Seeker by Jack McDevitt

Seeker, a story about two adventurous antiquarians searching for a lost colony, won author Jack McDevitt the 2006 Nebula Award. Some of the praise for McDevitt that I see on the jacket cover is pretty effusive:

“The logical heir to Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.”
-Stephen King

“‘Why read Jack McDevitt?’ The question should be: ‘Who among us is such a slow pony that s/he isn’t reading McDevitt?'”
-Harlan Ellison

Having read the book, I’m not fully prepared to describe Jack McDevitt as a glowing creature of pure energy who communes directly with my soul in a starburst language of mesmerizing telepathy. But I guess every paperback is stamped with whatever hyperbole the publisher could fish out of humanity. This other quote from the cover mirrors my thoughts a little more closely:

“[A] classy riff on the familiar lost-colony theme.”
-Publishers Weekly

Seeker is set about 10,000 years in the future when humanity has FTL, advanced (but subservient) AI, virtual reality that approaches holodeck immersion, colonies throughout the galaxy, and relatively peaceful contact with the one sentient alien race. Overall, a good mix of science fiction that serves as the setting for the characters’ hunt for the 9,000-year-old lost colony of Margolia.

The book reads like a detective novel, told in a first-person narrative by the capable interstellar pilot Chase Kolpath. Chase is female so I was intrigued to see how McDevitt would handle filling out a character of the opposite sex. What you get is someone that reminded me of “the Major” from Ghost in the Shell – business-like, skilled, sexy, and relatively emotionless. To me, the narrative came across as intelligent, but oddly detached. McDevitt doesn’t spend a lot of time fleshing out the cast, but he keeps the character construction subtle and tasteful.

Going back to the detective theme, the book really does have that feel. The characters slowly gather clues; a murderous plot begins to unfold; the pieces fall into place at a greater rate as the pages go by; an exciting conclusion is reached in the end. Seeker didn’t necessarily blow me away, but McDevitt has produced a very smart and engaging science fiction novel.

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