Considering my resistance to children in stories, I was beginning to worry I was being too much of a curmudgeon. But I can see I have some learning to do if I want to be nearly as grumpy as Gregory McAllister. The dominant voice in Odyssey, by Jack McDevitt, Mac is an editor with a deep mistrust of the government, profound contempt for the media, and a dim view of the general intelligence of humanity. And yet, the outlook of the future is this book is basically optimistic. Global warming is still a threat that hasn’t wholly materialized. The growing population is still getting fed somehow. And the space travel that so bores the public is superluminal.
The one element about space travel that doesn’t bore the public is the moonriders. They appear to be the latest name for the manifestions once called UFOs , fairies, or angels. Since the moonriders are the one element that interested me, and they appear at rare intervals, the book feels incredibly slow. One hundred pages to even send Mac on a trip to watch them try to find moonriders. Another hundred before the moonriders get seen doing something sinister. For the next hundred pages, it appears the moonriders might be waging a very slow interstellar war by throwing rocks that won’t hit for years. I thought they might be testing humans to see whether they try to defend what little life they found on other planets. But no, around page 300, it turns out that the moonriders attacks are a hoax. Mostly. There is one attack that is no hoax. That was cool, and the moonriders remain inscrutable to the end.
But there’s much more I disliked, mostly Mac. He’s all over the book with his opinions and issues and prejudices. For a while, it looked like he might get redeemed by an intelligent, sympathetic woman, but the relationship suddenly becomes sexual. There’s a thread about a man attacking a preacher for filling his mind with hellfire that never connected with the rest of the book. There’s a lot of small articles and headquotes and news clippings interleaved through the book. I guess it’s supposed to make reading it feel more like real life, but so much of the book feels like the present day. I can listen to the real news if I want to experience that.
Tomorrow: The Nebulas beat me to the punch.