Jack McDevitt: Antiques in Space!!!

A Talent for War Recently I re-read Jack McDevitt’s “Alex Benedict” series, which begins with A Talent For War and continues through four more volumes to Firebird, with Coming Home due this fall.

Alex Benedict is an antiques dealer on the planet Rimway about 9,000 years in our future. 9,000 years is a long time, ample opportunity to accrue just oodles of lost civilizations, abandoned space stations, derelict space ships, and similar archaeological treasures, and they are all out there just waiting for an ambitious antiques dealer to track them down and plunder them for profit. And that’s what Alex Benedict does—in a classy, refined sort of way, much to the despair of his Uncle Gabe, an archaelogist—who is freshly lost in space as the series begins.

The five books all follow pretty much the same pattern. First, there’s a prologue that has to do with an event some time prior to the book’s present. Next, Alex gets a lead on something amazing, something that will Change Our View Of History When It Comes To Light (not that he knows that when he starts), something that will make him a lot of money, something ultimately related to what we saw in the prologue. He pursues the trail relentlessly with the help of his pilot and assistant, Chase. He annoys people, some of whom try to kill him. He and/or Chase end up in at least one deadly situation well-suited to be a big blockbuster movie set-piece. And ultimately He and Chase are successful, are vindicated, and generally manage to pull off some major humanitarian feat at the same time, huzzah! Lather, rinse, repeat.

And yet, the books are quite good fun. The mysteries are engaging, Alex’s world is a neat place to visit, Alex and Chase are pleasant narrators (Alex narrates the first, and Chase the remainder), the suspense is palpable, and the denouements surprising, plausible, and satisfying. I enjoyed reading the second time just as much as the first.

In short: great fun, and well worth your time. If A Talent for War appeals at all, be sure to go on to Polaris, because the series just keeps getting better.

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