Matt's Reviews > Omega

Omega by Jack McDevitt
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Aug 11, 08

it was ok
bookshelves: science-fiction
Recommended for: Sci-fi fans who agree with McDevitt's politics who've read everything else by better authors.

I read this book a few months back.

One of the problems with alot of science fiction is that it can revel to0 much in didacticism. Some authors that I like are particularly prone to this. For example, half of the dialogue in a Heinlein novel is a thinly disguised lecture. Sometimes, the disguise isn't even that thin, as for example his tendency to set characters in classrooms and let the lecturer lecture. Neil Stephenson is prone to do this in entirely different ways, launching into chapter length descriptions of Touring machines, cryptography, the birth of finance, and so forth.

Mostly, I tolerate this pretty well. The ideas and information is often interesting, and the stories are generally interesting and exciting enough that I don't always mind the digression. Science fiction is after all, above all, about ideas. In the case of Heinlein, one of the attractions is that he's more subtle than you might initially give him credit for if you read only one work. This is after all, the same author that wrote both 'Starship Troopers' and 'Stranger in a Strange Land'. Heinlein seems to have the ability to treat his ideas as toys, and to finish - as in the end of 'Starship Troopers' - with sufficient jingoism that it seems to serve to question his own jingoism. Heinlein and Stephenson don't seem to write angry, they hold novel positions that seem to be their own, create interesting arguments even when I don't agree with them, and it doesn't hurt - I admit - that I often agree with many of their ideas.

McDevitt is nothing like that. He's preachy and he annoys me. He seems like he's writing angrily, scornfully, and his ideas are pretty much the opposite of novel. He's predictable. He isn't inventing some future ideology or exploring ideas; he's writing the politics of the moment into his stories and he isn't even particularly persuasive about it.

It's not that I can't enjoy writers that hold McDevitt's position. I don't imagine that his politics are all that different than Charles Stross, Kim Stanley Robinson, China Meiville, or my current favorite Sci-Fi author Iain M. Banks. It's just when I don't particularly enjoy the work AND don't agree with the ideas, the in your face shallow strawman didactic rants leap out and get annoying.

Omega isn't a bad work. The prose is generally good, and the characters sufficiently interesting that I was able to get through it. I might give it three stars without the preachiness. But even ignoring that, it has problems that make the preachiness hard to ignore. The most glaring of these is that the central mystery of the work surrounding the 'Omega Clouds' seems a little dumb to begin with, holds no surprises for you over the course of the novel, and has no really interesting twist at the end to justify going through the motions. The other problem is that the story tends to drag compared to the number of ideas it presents. About three quarters of the way in, I was just ready for it to be over and only finished because I'd invested so much time and wanted to find out how it ended. Ultimately, it really didn't end in any satisfying way.
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message 1: by Tim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tim Martin I read the book a while back. I thought this was basically a disaster flick in space/on an alien world, that there wasn't really that much more to it than that.
I found the aliens kinda bland, in some ways they were ok but their architecture and civilization was way way too Earth-like for my taste (ancient Greek).
His other series, the Alex Benedict novels, is far better. For my take the novel series that this book is a part of, the Academy series, is not as good and I think has declined a little in quality.


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