Saturday, February 11, 2012

Book Review: Firebird

Firebird (Alex Benedict, #6)Firebird by Jack McDevitt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My review of the previous entry in McDevitt's Alex Benedict books opened:
This is another solid entry in McDevitt's Alex Benedict series. Other than the first entry, they follow the same pattern. The prologue is a flashback to events driving the eventual mystery, then Chapter One opens with Alex Benedict, antiquities dealer, getting involved in the "present day" -- thousands of years into a future in which humans have spread across the galaxy. An object Alex investigates sparks a mystery, which leads to someone trying to kill him and Chase, his assistant (and the narrator). Eventually, they make a meaningful discovery that goes well beyond the original relic.
So how does that work for Firebird? Well, it was a solid entry, it had a flashback, an object, a mystery, attempts to kill Alex and Chase and finally, a meaningful discovery. So is it too formulaic? Actually, no. I cheated a little bit in checking off the list. The attempts to kill Alex and Chase are completely different than in any other books. I don't want to give spoilers, but let's just say they're not from people who want to prevent the mystery from unraveling. Further, public pronouncements from Alex lead other people into putting their own lives in danger in a way that is very realistic. I feel that one of McDevitt's strengths is that he has a better handle than most sf writers on what popular reaction to fictional events would really be like.

Finally, the mystery and meaningful discovery actually relate to something that happened in the first book. If I didn't know better (from reading McDevitt's web site), I would be marveling at how he planted a seed in a book more than twenty years ago only to resist the temptation to pick it up again until the time was right. In reality, he had an idea which he managed to fit seamlessly with the backstory of the novels so that it seems that it had been there all along.

An enjoyable read. It didn't blow me away, but the series is still fresh at entry #6.

The Nebula nominees are going to be announced in a week or two, and I expect this book to be on the list. Depending on the competition, it may be a solid contender.

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