(2004) Jack McDevitt, Ace, £6.50 / US$7.99 / Can$10.99, pbk, 385 pp, ISBN 0-441-01253-1
Sixty years ago the spaceship Polaris was observing a stellar collision with two other craft. The other craft left the immediate vicinity prior to the collision and the Polaris, though at a safe distance, was due to follow. It did not. Furthermore radio communication from the Polaris had ceased. The star system had been disrupted so it was some time later that the Polaris was found. Its hatches were shut and the craft had not been holed. Onboard the ship's artificial intelligence had been shut down but the big mystery was where was the crew and passengers?
That was sixty years ago and the mystery was never solved. In the present an auction was being held of Polaris 'antiques'. But before this could begin an explosion ripped through the hall destroying all the items. To one antiques dealer it looked as if someone was trying to hide evidence behind the mystery...
Jack McDevitt has once again crafted a rollicking tale. It is set in his far future universe in which humanity has spread to across much of the spiral arm with FTL ships and gravity control technology: the same series as Coming Home and same universe (but different book series) as Deepsix and Omega. The story is fast-paced with a number of delightful set pieces, such as being trapped in a sabotaged anti-gravity car that is inexorably rising out of the atmosphere. At the end of the day Polaris is a detective story (like Slow Lightning) and McDevitt has thrown in a number of red herrings to keep the reader guessing. This and his page-turning style keeps the reader entertained through to the end.
Though at the time of writing this review Polaris came out a little over a year ago ago (November 2004) in the US, mass market edition copies are only now (2006) appearing in specialist shops in the UK. McDevitt is not regularly published in Britain, but increasingly with on-line sales this is of less a handicap. He is definitely worth seeking out by readers of hard SF adventure. Definitely recommended, and you needn't just take my word for it, I also see that Polaris has just been nominated for the Nebula shortlist for best novel 2005!
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