificial Intelligences with an orbiting talking satellite that warns people off. Alex and Chase of course have to go down to the planet to investigate it. It’s possible Chris Robin visited!
- a visit to Chris Robin’s wife and Chase walking around his home town, playing tourist and interviewing people at random. Do we know if there was a conspiracy? Did Chris’ wife fool around with the taxi driver who apparently died in an earthquake? (yeah, goes convoluted sometimes).
- a rescue, a plea to recognize AI’s as sentient beings has some merit, but really filled too many pages before we discover what Firebird is, and the aspect of transwarp dimensions.
- disappearing spaceships that reappear for no apparent reason. Was Chris Robin investigating these? What is the connection?
Bottom Line: Interesting connections, some quite convoluted, to see what happened to Chris, the value of artifacts on the universal market, some smattering of dubious physics and more love lost with Chase and her boyfriends. Recommended.
Jack McDevitt continues his excellent narratives, with his usual pace and clarity. Never too wordy, or repetitive, McDevitt continues to provide a fascinating, entertaining read. The characters are familiar, since readers of any of the previous Benedict novels will be familiar with them; McDevitt does delve a bit further into the relationship Chase had with Alex's uncle Gabe, which reveals some interesting emotions at play there. In some ways, Chase's attitude toward Alex reflects that the author may be growing weary of these characters, and future novels in this series may not be forthcoming. The dialogue is, as always, spot on; never do we hear something that sounds outright ridiculous, or unbelievable-McDevitt seems cautious to make his work easy for anybody to read, science fiction fan or not.
Though Firebird is a good read, and ends on a particularly high note, the twists and turns leave the reader wanting a bit. In many ways, this book has three different stories, all going on at pretty much the same time. While not hard to follow, the first part of the story gets set aside, and never truly resolved, which is unfortunate, since it's quite interesting. Instead, Alex spends roughly a paragraph explaining what he feels probably happened, and the author then moves on, never returning to detail for certain what occurred. From there, it's the two main sequences that go back and forth, sometimes interrupting each other to be told. Because of this, the book almost feels as if it were two different novels, thrown together into a single volume.
For all the flaws, it's still better than McDevitt's last Benedict novel, Echo. The plot is more intriguing, and ultimately has a better payoff. In many ways, Firebird feels like a finale to the Alex Benedict series. If so, it's an acceptable one. Still, it would be hard to let the characters go.
Top reviews from other countries
The story is built around an "existing mystery" in that interstellar ships going missing at a rate of about 1 every 30 years. In particular, one person that went missing where Alex is seeking artefacts related to that person. These disappearances are put down to "life" by the authorities. But is it? Alex isn't so sure, and neither are you.. or Chase.
These books are very easy to read and very enjoyable. It may be that the "limited" perspective of a single narrator allows you to build the Alex Benedict world in your head as you read. Whatever it it is, just read and enjoy!
One series is his books featuring Alex Benedict. I hate reviews that spell out plots (what's listed on line or on the cover is enough). Let me just say that I found this his best yet - I might even say the best sci fi novel I have read and I read many (though that might need some thought). The mystery devlops nicely, the characters are good and it is a book you simply lose yourself in; it also has as moving an ending as I have ever read in this genre - satisfying too. Highly recommended, if I could give it more than five stars, I would!
Although disappointed with the book the first time around and after almost consigning it to the wastebin, being at a loose end on a wet holiday, decided to give it another go. I was of the opinion that the plot involved parallel universes but this turned out to be time travel from the past into the future. The book did not hold my attention as much as some of the Authors other works, but all the same it was a better read than other Authors I have read.
One of my main impressions is that as humanity spreads out, then the pressure cooker effect of hierarchy & celebrity is somewhat diluted and seen as a way of life, rather than the way of life to aspire to. Overall the story speaks of hope, despite the deep mystery of the universe.