Earth's ravaged environment is quickly making it unlivable, and colonizers want to begin terraforming these abandoned worlds for human habitation. Only interstellar archaeologist Richard Wald and starship pilot Priscilla Hutchins are convinced that uncovering the secrets of the monuments may hold the key to survival for the entire human race.
©1994 Cryptic, Inc.; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"Splendid. Not since Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama has the discovery of artifacts of alien intelligence been treated so skillfully." (Baltimore Sun)
"McDevitt is at his best award-winning style in this intelligent and wide-ranging novel." (Kirkus Reviews)
"With plenty of startling plot twists, a heavy dose of intrigue, and an unusual amount of character development for science fiction, McDevitt holds us fast right through to a thrilling finish." (Booklist)
The basis premise concerns 200 years in the future where faster than light drives have allowed some exploration of our galaxy. The startling discoveries have all been related to a mysterious alien race referred to as the Monument Makers (MM) from their habit of leaving gigantic sculptures scattered around including our solar system. At the same time evidenced is found of alien civilizations past and present, although none even at our technological level.
The major thrust is to understand what happened to the MM. This leads to archeological investigations that form the bulk of the action which in turn leads to solar system hopping. The plot twists are fascinating and unexpected.
Unfortunately there are several aspects that really detract from the overall story. The characters are largely forgettable. Most of their actions come off as a high school theatrical production. At the same time, the injected elements creating drama are forced, seem arbitrary, and aren't necessary to drive the plot forward. Finally, the authors drags out certain sections with too much detail that becomes dull and boring. The ending is satisfying up to a point, but leaves open much of the opening questions.
The Earth is facing environmental catastrophe in the 23rd century. Humans have spread to other star systems, but generally not found a lot of Earth-like planets, and those they have found are already inhabited. A handful of intelligent alien races have been discovered, but all are primitive compared to humanity. Most alien races discovered, however, are long dead, and the most prominent is one that apparently traveled to other stars, as their monuments have been found across the galaxy.
Earth has generally taken a "hands off" approach to living natives, but as pressure mounts to begin terraforming habitable worlds as an escape plan, this "Prime Directive" morality begins to seem less desirable. There is an interesting reversal of the classic sci-fi trope, and subtle commentary on colonialism and how we might justify it in the future, when an argument is made to colonize an inhabited planet "for the natives' own good." They are in the middle of a savage global war, and it is claimed that some of them have become aware of the existence of their alien watchers, and are begging for intervention. That technological aid and imposed peace would incidentally involve Earthlings resettling on their hosts' planet would be only a logical extension of a benevolent intervention...
This is a fairly hard SF novel that will appeal to fans of "big idea" SF, particularly if you like academic/scientist protagonists. Jack McDevitt gets compared a lot to Arthur C. Clarke in the blurbs for this book, and that's a fair comparison. Also an unfortunate one as far as I'm concerned, because like Clarke's science fiction, The Engines of God did little to stir any passion in this science fiction fan. It was a perfectly well written book, it was just dry and flat and even the high stakes did not truly engage my interest.
Better narration. I really struggled to identify the different characters in this audible book. It was quite frustrating to the extent that I needed to stop and replay several times to determine who was who. In the end I have given up finishing this audible story. I have nearly all the other Jack McDevitt books and have not had this problem before. So definitely down to the narrator.
The premise/mystery about the monument makers was the most intriguing part. I was hoping he was going to play off that more, but instead the focus of the story just became the cheap thrill of whether or not they would make it off the planet in time. I'd expect something that mundane to be maybe a climactic end to a chapter, but not the main focus of the book.
The narratation was terribly annoying. He has a nice voice, but feels the need to draw out every final vowel in each sentence to sound dramatic. Yikes. Make sure you listen to the sample to be sure you can put up with this before buying it.
In the beginning the narration is kind of funny, a little but quirky but this gets old real fast. Its like whoever produced the audio portions of this book did not bother to listen to it themselves. someone should have sat down with the reader and explained to him that stretching out the last word in a sentence does not make the sentence more meaningful, its just annoying. This is 14 hours trapped in a room with someone who wants to show off his voiiiccceeeee. Also there a a few spots where the reader stops mid-sentence(completely understandable) and restarts and this makes the final book. As much as I hated the reading, he did a good job when compared... he did a god job when compared with the material he had to work with. The future is a strange and wonderful place with silly sounding aliens, killer crabs because your editor said you had to have an action scene, and beautiful woman scientists who have daddy issues and live for the words, "my god you're gorgeous," or "Jesus you're gorgeous," or the deep and meaningful "my god you are goreous." Finally if I hear the name Quraqua one more...time... oh yeah beware of right angles the destroy of worlds.
This book is unfortunately not what I was hoping for, if this is the best book about the discovery of artifacts of alien intelligence since Rendezvous with Rama then keep artifacts of alien intelligence away from me please (I thought Rama was a masterpiece by the way). I thought Engines of God was rather boring and things did not quite add up for me. To be fair I really enjoyed the last hour or so but that leaves 14 hours that I did not particularly like. This could have made a good short story or the slow start of a long space opera. I would like to see somebody with firepower take on these Omega-clouds but I don't think I'll stick around, I just didn't like the characters well enough. Too slow and not interesting enough.
Why do your people always ask if someone is ready just before they are about to do something massively unwise?
No plot; nothing happens. One-dimensional, unsympathetic characters. Everything that might've been a surprise is telegraphed ahead of time. NO answers are provided, just wild speculations… but that isn't TOO surprising, as that's how the characters do all their own thinking, despite the fact they're supposed to be scientists. What little tension exists is drawn out so long that it wouldn't hold a rolled-up newspaper together. The only aliens that show up onscreen are a rampaging horde of stupid critters that seem added only because someone said there should be action in the book SOMEWHERE.
It's too late for ME to get this time back, but YOU still have time! Shields up! Warp speed! RUN!
Solid and engaging SF. One of the things I respected about this book is that it shows the future as a messy place. Sure, they have FTL travel and communications but everything is not hunky-dory at home. Earth is a messed up place that seems only to be getting worse, science is still operating on a shoestring budget, the military/government is still stepping on peoples toes and the universe is a big scary place.
Spanning 5 separate planets, this tale is good (generally what I have come to expect from Jack McDevitt). We have the stars but they are a fairly lonely place. Only one alive race has been found (the are technologically around the WWI level), another never got off their planet and died out and a third was engaged in a game of clue, placing structures near all three races (they left a statue near us an weirdly empty city on a moon of another race).
The main characters are mostly archaeologists, who only seem to have exciting jobs in the stories that are written (like Indiana Jones) who are trying to put all the pieces together. There is action scenes scattered all around story as well as high tech action. I am really looking forward to the next book!
Earth is set to teriform a world where The Academy is working to extract the remains of alien artifacts before they are lost. Just before the deadline, a new find is made that changes everything.
What a fun read. Just the sort of book I like. No laser wars, no crazy manic madmen, just scientists trying to figure out the strangeness of what they find.
Definitely continuing this series.
I've read several of McDevitt's books though this is the first audio version. Yes.
I like the archaeological aspects of solving the mystery of the abandoned cities, etc.
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