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Alex Benedict Series #5

Echo by Jack McDevitt is an intricately complex tale set in humanity's future. A mysterious and seemingly unimportant artifact acts as the catalyst for a resurgence of interest in the search for another class of aliens other than the "Mutes". A tablet that has been moldering away in a garden suddenly achieves significance when the characters engraved on it are determined to be untranslatable. Alex and Chase are the primary operatives of a company that prides itself on its ability to obtain and authenticate antiquities. A sterling reputation and the ability to mobilize a seemingly endless number of experts in their diverse fields becomes of paramount importance when the tablet mysteriously disappears and the agent implicated in the disappearance stonewalls the determined pursuit of information into the provenance of the object. An attempted murder raises the stakes in the investigation as a mysterious hide-and-seek is performed with the tablet but the focus of the investigation evolves into a search for more information about a man who devoted his entire life to finding other intelligent lifeforms. The question becomes, what does the tablet truly represent and is it worth risking lives to obtain the answer?

An intriguing look at mankind's future that is almost overwhelmingly detailed with quotes, citations and descriptions of fictional planets and areas of space. Alex is an ongoing enigmatic character that appears in several of McDevitt's novels but there is more focus on Chase as she is the narrator who is often a bit annoyingly clueless about developments that seem glaringly apparent to Alex. There is not quite as much action as I would prefer but this is a more cerebral version of a space opera which is fascinating in its ability to make wondrous occurrences and discoveries commonplace even as it delivers its warning about becoming so jaded that everything has to be experienced virtually. There are breathtaking descriptions of the impact of joyriding in a high-end space cruise ship even while the message is conveyed that there is a price for everything. An interesting chapter in Alex's search for aliens.

Book Blurb for Echo

A new novel of the fantastic unknown by the national bestselling author of Time Travelers Never Die.

Eccentric Sunset Tuttle spent his life searching in vain for forms of alien life. Thirty years after his death, a stone tablet inscribed with cryptic, indecipherable symbols is found in the possession of Tuttle's onetime lover, and antiquities dealer Alex Benedict is anxious to discover what secret the tablet holds. It could be proof that Tuttle had found what he was looking for. To find out, Benedict and his assistant embark on their own voyage of discovery-one that will lead them directly into the path of a very determined assassin who doesn't want those secrets revealed.

Night Owl Reviews Dec, 2010 4.25