Firebird – Jack McDevitt



Famed physicist Christopher Robin has vanished. Antiquarian Alex Benedict and his pilot Chase Kolpath take up the search.


After the disappointing Echo, I’m happy to say that McDevitt is back on track with Firebird. It’s not the best of the series, but it’s a lot better than Echo. This book was enjoyably put together, and the mystery, while not quite as deep as anticipated, was still fulfilling. McDevitt, as usual, keeps the world reasonably fully-fleshed as he goes along, including at least a superficial look at some of the social issues that such a world would face.

At the same time, I fear the series is running out of steam. McDevitt uses essentially the same set up every time, including Chase’s concern for Alex, public criticism of Alex, Alex going on talk shows, etc. It was good the first time, but by now we’ve seen this same sequence too many times for it to engage us. The story is still well worth reading, but it’s an unusual case of a series book being less interesting for the cognoscenti than for newcomers.

For reasons that are unclear, McDevitt throws in the occasional sexist line and attitude. He’s careful not to attribute them to core characters, but they’re not important for the story, and I wasn’t sure why they were there at all. They seem anachronistic. Similarly, for no visible reason, a key character is called Christopher Robin. There is no connection with Winnie-the-Pooh that I could come up with.

There’s also a deus ex machina element in which Alex comes up with missing secondary information (what really happened on the night Christopher was said to disappear) from no clear source. One gets the impression McDevitt just couldn’t be bother to come up with a reasonable source.

I enjoyed this, and will pick up the next one, but I do think it might be wise for the next book to be the last in the series. McDevitt has set up a way for that to happen, and I hope it does.

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