sturgeonslawyer (sturgeonslawyer) wrote,

Octavia Gone, by Jack McDevitt (2019-31)

Another pleasant enough episode in the ongoing adventures of Alex Benedict and his pilot/assistant Chase Kolpath (who narrates all but the first novel). Alex spends a fair amount of time offscreen in this one, as Chase winds up piloting his uncle Gabe Benedict (who was, previously, rescued after 11 years/3 weeks in a spacetime anomaly) around nearly as much as Alex.

This installment has two Mcguffins. The first is the disappearance of space station Octavia, about eleven years ago. Octavia had been making major breakthroughs in the study of wormholes around a black hole, when transmissions suddenly stopped. Rescue teams found no sign of the station, its four-person crew, or its shuttle.

The second Mcguffin is a possibly-alien artifact that had been in the possession of one of the Octavia's crew. It had been on Benedict's shelves for study when the crewperson' s heir claimed it; it disappeared afterwards, possibly into the trash.

Naturally, the two puzzles intersect, and their joint solution is reasonably satisfying - but creates a new problem; how to explain the loss of the Octavia without betraying confidences and without causing further pain to the bereaved. I'm not so sure that the solution here is satisfactory, but that's the nature of human problems, I suppose.

My problem with the book is in the second word of this review. It's _pleasant_. Our heroes are never in any personal, professional, or any other sort of danger, and fit into this novel like an old glove. Nobody really grows - well, there's a romantic subplot, but nobody grows as a result of the main story. I have been known to say of Agatha Christie that she wrote excellent puzzles but forgot to wrap them in an actual novel. I fear that this is the case, too, with McDevitt's last few books. He's too good a writer to go on cruise like this; I hope his next book is more challenging both to him and to his readership, i.e., me.
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