Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on August 26, 2012
A Talent for War is the first novel in Jack McDevitt's Alex Benedict series, and it's another good read from this ingenious story teller. The novel takes place about 9,000 years in the future. Space travel has been perfected enabling human civilizations to expand through a large part of our galaxy. However, unfriendly alien civilizations are also encountered. Alex Benedict receives a posthumous message from his uncle informing him to take over his lucrative business as an archeologist and finder/broker of antiquities. The message mentions an unfinished project that would be extremely lucrative for Alex to pursue. When Alex arrives at his uncles' house, he quickly discovers there is something very peculiar about his uncle's unfinished project. The artificial intelligence that served his uncle informs him that its memory has been selectively wiped and it cannot provide any information about his master's last project. Nevertheless, Alex initiates an extensive investigation of his uncles' final activities, meetings and journeys. He is perplexed when he discovers that all information about his uncle's last starship voyage has been classified. Alex proves to be a persistent and adept detective, meeting with his uncle's contacts on several different planets, but he continues to encounter "official" roadblocks regarding creditable information about his uncle's final journeys and his death in a starship accident. He eventually begins to unravel the mystery, but the closer he gets to the concealed information, the more nefarious the plot becomes. Alex and his collaborators encounter frustrating, difficult and very dangerous circumstances as they close in on the prize. This is a very complex book with a multitude of characters and long detailed descriptions of the history of this future world. Many of those characters and historical descriptions are not important to the story, but they do reveal a richer ambiance for the reader. However, it is somewhat tedious for the reader to try to digest and remember all the information that McDevitt presents, especially in the first half of the book. The reader should be patient and confidant that it is not necessary to remember every person and every incident or bit of information that is presented. The patient reader is rewarded with a very interesting and entertaining story that focuses on a war that took place 200 years previously between humans and an alien civilization known at the Ashiyyur. The reader is treated to detailed and action-packed descriptions of space battles and the environments, technologies, and political ambitions associated with them. Benedict and his associates struggle on many distant planets and endure dangerous encounters until they locate an incredible artifact and reveal the story of a hero that changes the history of that ruthless Ashiyyurian war. I liked this science fiction mystery very much and I plan to read the succeeding Alex Benedict books.
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