Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
Octavia Gone (8) (An Alex Benedict Novel) Mass Market Paperback – January 28, 2020
|New from||Used from|
Inspire a love of reading with Prime Book Box for Kids
Discover delightful children's books with Prime Book Box, a subscription that delivers new books every 1, 2, or 3 months — new customers receive 15% off your first box. Learn more.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Frequently bought together
About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
1435: 11 YEARS LATER.
However magnificent the seas and forests of other worlds,
However dazzling their sunlit skies,
However wide their beaches,
There is no view from any place in God’s vast cosmos
That matches the moonlight falling on one’s own front porch.
—WALFORD CANDLES, “HOME AT LAST,” 1199
I can’t remember a happier time than the day Gabe came back. Alex and I had assumed he was dead, along with the other twenty-six hundred passengers and crew on the Capella. It simply disappeared more than a decade ago and nobody had any idea what had happened. Funerals and farewells were conducted, and eventually families and friends went on with their lives. But a few months ago it surfaced. It had gotten tangled with a time warp. On board only about three weeks had passed, so the passengers and crew were shocked to discover that the outside world was eleven years older. Gabe and the others had returned though, and that was all that mattered.
We were coming back from Earth when we got the news. We joined the group of vehicles retrieving passengers from the drifting ship. Alex tried to raise Gabe when we got close enough to the Capella, but we got no answer. “He may be gone already,” I said. We picked up ten people, delivered them to Skydeck, took the shuttle down to the spaceport, grabbed a taxi, and returned to the country house. As we approached, I saw lights shining in Gabe’s office. A minute later he appeared on the porch and waved as we descended.
Alex breathed a sigh of relief. He was out of his belt and opening the door while we were still coming in. “Premature,” said the taxi in a stern voice. “A penalty will be assigned.”
“Whatever,” said Alex. We touched down and climbed out. Gabe broke into a huge smile, came off the porch and hurried across the cobblestones. They both stopped when they got close, stared briefly at each other, and without a word fell into each other’s arms.
“I can’t believe this happened,” Gabe said. “Thank God it’s over.” He looked back at Alex. “Are you still living on Rambuckle?”
Alex shook his head. “No. After the Capella disappeared, I decided it was time to go home.”
Gabe let us see he was amused. “So one good thing, at least, has come out of this. You’re living there now, right? In the country house?”
“Yes, we’ve set up a business here.”
“It’ll be good to have you home, Alex.”
“I’ve been here a long time. Thanks for turning the property over to me. Anyhow, we’ll clear everything out. Soon as I can decide where I’m headed. It should only take a few days.”
“No, no, no. You’re not listening to me. You can’t do that. You’ve been living here too, right? Not just running a business?”
“I have been, yes.”
Gabe looked my way. “And you, Chase?”
“I have a cottage near the river,” I said.
“I don’t see any rings. You guys aren’t a couple, are you?”
I’m not sure my cheeks didn’t redden a bit. There’d been a time when Alex and I had made a connection. But it had been brief, and it was long ago.
“No,” I said. “I just work for Alex. For Rainbow.” I’d been Gabe’s pilot before the Capella took him away. It was a flight he’d invited me onto, a combination of business and vacation, but fortunately I’d declined. Although it occurred to me that if I’d gone along I’d have been more than a decade younger.
“Well, anyhow,” said Gabe, “there should be plenty of room at the country house. There’s no reason you should leave, Alex. Stay, please.”
Alex hesitated. “Sure, Uncle Gabe. If it’s really okay with you.”
“Of course it is.” He was suddenly staring at the river. “I’ve never seen the Melony look so good.”
“That’s because you’re home,” I said.
“So what kind of business does Rainbow do?”
“Nothing’s changed. I still deal in antiquities.” Alex showed a touch of discomfort. “I hope that’s not a problem.”
“It’s okay. Do what you have to. Don’t worry about it.” Gabe had never approved of selling artifacts to private collectors. They should be available to everyone. Not stored away in the homes of the wealthy. But fortunately, on this occasion, he showed a flexibility that allowed him to confront his new situation with a let’s-not-get-excited attitude.
We went inside. “What’ve you been up to?” I asked Jacob, our AI, as the door closed behind us.
“Watching Bellarian plays.” Jacob loved the theater and spent a lot of his time in virtual box seats.
“Bellarian?” I said. “Where are they from?”
“Fourth millennium. Bellarius was the first world to produce its own shows.”
“Maybe we could attend some together,” said Gabe.
“I can arrange that. I’m planning on watching Graveyard Shift tonight, if you’re interested. It’s a comedy.”
“I’ll need a couple of nights to settle in, Jacob. But sure, let’s set something up.”
We carried everything to his quarters in the rear. Gabe was looking around the apartment, shaking his head, commenting that it was hard to believe he’d been gone over a decade. “By the way,” he added, “did we ever find out what happened to Octavia?”
“That happened,” I said, “just before you left. Am I right?”
“That’s correct. Just a few weeks earlier.”
“No,” said Alex. “They never got any answers. It had to have gone into the black hole, but the people who were running the program claimed that just wasn’t possible. There was a major commotion at the time when you guys disappeared too. The media were full of rumors about a connection.”
“So they never came up with anything at all?”
“Not anything definitive. Mostly all they had was speculation.”
“You think it could have also gotten tangled up in a time warp?”
“I’ve no idea, Gabe. According to the experts, you need a star drive unit to make that happen. The station had thrusters but that was all. The search parties found nothing. They put together a commission that decided the only reasonable solution was that one of the four crew sabotaged the place. That caused a lot of anger. Members of the commission took considerable heat. Eventually the media suggested they were trying to conceal a defect in the station. But they went over other stations of the same model and found nothing.”
“Now that I’ve had some experience being stranded myself,” said Gabe, “I can tell you it’s seriously unsettling. We knew for about a week that something had gone wrong and it was scary. We thought we were going to be there forever. I’d hate to think something like that happened to the people on Octavia.” He settled into the sofa. “I knew one of them.”
“Really? Which one?”
“Del Housman. We grew up together. Both members of the Explorers back in grade-school days. We never really lost touch. Until Octavia happened. You met him. We had him over to the house a couple of times when you were there.”
“I have no recollection of him. But you had a lot of visitors.”
“What was he like?” I asked.
“He was a good guy. A lot of the other kids treated him like a nerd. But he shrugged it off. They got especially annoyed with him because he refused to believe that AIs were actually alive. I think he’s the reason I figured out that the house didn’t really care what happened to me. That the voices were all automatic.” He paused for a smile. “He was always popular with the girls though.”
“He looks pretty ordinary,” I said.
“I guess. But that didn’t matter. He was a charmer. They loved him.”
• • •
Gabe had provided a home for Alex, who’d lost his parents in a hurricane when he was two years old. He was tall, with black hair parted on the left in a style we didn’t see much anymore. He had intelligent blue eyes that reflected the patience derived from so many years digging into dozens of archeological sites around and beyond the Confederacy. There was an intensity in his manner that tended to draw attention whenever he entered a room. Alex was just coming in off the porch when Gabe came through the door carrying a captain’s cap. “It’s Deirdre Schultz’s,” he said. She had been the Capella’s commanding officer.
“Beautiful,” said Alex. I understood. It was already valuable and would become, in time, priceless. “How did you persuade her to give it to you?”
“I just offered to replace it. She laughed and turned it over. Wouldn’t accept any money.”
“That was generous of her.”
Gabe couldn’t avoid shrugging, as if she’d have done it for anyone. “She told me I was her public relations guy.” She’d signed an authentication. “I think she suspected that if she let me have it, it would eventually wind up in a museum.”
“She read you pretty well,” said Alex.
The laughter continued, and neither said anything about what must have been on both their minds: that Alex, left to his own inclinations, would have eventually sold it to the highest bidder.
“You know,” Alex said, “leaving Rimway was probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.” They shook hands, both looking as if they had finally put the old quarrel behind them. “And thanks for this.” He looked up at the house. “I’m going to call Joyce Bartlett and have her take care of whatever legal formalities are necessary to return everything.”
“Who’s Joyce Bartlett?”
Gabe looked puzzled. “Oh. I get it. You’re talking about my will.”
“Holy cats, Alex. I hadn’t thought about that. I mean, from my perspective, I’ve only been gone a couple of weeks. And by the way, call me Gabe, okay? We’re both adults now.”
“Gabe.” Alex was testing it. “Sounds strange.”
“This whole business has been pretty strange.”
“I know. You were officially declared dead three years ago.”
“So this place is now yours?”
Alex nodded. “Yes. It is. But you’ll have it back pretty quickly.”
Gabe stared out at the trees, the carefully trimmed bushes and the sculpted lawn. “You took good care of it,” he said.
“Of course, Gabe.”
“I won’t have you leave it. It’s your home. Has been for years.”
• • •
A worldwide celebration was staged two nights later. Passengers, families, and crew arrived at thirty-six sites around the planet, and one at the space station, to share drinks and memories and to say thanks to those who’d been part of the rescue effort, as well as to President Davis.
Telemotion technology enabled them to embrace and shake hands. The Andiquar group met at the Miranda Hotel. The event broke every Rimway record for total number of viewers and participants. And for at least those few hours, we became a global family.
An army of Gabe’s old friends and relatives descended on the country house during the next few days. They took him out to luncheons and dinners, and spent time with him just sitting around talking about what, for them, were the good old days. Since for Gabe the good old days had been only three weeks earlier, there was a fair amount of disorientation on both sides. “We held a funeral service for you,” Alex told him.
“Did anybody come?” Gabe asked.
Alex got an uncertain look in his eyes. “I can show you some pictures.”
“Let’s let it go.”
Veronica Walker was standing beside Alex. She was an elementary-school teacher with chestnut hair, brown eyes, and a killer smile. I watched her squeeze his hand as he spoke to his uncle. They’d met at an auction when she’d outbid Alex for a lamp that had belonged to Wally Candles, the poet who’d become famous during the Ashiyyurean War. “Gabe,” she said, “I’m glad to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you. I wonder if I could have you come by the school and talk to my kids?”
“Sure. Would that be about archeology?”
“Whatever you like. But especially about why history matters.”
• • •
Alex and I had no problem adjusting to Gabe’s return. We’d both missed him, and getting him back became a gift of immeasurable substance. I was happy to note that whatever resistance Gabe had mounted against his nephew’s habitual salvaging of historical artifacts and putting them up for sale to private collectors did not show itself during the weeks that passed after he came back. If he was still embarrassed by Alex’s profession, he refused to show any indication of it.
But there were some difficult moments.
Alex updated him on a few family deaths, including two great-grandparents on his mother’s side. And there was his cousin Tom Benedict, an MD who’d died on the primitive world Lyseria, where a plague had broken out and killed almost the entire colony. Tom had gone to help in spite of dire warnings by friends and relatives. After a long struggle, he became one of the casualties. Eventually the plague was neutralized, but not in time to save him.
Gabe and Tom had been close, had spent a lot of time together, and had taken the young Alex on camping trips and boat rides back in the early days. They’d also taken him along on a couple of interstellar tours, which Alex told me had changed him forever. “They gave me a passion for history. For artifacts, especially. I loved touching them, touching history. I especially liked an artifact when I had a name to go with it.”
• • •
I got a surprise the next day when Gabe informed me that April Rafferty would be arriving at about noon. A shadow had crept into his eyes. “Except,” he said, “that her name isn’t Rafferty anymore. She’s April Dutton now.”
April Rafferty had been his fiancé eleven years earlier, when he climbed aboard the Capella and disappeared into the night. They hadn’t set a wedding date when it happened, but it had been obvious they weren’t going to delay it much longer. April had been heartbroken when the ship was lost. She’d waited, praying that someone would figure out what had happened and provide a reason to keep up hope. But after a few weeks without contact, everything turned negative. Whatever had occurred, the experts said, we may never know, but it’s obvious we’ll not see them again.
The Confederacy went into shock. It was easily the worst interstellar disaster ever. The Capella had disappeared and taken everyone with her. April had come to me because I was a pilot and she thought I might be able to offer a ray of hope. Interstellars had been occasionally disappearing over the centuries. A few came back after having suffered minor engine damage of some sort, combined with a communication blackout. But that sort of thing was extremely rare. So when she showed up at my cottage one evening a few days after the incident and asked whether I thought there was any chance that Gabe was alive somewhere and whether there was any possibility he’d be found, I said nothing to give her hope. I thought a claim in which I had no confidence would do nothing except extend the pain.
April arrived exactly at noon. I told her how good it was to see her again. She responded by saying much the same thing. She hadn’t changed, except that maybe some of the vibrancy that I remembered was gone. But that was natural after so many years. I let Gabe know and led her into my office. His office door opened in back, he came forward, and I tried to figure out how to get out of the way. I recall saying something about how I hoped she was happy with whomever it was she’d married.
Then Gabe arrived. They exchanged warm smiles. “April,” he said, “you won’t believe this but it’s only been about three weeks since I saw you.”
“That’s what I’ve been hearing,” she said. “Gabe, I missed you.”
They moved into a cautious embrace while I excused myself and left the room. The last thing I heard was Gabe asking whether she was okay.
- Item Weight : 7.7 ounces
- Mass Market Paperback : 448 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1481497987
- ISBN-13 : 978-1481497985
- Product Dimensions : 4.13 x 1 x 6.75 inches
- Publisher : Gallery / Saga Press (January 28, 2020)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #444,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
(I admit to not liking a couple of his books over the years too, but Mr. McDevitt is by far my favorite sci-fi author ever.)
I really, really liked this book, as I have all of the Alex Benedict / Chase Kolpath books.
Many of the ideas in Mr. McDevitt's books really grab me, his writing style interests me and these two combined, hook me in. I know when a new book is out, I'll be getting very little sleep.
I really liked Octavia Gone, and its plot ideas and characters' philosophical debates in this one were right down my alley as well. Just a lot of good. solid, McDevitt storytelling stuff going on for me in this book.
To me, reading a good book is like watching the course of a long race of some sort, say steeplechase, where there are jumps, turns, dangers, and twists.
So, I was seriously surprised when, in the first chapter after the usual Prologue to set up the story, Mr. McDevitt trips and falls in his telling of the Octavia Gone story. It took me putting the book down for a bit, to mentally get past this early fall, and at the end of the story I feel Mr. McDevitt had gotten back up and finished the race strong.
Here's my problem. At the end of the previous Alex Benedict / Chase Kolpath book, Coming Home, Alex's Uncle Gabe is rescued after an 11 year absence along with 2500 other passengers on an interstellar cruiser caught in a space-time warp of some sort.
After an exhausting run of hours with Alex Benedict / Chase Kolpath participating in the Capella's rescue efforts and getting their allotted rescuees safely to Rimway's space station, they went home, still not knowing which ship Uncle Gabe was on, and did not see him on the space station. Only to find lights on at Alex's "Country House" and Uncle Gabe there to greet Alex Benedict / Chase Kolpath at the door. HE... welcomes...THEM...home! I still think that was a touching and great way to end the book Coming Home.
So, Octavia Gone begins, and almost immediately Uncle Gabe's reunion is retold for the reader, IN A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT RESCUE/REUNION SCENARIO that completely pulled me, as a reader, out of the reading zone, it seriously surprised me.
In the past couple of days, I had re-read Coming Home so that as I finished it, I could buy the kindle version of Octavia Gone and keep on with the story of Alex/Chase/and now Gabe, only to confront, within minutes, a second completely different description of the rescue and reunion details!
These very different tellings of the same rescue day/reunion day at very end of one book and the beginning of the next book stopped my reading in its tracks to reconcile the two scenarios. One thing writers should NOT do is to write something that JERKS the reader out of the flow of the story and back into the real world, but that was definitely done in a way here that made me wonder, 1. what the heck was Jack McDevitt thinking, did he not remember the Coming Home ending?, and 2. shouldn't the editors have caught such a glaring discrepancy in the story line?
At any rate, I ended up loving this book, Octavia Gone, with its adventurous, dangerous, and interesting jaunt around Alex Benedict / Chase Kolpath's part of the galaxy, just as I loved the adventures in the previous books.
In the end, though, that big discrepancy so early in the story was overcome after a reading pause, and doesn't ruin a great book with fun ideas that I know I'll enjoy reading again in the future.
OK, here's the rub. It's bothered me before that he starts every chapter with a little quote or something but many of them were from current times so they were somewhat easy to understand. But when he starts every chapter with some quote or extract from some unknown future text, I start to wonder if they were all filler. Instead of looking for something the readers would see as relative or find topical, now I'm seeing them as filler and Jack might be just too lazy to dig out his book of quotes. The other issue are the constant references to people, songs, places that exist only in his mind and have no bearing at all on the story. Here are a few examples: "When we walked in, a piano player was in the middle of 'An Evening with you.'" and "The pianist was doing 'Love in the elms.'" Now If he had written, "Moonlight Serenade" or "Theme from New York, New York" then it would have set the mode for the location. But I don't know if "An Evening with You" is a future version of a head banging song by Ozzy or not! The book is filled with these references to unknown people, places or things that happened in an unknown history. I can go on and on. In his earlier books, the references he used to fill-in the background weren't so obvious, I guess.
Anyway, I hate to be a hater but I think someone needs to bang him in the head and tell him to write a novel, not a short story with a cumulative 100 pages of inane references!
"Your biggest fan has been hit by manure"
But Octavia makes it look as though he is over the hill and just going through the motions of publishing once a year cause he needs the bucks. Shame!
The first one hundred pages of the book are inane at best and should have been deleted. And the rest of the book looks as though he took two story ideas that the never finished and jammed them together to get enough pages to call this mishmash a book.
He could have deleted a lot of the book and, maybe, just maybe, he could have wound up with a good, thin novella (with emphasis on the word thin).
I will no longer be waiting with bated breath for his next release and buy it sight unseen. Instead I will put it in my cart and wait for the reviews to come in before I buy it. And if the reviews aren't good enough, I'm not buying it.
There are many authors who create complete fictional universes. Some violent, some bizarre.
I want Jack McDevitt's universe to be our future.
Top reviews from other countries
Some examples (and unfortunately a small list):
- a character who died in “A Talent for War” as the main human traitor/villain and had no small role in that book is suddenly alive and well at a dinner party
- another character from “A Talent for War” is entirely misidentified in his historical role, without need and for no plot reasons
- the way Gabe reunites with Alex and Chase is different in this book than it was in “Coming Home”, even though that is within 40 pages (spanning both books) of each other
- everyone sure seems to have complete amnesia as to the events of “Firebird”, characters as well as author
- if I ever build a network of experts, I hope they’re still around half a year later
- man, Survey not only changed it’s name (DPSAR), but also the director job seems cursed!
... I could go on, but *frustrated growl*.
The story itself is both interesting and sometimes needlessly clunky, but with a surprising twist at the end.
But the continuity editing is, frankly, appalling. Sorry, Mr McDevitt, but that’s a botched job, that is.