Jack McDevitt’s Firebird

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Jack McDevitt is one of my favorite science fiction authors, although I must say that I prefer his series to his stand alone work.

I just finished — and I mean ten minutes ago — Firebird, number six of his Alex Benedict series, which he began in 1989 with the delightful Talent of War.

The Benedict series is set ten thousand years in our future. Humanity has expanded to the stars, and encountered an alien race, the Ashiyyur (nicknamed “the Mutes”). Relations are mostly good, and sometimes not so good – a theme both of Talent For War, which explores a conflict two hundred years before the novel’s setting, and in the later book The Devil’s Eye.

Alex Benedict is our protagonist, and narrator of Talent For War (later books in the series are narrated by Benedict’s business partner, stellar pilot Chase Kolpath, the Watson to his Holmes). Bennedict’s a space-archeologist, an Indiana Jones of the galaxy, tracking down lost space stations and settlements for items of value to sell on the antiquities market. Sometimes he finds these valuables by going through ancient records. Sometimes he stumbles across mysteries, which puts him across the paths of people with secrets to hide, who are usually willing to kill to protect those secrets.

Firebird concerns the work of a physicist named Christopher Robin who’d been concerned with black holes. Robin disappeared under mysterious circumstances forty years earlier, and Alex and Chase become involved when Robin’s sister puts some of his items on consignment with them, following the death of Robin’s wife. Alex’s interest in Robin’s disappearance leads to an exploration of his theories regarding multiple universes, and his investigation of ways to cross to others. I don’t want to give too much away, except that McDevitt doesn’t telegraph the story’s end quite as you’d imagine. I will say that the end is quite emotional – I am afraid that this may be the last of the Benedict series, and that, honestly, will make me very sad.