cover image Cauldron


Jack McDevitt, . . Ace, $24.95 (373pp) ISBN 978-0-441-01525-2

Space opera specialist McDevitt shoehorns two traditional SF plots into his latest Academy novel (after 2006's Odyssey ), doing both stories a disservice. Youthful physicist Jon Silvestri persuades the philanthropic Prometheus Foundation to back tests of a risky interstellar drive that's vastly superior to current technology. Soon series keystone Priscilla Hutchins finds herself aboard a newly outfitted ship dispatched to the galactic core, seeking the source of a million-year-old interstellar menace. The cast is uniformly likable if prickly, but no true protagonist emerges from McDevitt's ensemble. Some sections are leisurely, others rushed. Readers see little of the star drive research, and the space voyage is triply sidetracked—to a planet of cheerfully technophobic aliens, an abandoned world with unexpected dangers and a black hole with a tantalizing secret—before reaching its stated objective, where the threat's origin is summarily introduced and disposed of in the last 60 pages. Despite considerable inventiveness and an enthusiastic pro-space agenda, the story remains superficial, especially frustrating from a writer of McDevitt's caliber. (Nov.)