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A Talent For War (Alex Benedict, #1)
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A Talent For War (Alex Benedict #1)

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  3,529 ratings  ·  257 reviews
Christopher Sim changed mankind's history forever when he forged a rag-tag group of misfits into the weapon that broke the alien Ashiyyur. But now, one man believes Sim was a fraud, and Alex must follow the legend into the heart of the alien galaxy to confront a truth far stranger than any fiction.
Paperback, 310 pages
Published 1989 by Sphere Books Limited
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Oct 15, 2008 Jessica rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: McDevitt Fans
Shelves: fantasyscifi
This is the first in a series by one of my favorite authors.

Alex Benedict learns that his uncle, who raised him, has disappeared along with several hundred other people aboard a space space headed for a remote location. His uncle leaves him the entire estate, along with the mystery that consumed his life before his disappearance. But Alex isn't the only one trying to solve the ancient puzzle of what happened to the Confederacy's most admired war hero and the other parties involved are much more
Jun 12, 2012 Eric rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sci-fi and mystery fans
Recommended to Eric by: Orson Scott Card
Shelves: science-fiction
I decided to read this after reading a complimentary review from Orson Scott Card, where he points out how original the concept behind this series is.

It is a mash-up between the science fiction, mystery and adventure genres, where an Indiana Jones-type antiquities dealer/amateur historian hunts for relics from a war two centuries past, which is still in our very distant future.

At points, the pacing bogged down with sections of exposition and world history, and the character development was lack
I’ve never read McDevitt before, and this was a pleasant surprise. It’s quite well written, and while the slow pacing won’t suit everyone, I enjoyed this. I picked it up without knowing anything about it, and based on the title and cover I was expecting Alex Benedict to be some sort of space marine fighting in an interstellar war. Instead, he’s an antiques dealer (I think the cover image is supposed to be someone else) and the war between humanity and telepathic aliens ended 200 years ago.

The fi
Ramsey Hootman
Seriously, seriously boring.

Having read and enjoyed McDevitt's Academy series, I figured I'd be just as happy starting in on Alex Benedict. Jack McDevitt is sort of my guilty pleasure reading - fun sci fi adventures, not too deep, easy reading, with the alien civilization/archaeology bits I like.

A Talent for War has just proved boring, though. I'm, I dunno, maybe halfway through, and the only thing that's happened is that Alex's uncle died and Alex is trying to figure out where he was going whe
I was hesitant about trying McDevitt again after reading Time Travelers Never Die. I'd described that book as "light and fluffy" and while I didn't think it was BAD, it wasn't the sort of thing I would purposely seek out.

However, I'm glad I gave A Talent for War a shot, because it was fabulous. It's basically a historical fiction mystery in a sci-fi setting. McDevitt has painted this really rich and captivating history about a war hero and the questions that main character Alex Benedict starts
Miguel Pulido
Este es un libro que tiene grandes virtudes y grandes defectos, por eso solo recibe tres estrellas.

Entre sus virtudes está construir un mundo futuro magnífico, en el que los avances tecnológicos se integran en la vida cotidiana de los protagonistas como pocas veces habrás leído. Además, construye una historia del futuro y un pasado para esa historia simplemente genial, que te hace reflexionar sobre cómo la historia la escriben los vencedores y cómo los héroes más míticos siguen siendo humanos.
Al terminar este libro tenía dudas sobre las sensaciones que me había dejado. Despues de haber leído la segunda parte se han despejado.

Mi gran error al empezara leer "Un talento para la guerra" fue pensar que estaba en un libro parecido a otras obras del autor. La serie de Alex Benedict no es ciencia ficción dura, ni siquiera space opera aunque entre dentro de la definición. Los libros de esta serie son novelas de detectives al estilo de los clásicos, con un argumento típico y pensada para entre
Of all my friends who read sci-fi, I've not met one who is a fan of Jack McDevitt. The only reason I discovered him was because my wife randomly picked up one of his books at the library when stocking up on reading material for our honeymoon. He has since become one of my favorites. A Talent for War is my most recent read from McDevitt, and it did not disappoint.

Like his other novels, A Talent for War is in a genre I would call "space archaeology". McDevitt's heroes are a bit like a futuristic I
I can't believe I slogged through this entire book. I can't remember the last time I read a more tedious book. A completely unlikable protagonist, dialog that is mostly the reading of history books, and a plot that is so bland, it barely qualifies as a plot.
Sarah (Tail-Kinker)
This was a recommendation by a friend who actually brought it over for my husband to read while he receovers from spinal fusion surgery done earlier this month.
But since my husband isn't a huge reader, and his pain meds are interfering with his ability to focus (and he is stil on GRRM's 2nd volume in the Song of Ice & Fire series)...I snatched it up instead.

This was an absorbing read. I didn't know going into it whether there was any earlier books I should read first (luckily it was the 1st
Scott Holstad
A Talent for War is an excellent mystery for a sci fi novel. Jack McDevitt has a real talent for creating new worlds, alien species, archeologies, suspense, and science fiction in general. I really like his books.

In this book, Alex Benedict finds out that his uncle Gabe dies, or rather disappears, in a star ship and leaves his estate to his favorite nephew. Alex moves home -- he grew up with Gabe -- only to find the house has been broken into and a few things have been stolen, including an impor
Kahjuks ei olnud ikkagi nii lahe kui mõne saidi mõõdutundetut haipi ja ülistamist uskuma jääda. Algus oli päris hea, keskpigast alates aga hakkas sumbuma kuhugi sogasesse mulinass eja lõpp läks juba päris käest ära. Lõpp tuli üldse ülepeakaela, sisaldas endas ühte päris võimast "jumalat masinast" ja oli alguse mõistatusega proportsioonidest väljas. See tähendab, see mõistatus sumbus eelpoolnimetatud tühja mulinasse. Sellisest pisiasjast et enamus tegelasi - kaasa arvatud järgmiste romaanide mina ...more
It must take a particular type of reader to enjoy this book. I found it unutterably boring.

The story is a not-really-murder mystery, although people do die. I enjoy mysteries, but only when the plot and characters are engaging. Here, they are not. There are two principal characters, and dozens of secondary characters. You never learn enough about any of them to care about them.

The story itself is the main character's journey though a long line of faint clues, starting with the disappearance of
Even though the events of the books happen 9000 year or so in the future, they might as well have happened in our own back yard. The society described is to all intents and purposes indistinguishable from our own.

I found the story to be told in a bland and somewhat dull speech. It read like a textbook, which could be argued that is appropriate seeing most of the book is composed of history lessons. Also, the words were chosen carefully so that no trace of humor could be found anywhere within.

I read the first three Alex Benedict novels and really liked them, and now I have three more to read and it's been a few years, I thought I'd start over from the beginning.

This first one, written some years before the author made it into a series and switched the POV to Alex's associate Chase Kolpath, is told by the main character as if it happened in his past.

It's not light reading, it's smart and entertaining, part scifi, part mystery, part a tribute to history, with some action/adventure pe
Michael Jones
Jan 04, 2013 Michael Jones rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Michael by: Orson Scott Card
I read this book on recommendation (via his blog) from Orson Scott Card. It actually took me a while to get through it - not a lot of time for reading books that I have to use my eyes to read, now that I have to commute by car and not by bus - and it's the kind of book that requires some attention to things of a historical nature (although most of Alex Benedict's "history" is in our far distant future), and names of people and places are important to keep track of. The stories I usually read are ...more
Alex Benedict lives in a time of a tenuous Confederacy of human-inhabited planets. The various planetary governments maintain their relationship to one another largely due to the shared military threat posed by the alien Ashiyyur species. Otherwise, the humans from different worlds hold each other in political distrust, a situation exacerbated by slow travel and communication technologies.

Benedict inherits from a deceased uncle an intriguing, albeit maddeningly undefined, historical puzzle. Were
Clark Hallman
A Talent for War is the first novel in Jack McDevitt’s Alex Benedict series, and it’s another good read from this ingenious story teller. The novel takes place about 9,000 years in the future. Space travel has been perfected enabling human civilizations to expand through a large part of our galaxy. However, unfriendly alien civilizations are also encountered. Alex Benedict receives a posthumous message from his uncle informing him to take over his lucrative business as an archeologist and finder ...more
A gem of a high-tech Sci-Fi mystery & thriller, in which Alex Benedict, a dealer in exotic antiquities several millenia in the future, first makes the acquaintance of his long-time partner and star-pilot Chase Kolpath, while investigating an archeological mystery bequeathed to him by his uncle.

The story revolves around the legend of a history teacher turned into an outstanding military strategist. One of the teacher's books is read two centuries after his death by the main character, and fea
It took a little too long for things to really catch on in this one. The main problem seems to be that McDevitt piles mystery upon mystery, until you forget why the characters are researching whatever it is they have in front of them. They have one lead on a person, which leads to another person, which leads to another few, and it goes deeper and deeper until they finally have something on the first person, and both the reader and (amusingly enough) Alex Benedict both says, "Who?". Along the way ...more
A Talent for War by Jack McDevitt is the 1st book in the Alex Benedict series by this author. It fits the classification of several different genre’s including space opera, adventure, mystery and historical fiction. I enjoyed the characters quite a bit and some of the world building was spectacular though there were a few times where the locations got a little confusing. Alex Benedict is an Indiana Jones type of character and he makes his living off exploiting antiques from different finds withi ...more
A very good example of "future history". Two parallel storylines, set a couple centuries apart, yet both thousands of years from our own.

The book is not perfect; the main characters in the "normal" storyline are flat. They serve only as mouthpieces and narrators for the far more complex "historical" characters developed and explored in the other storyline.

McDevitt is a master plotter. The historical mystery unfolds at just the right pace, and is shaded with classical Greek history so as to lend
Took a while to get going and left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied. Partly, that's because the back cover said this historical legend (like, George Washington combined with Mazer Rackham AND Ender) was going to be revealed as a fraud, which is totally not what happened. And since I was getting steadily more annoyed at the hagiographic depiction of the guy when I never got the pay-off of discovering him to be a lousy guy or whatever, it was frustrating. Also, the mystery was a little clumsy.

All t
Tristan Wong
While not the greatest (this will be short as well), it had a great personality and the backstory of the war between the Ashiyyear and the Dellacondas jumped out at me and kept me through the story in and out on Alex Benedict's adventure. While the writing was sub-par (too much mundane information that didn't exactly characterize Alex in any interesting way) and the dialogue a bit hammy and expository for its own good, it had a special story that really caught your attention... especially when t ...more
Craig Brown
This is a tough review to write, I almost quit reading the book once or twice and there were numerous times I couldn't put the book down. The book dwells on a war that took place 200 years ago and historical analysis of the war. It is the historical analysis that drags some. The excitement comes with the mystery of some artifact that is being searched for and why that artifact is so important. There are some parts that can be figured out prior to the conclusion, but while I thought I was correct ...more
Ryan Lawler
Slow to start, but quick to finish. What starts off as a weird mystery becomes something that could enflame tensions and start a war between races. Must have taken McDevitt a long time to construct so much history for his far future treasure hunt
I've read Jack McDevitt before, in fact I've read some of the other Alex Benedict novels before. However, when I saw that he had a new Alex Benedict novel come out recently, I immediately set out to read the series over again, as it has been awhile since I read it last. I've never read the first book before. It was interesting, after reading the other's from Chase Kolpath's point of view, to read it from Alex's. I have to say my original perception of Alex was far different than the one in this ...more
Tim Hicks
This is a good book, but if you have a friend who's about to read it you should issue a warning. It's not exactly loaded with rail guns and photon cannons and nail-biting action. But it worked for me. We're selling our house, and it's a tense time with a LOT of work to do, and this book was JUST right.

It's a mystery that happens to be set in an interstellar future. McDevitt treats all the futurist parts of it as if they had been routine for decades. Hyperspace, virtual reality headbands ... as
Someone recommended this for fans of The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, and my ears immediately perked up. That book is an exploration of Richard III by a detective who is bedridden hundreds of years after Richard's life; basically a historical mystery book. The chief action is reading old accounts and discussion.

A Talent for War is basically the same idea, except the history it explores is sf. The author does a great job of slowly explaining the history at stake and its relevance, and I bec
Barry Kirwan
Despite the enigmatic Prologue, once the book started I was quickly hooked by the intrigue, which was relentless right until the epilogue (which is where you realise the point of the Prologue in a very nice 'ellipse' to the story).

I've read other works by JMcD and this one is more literary - mostly this was a good thing, as his word-smithing was flawless, though occasionally I skimmed sections describing a new world or environment as the character in the book (Alex Benedict) travels extensively
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Jack McDevitt is a former English teacher, naval officer, Philadelphia taxi driver, customs officer and motivational trainer. His work has been on the final ballot for the Nebula Awards for 12 of the past 13 years. His first novel, The Hercules Text, was published in the celebrated Ace Specials series and won the Philip K. Dick Special Award. In 1991, McDevitt won the first $10,000 UPC Internation ...more
More about Jack McDevitt...

Other Books in the Series

Alex Benedict (7 books)
  • Polaris (Alex Benedict, #2)
  • Seeker (Alex Benedict, #3)
  • The Devil's Eye (Alex Benedict, #4)
  • Echo (Alex Benedict, #5)
  • Firebird (Alex Benedict, #6)
  • Coming Home (Alex Benedict, #7)
The Engines of God (The Academy, #1) Seeker (Alex Benedict, #3) Eternity Road Chindi (The Academy, #3) Polaris (Alex Benedict, #2)

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