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Science Fiction Review – Octavia Gone

Octavia Gone by Jack McDevitt

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

OCTAVIA GONE by Jack McDevitt is the 8th and so far latest in his Alex Benedict series.  It’s a pretty good SF series but I recommend a new reader starting with an earlier book, as this one relies on the reader knowing about events from past books.

 The time frame is somewhere around 9,000 years in our future. Alex is an antiquities dealer, tracking down artifacts from past civilizations along with his assistant Chase Kolpath. The story as always is told from Chase’s POV. Over the course of the series they’ve had some hair-raising adventures.  These books also always have a puzzle or mystery as the plot driver.

In this book, Alex’s uncle Gabe has just been rescued from a passenger spacecraft that went missing for over 10 years. For Gabe, however, it seems like only a few weeks have passed. Several previous books have mentioned Gabe and the last one, COMING HOME, dealt with how the rescue was accomplished.

While everyone is getting to know each other again, Gabe (who is an archaeologist) remembers an odd trophy someone gave him, but during the past years the previous owner asked for it back and now it’s lost. Gabe was and is convinced that it was an alien artifact and he decides he needs to track it down.

Mystery #2 is the fate of the research station Octavia, which was looking into wormholes and mysteriously vanished a short time before Gabe himself went missing.  Some of the missing crew family members want Alex to see if he can find anything to figure it out, although after exhaustive government inquiries there may not be anything new to discover.

I have to say this isn’t one of the most exciting of the series. McDevitt never adds much emotional depth to his characters, which is too bad here, because potential clashes between Alex and Gabe could have been great. Chase as well has a failed relationship which she implies has a lasting impact on her, but again we’re not shown that.   The main thrust of this story is AI (artificial intelligence). 9000 years later this seems to be the main way that human society has changed.  Are AIs sapient life? Do they deserve to be treated as people? The question is still debated, but we know which side Chase and Gabe come down on.  Alex…well I didn’t think his position was quite so clear.

The two mysteries are interlocked in a tragic way, which the three will discover. Nobody ends up particularly happy with the outcome, but they do have the satisfaction of knowing what truth there is.

I’m going to give this an rating of just above average, mainly based on the slow pacing. Gabe’s homecoming should have sparked major household turmoil, but we only see a couple spats.  I liked the AI portions and I really would have liked more discussion of the ethical considerations around them. Some of the physical considerations were thought-provoking although McDevitt didn’t follow that much. And I have to say I always like watching them track down the next bit of information, it’s just that this time it seemed so, so, slow. In the end, I feel McDevitt should have stuck with more of the usual action scenarios, because there isn’t enough serious internal introspection or emotional content to make up for the lack.







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