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A Talent for War

(Alex Benedict #1)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  5,690 ratings  ·  396 reviews
Everyone knew the legend of Christopher Sim. Fighter. Leader. An interstellar hero with a rare talent for war, Sim changed mankind's history forever when he forged a ragtag group of misfits into the weapon that broke the back of the alien Ashiyyur.

But now, Alex Benedict has found a startling bit of information, long buried in an ancient computer file. If it is true, then
...more
Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Published May 23rd 2013 by Headline (first published February 1989)
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Nirkatze I don't believe so. Though they share some similarities (the AIs, for one), there is only one Alien species prevalent in the Alex Benedict novels, whi…moreI don't believe so. Though they share some similarities (the AIs, for one), there is only one Alien species prevalent in the Alex Benedict novels, while there are several mentioned in the Academy books. However, in a later book in this series, in an archaeological find, they recover some ancient Earth books, including the Academy books. So, the Academy books are fiction written in the ancient past of the Alex Benedict series.(less)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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Bradley
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-shelf, sci-fi
This just might be some of the most creative Space Opera You've Never Heard Of. Or maybe you follow the Nebulas, the best SF nominated by other SF/F authors, and you recognize that this is fan service for and by the professionals of the field, and so praise from these people usually means that the writer has Talent.

Talent for War, or not, I have to agree in pretty much all particulars. What struck me right off the bat was the heavy elements of Mystery lit. It's solid as hell, in fact.

It's merel
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Dirk Grobbelaar
I have a very strange literary relationship with Jack McDevitt. While I love his novels, I don’t regularly recommend them to friends, since I’m never too sure whether they will like them. And yet, his work is mostly highly rated.

His Science Fiction novels are so rooted in extrapolated reality you hardly have to suspend disbelief, even though they take place thousands of years in the future. I suppose I could make an argument that he is a “story teller”, as opposed to simply being an “author”. W
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Gary
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McDevitt’s first Alex Benedict novel has a unique take on space opera – A Talent for War doesn’t so much have a space opera plot as it is a detective story about a history buff investigating a space opera plot. Two hundred years ago, humanity was locked into a devastating war with the far more technologically advanced Ashiyyur, and the leader of the charge against the alien empire was Christopher Sim, a military genius who, after winning a series of impossible underdog victories against the supe ...more
Eva
Aug 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. This may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's certainly mine. It had all my favorite things: evocative descriptions of alien planets, space archaeology, mysteries, library research, ancient space battles, intelligent analysis of how public opinion is swayed and changes, and characters I cared about.

It sometimes got a bit too muddled and complicated for my taste (had to rewind the audio and keep track of all names and places mentioned in order not to get lost), and sometimes it felt
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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
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Brooke
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction, 2013
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
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Jessica
Apr 02, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  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
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Philip
Jun 04, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Eric
Feb 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
...more
Mike
Jan 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Silviu
Jul 13, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Even though the events of the books happen 9000 years 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.

Th
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Jamie Collins
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
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Mike
Apr 16, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, xcharity-2016
I'll be very generous in giving 3 Stars to this tale of a wimpy "Indiana Jones" in search of an artifact in space. No reason why it had to be a scifi novel, could have been done anywhere. Takes a long time to get going but the ending was satisfactory. Easy writing style kept my interest enough to finish. Hope the sequels are better.
Curtiss
Mar 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
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 feature
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Sarah
Mar 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 in a
...more
Dan
Jan 24, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
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
Glen
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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Stevie Kincade
The idea of a detective story within a space opera drew me to McDevitt. Unfortunately 4/5ths of this book is best described as a "wild goose chase" with a pretty feeble payoff. Most of the book is spent looking for Someone still alive named Scott and a dead woman named Tanner. 1/3 of the way in I had to remind myself why we cared about these people. There isn't much in the way of character development and the alien race (Ashyurians) are the blandest most vanilla alien race of recent memory. So w ...more
Bee
This was... fun. I'm not really sure if I prefer it to the Academy books, but I'm definitely going to keep reading the series. It's different. And I feel like he's given this more thought, or been freer in his reigning in his imagination. It's good, clean, not TOO pulpy space opera lite. Yeah, I think that nails it.

I suspect it will get significantly better.
Bill
Jan 23, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
DNF’d at 25% in. As most reviews have warned, this story is told in a very dull manner. I bought this and Polaris at the same time so hopefully that one is much better once I decide to get to it. Disappointing, though. Even with the reviews I had read I still thought this would float my boat.
Nooilforpacifists
Call it a 3.5. It is very long-winded and slow to start—boy meets girl in the first 50 pages, but nothing happens for 245 pages. As Mike’s review observed, this is more of an “Indiana Jones” adventure story (or, as I was thinking, a mystery/thriller). But it didn’t need to be SF or fantasy, and really wasn’t.

The story is laden with classical references (most Greek, twice to Virgil (Greek origin of course)). But cloaked by a chorus of dispute with Socrates, the book (if it says anything) is prai
...more
Lars Dradrach
Apr 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-book
Simply amazing that this little masterpiece is so relatively unknown, it belongs up with the bests.

The story expands slowly but at the same time builds a very convincing atmosphere of old empire mystic which are slowly revealed, there's a certain Star Wars feeling about it.

I simply have to pick up some of the other books in the series.
Richard
I'm pulling out of this one at the halfway point. I like the pitch - a "historical mystery" set in the future, but the character development just isn't there and god it's boring. That said, it seems like this was the author's first book and some of his fans find it dull and atypical of McDevitt's work, so I wouldn't completely rule out giving him another shot in the future.
Leather
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the first installment of the Alex Benedict series, in which an antiquarian accompanied by his sidekick, the pilot Chase Kolpath, solves historical mysteries. Mysteries that are located in our distant future, thousands of years after human swarming in the stars. But this society of the future looks a lot like ours, it is neither very exotic nor very credible. It is roughly the society of today: media with long teeth, politicians more or less competent, academia, administrations, etc. At t ...more
Head Ov Metal
Giving it three stars would be generous. I had to slog through the first 275 pages to get to something remotely interesting that was mentioned on the back cover. The plot up to that point was boring and had nothing to do with world building or character development. Upon discovering that this is Alex Benedict #1, I thought, who cares about subsequent books? I'm not even interested in him. I don't even know who he is, really. This is more of a chase / action / quest book, but the quest is not tha ...more
Dave Rezak
The search for truth in history through research of conflicting stories was wonderful. The relationships an interaction of the contemporary characters was a little weak and the McGuffin was a bit of a setting breaker.
Scott Holstad
Jul 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
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
...more
Clark Hallman
Aug 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Michael Jones
Mar 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Amber
Aug 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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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

Other books in the series

Alex Benedict (8 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)
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