Julie Davis's Reviews > The Engines of God

The Engines of God by Jack McDevitt
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Jul 19, 12

Read from February 15 to March 29, 2012

My review which ran at SFFaudio.

Climate change has Earth on the brink of disaster. The only viable solution is terraforming other planets to ensure survival. For a small group of archaeologists, however, terraforming is the worst possible solution. The only suitable planet is also the one planet with the most promising artifacts of an unknown alien race. Known as the Monument Makers, the aliens’ buildings feature a seemingly uncrackable code on them. The team is looking for the alien equivalent of the Rosetta Stone and must race against time to finish excavations before terraforming begins.

Despite the fact that the book begins by talking about climate change, which always gives me a sinking feeling, that is just the pretext for launching readers into a mystery. The team’s quest takes them to outer space, other planets, and into extreme danger as they follow the Monument Makers’ trail to discover their whereabouts and why every alien civilization has been abandoned.

This book reads as if it were a series of four novellas strung together with the common thread of tracking the Monument Makers. Each of the completed stories gives Jack McDevitt the opportunity to take the reader a bit further into archaeological mysteries while also examining different planets, space travel, and alien beings. Transitions between “novellas” are minimal at best and character development is weak. Still McDevitt wove a mystery that kept me listening at a red-hot pace. This is surprising because the author revealed his story in a very straight forward manner with plenty of foreshadowing. In McDevitt’s case, however, the telling itself was so compelling that I was fascinated to hear what would happen next.
In short, I enjoyed this very much, although at the end the story suddenly threw off narrative and resorted to bullet points to finish things off. “In audio, it was an abrupt ending that startled me, however, that didn’t spoil it as the story itself was done. In fact, I didn’t care about the “[insert name here] went on to do this” summary and it could have been left out without hurting anything.

Tom Weiner did a fine job of narrating the book. His reading was not something that stood out for any reason but which carried the story along very well. It left me with the memory of story rather than reader, which is surely what good narration should accomplish.

McDevitt tells a very good mystery that gives answers to some questions and leaves others to the readers’ speculation. Engines of God is ultimately a satisfying adventure which introduces us to a universe that he went on to write other novels about and which I will be seeking out.
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Reading Progress

02/21/2012 page 2 "12 mp3 cds ... listening to the second one now. Several key characters have been set up for us as well as the concept of the Monument Makers. And climate change is well under way on Earth so we've gotta go somewhere. Why not terraform one of those Monument Makers' planets since they seem to be extinct. Or gone. Or something."
02/29/2012 page 5 "Seems to be told in a very straight forward manner but still a good adventure thus far. Even when I know something will happen (hypothetically speaking, like a tsunami wave hitting), I am still riveted wondering what the result will be."
03/12/2012 page 7 "I thought we'd stay on that planet and ferret out the mystery there. Turns out not to be the case as a space journey now goes on and on and on ... while charades and poker are the order of the day." 5 comments
03/23/2012 page 9 "Novella 2 has ended (lost in space, we call that one) and I believe 3 has begun (we call that one, what the what is this thing?)"
03/27/2012 page 10 "Space station? Seen that. Planetary exploration ... doing that. If not for these pesky ... hey, get off my foot!"
03/28/2012 page 11 "The mystery continues to unfold in a very straight forward line that McDevitt manages to keep interesting. Oz comes up yet again and clouds are moving determinedly through outer space. Yes, very interesting indeed."

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Tamahome I liked it. It seems like 2 novellas, so it has 2 climaxes.

Julie Davis I thought I remembered reading your comments, but not that part of it. Thanks for the heads up! :-)

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