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The Hercules Text

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  831 ratings  ·  106 reviews
The classic first-contact science fiction novel that launched the career of Jack McDevitt, the national bestselling author of Coming Home.

From a remote corner of the galaxy a message is being sent. The continuous beats of a pulsar have become odd, irregular…artificial. It can only be a code.

Frantically, a research team struggles to decipher the alien communication. And wha
Paperback, 307 pages
Published November 1st 1986 by Ace
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3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  831 ratings  ·  106 reviews

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Neil Hepworth
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a magnificent book, and a debut (twenty years ago!), to boot. The vast majority of today’s science fiction debut novels can’t hold a candle to this one.

The Hercules Text is a first-contact story, wherein humanity finally receives signals from another life form, but more importantly, the story is about all the scientific, social, political and religious implications that follow. The alien contact is realistic, however, so there is no two-way communication because the message itself took a mi
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
A classic on the subject of communication with extraterrestrials, actually written before the much more famous CONTACT by Carl Sagan. I read it some years ago and went on to read other books by Jack McDevitt, one of the best of the science fiction writers today, in my opinion. Upon rereading it, I'm struck by how the Cold War background makes the book seem outdated. I think McDevitt later wrote an update of the book, taking out the Cold War aspects....?
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This one started a little slower than McDevitt's books usually do, but with a great payoff once it got moving. It deals with the implications of receiving an alien communication with tremendous new technologies: anti-gravity, free energy, the ability to live forever. Sounds great, right? But can humanity handle such an upheaval without tearing itself apart? Will we actually better off? McDevitt does a great job of handling these questions and getting the reader thinking about what might actually ...more
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was in the mood for a first contact novel, but I already read most of the classics on the topic (Childhood's end, Rendezvous with Rama, etc). So I decided to look for something less known. Normally when I do this, it ends bad. Well, not this time.

“The Hercules text” takes place in a very very near future, where a SETI-like project finally hits jackpot, receiving a non-natural signal that comes from another galaxy.
We are not alone: the novel focuses on the consequences that this newfound knowle
Peter Corrigan
Jan 16, 2019 rated it liked it
This was pretty good. A serious effort to look at what a SETI-type contact might do to the denizens of earth. Apparently it is a 2015 update of a 1986 book. Never read anything by this guy but he seems well-regarded. The book had some quite interesting debates on the impact such a contact might have on religion, politics, international relations and even on the future of life on this planet. The characters are a little wooden and not the strong suit of the effort. The interesting ethical and pra ...more
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Jack McDevitt's first book, written back in the 80s, is a very engaging story of apparent first contact. The cast of characters offers an interesting mix of scientists, bureaucrats, and politicians, with a few military and security folks thrown in. They are so human, with personality quirks and attributes both likable and not. While some of the plot twists and turns are predictable, many are surprising. And the science is accessible to the average reader.
There's something refreshing abotu McDevitt's debut novel, at least compared to his most recent works. He's gotten to be a bit meandering, as if he's filling pages (or his editor is no longer able to make him take out unnecessary material). This is by no means his best work, but it is a compelling and well written story of what we should/would do if we received a message from an alien race with technology far above our own.

I did have a few questions. The entire plot rests on the message being cl
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
That's by far the most realistic fictional book I have read so far, despite it dealing with extraterrestrials contacting our world. What makes this so realistic is the fleshed-out characters, each with an own mindset and his or her own convictions, and detailing of the impact such a signal would have on our society. Despite this book not being a thrilling roller coaster ride I sympathised greatly with the characters and wanted to see where the story takes them. The only point of critique really ...more
Jon Norimann
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Hercules Text is about what happens on earth when a signal from ET is received. Apart from bureaucratic complications the focus is on effects on religion. McDevitt also, for some reason, felt the need to include a love story.
I love the subject of discussion so for me this is an almost automatic 5/5 stars. I do see some some flaws in the writing, like too many characters, a pointless love story and a serious flaw in the main reasoning the book is based on. However I still looked forward to ev
Kevin Schillo
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting that this came out around the same time as Contact. While they share a similar premise (first contact via radio transmission), there is significant difference between the plots and the world's reaction for this to be written off as a copy of Sagan's novel.
Tom Britz
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Hercules Text is Jack McDevitt's first novel, yet it reads like a mature novelist at the height of his career. This novel of man's first message from the stars, proving finally that man is not alone and its terrible consequences, had me at times angry, because it read so true to form. For an author to make you, the reader, get angry at the turn that the characters take (when it is true to form, not because the author lost control of his characters) says a lot about the quality of the writing ...more
Anurag Sahay
Mar 10, 2017 rated it liked it
This was one of the first few times that I read a first contact story (as opposed to watched) since Clarke - and honestly, it wasn't as good as I was expecting. The characters were nice, but the setting seemed very quaint for a near future setting - I suppose that's because of the anachronisms introduced by the fact that this was a War on Terror update of a Cold War setting book.

The bulk of the novel is interesting enough that I sped-read it (on weekdays), which I haven't done in ages, but the e
The Professor
Jul 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: sf
“Slow down, Pete. What’s a lightbender?” Utter bobbins. Jack McDevitt’s first novel but still exactly the sort of cloth-eared writing that gives science fiction a bad name among the general public. A slog to read, no humour and pre-school level characterisation. If this novel had been beamed from the Altheans humanity would have given it one star and gone about its day. Yet it’s routinely called a classic and gets five star reviews. Colour me bemused.

For the purposes of reminding myself what th
Roddy Williams
“From a remote corner of the galaxy a message is being sent. The continuous beats of a pulsar have become odd, irregular… artificial. It can only be a code.

Frantically, a research team struggles to decipher the alien communication. And what the scientists discover is destined to shake the foundations of empires around the world – from Wall Street to the Vatican.”

Blurb from the 1986 Ace Science Fiction Special paperback edition.

McDevitt’s Debut novel is almost a text-book examination of the effec
Alexandru Pănoiu
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Good but strangely unfinished

One million years ago somebody build themselves a pulsar and used to broadcast an encyclopedia to the universe. As it happens, the transmission reached Earth just as the United States had built a massive astronomic observatory on the Moon; while all the other nations had demolished all radiotelescopes and shot their astronomers, the United States had wisely kept one or two alive. (The author does not explain how this troubling state of affairs came to pass, nor does
Feb 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
Wow....too underdeveloped. It feels like it has been written as a high school literature assignment where objective is to learn how to introduce a character. Writer introduces one character on each page and after a while you don't even care to read their names. The only subject matter the writer is concerned about is how these characters brood (view spoiler)
None of the character is developed neatly or deeply. As for the story goe
Oct 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was an early work by Jack McDevitt and is credited with much of his success as a new author. I had never read the original version which was released in 1986 and this one was re-released in 2015 and updated to reflect modern technology and the political climate of the 21st century. This is a cautionary tale of first contact with an advanced alien species through a radio signal from many thousands of light years away. They send us advanced technology and the U.S. unwisely doesn't share ...more
Mårten Ericson
More like 2.5. Without doubt the weakest book of McDevitt that I've read. It's not so much a SciFi novel as a rather tiresome debate about how the White house would handle an alien message. The book works ok for the 200 pages or so but after that the story becomes more and more fragmented. Sagans (I'm not surprised) "Contact" is far better in every apsect. Also the main chrachters status or place in the story is - even in the end - quite unclear to me. Thankfully McDevitt has come a long way as ...more
Benjamin Hare
Dec 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Hard science fiction with some very well developed characters working at the Goddard Space Institute when a message from another world is received. National politics plays a big role in the tale as the scientists begin to translate bits and pieces of the message. How much should we release to the public? What should we keep out, and is it ethical to do so? These questions constitute the bulk of the plot.

Each of the scientists involved is developed to some degree, and each one feels entirely beli
Matt Lanka
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First contact stories exist on a scale that runs between apocalyptic action (Footfall, Independence Day, etc) and incredibly detailed philosophical texts that consider the actual mechanisms by which we might communicate with intelligent alien life and the far-reaching implications for humans as a species (anything by Stanislaw Lem.) "The Hercules Text" tends toward the action end of the spectrum but rather than have aliens invade Earth and attempt to destroy humanity, McDevitt's aliens provide h ...more
Rafael Ontivero
Empecé escuchándolo como audiolibro, pero al final acabé leyéndolo como libro normal.

No está mal para ser una novela de mediados de los ochenta, todavía bastante actual ya que el tema técnico solo está perfilado.

La única parte que ha envejecido un poco mal es todo el tema sobre las dudas religiosas y la necesidad de tener que enfocarlo casi todo en ese mismo aspecto. Por otro lado McDevitt hace pasar a los políticos por bastante duros de mollera y capaces de iniciar la tercera guerra mundial po
Gary Holt
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
This was not as good as many of McDevitt's later books. I had a lot of trouble with the ideas about how alien computers might interact with ours, and the idea that somehow the biology of aliens from another galaxy who died out hundreds of thousands of years ago would help significantly in understanding diseases in modern humans. McDevitt doesn't make these kinds of mistakes in his later books, at least not so obviously.

The characters were also not particularly memorable. Pages and pages are spen
Seth Kennedy
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not a fast-paced novel by any means, McDevitt still drew me in with a thoughtful, philosophical approach to answering the question "How would we deal with it if there was life out there?" Through administrator Harry Carmichael's eyes, we see the impact on his colleagues, friends and the world as a team of scientists unravels a transmission from an ancient civilization and decode the message. McDevitt also shows a deft hand in making this a human story, interweaving the characters' more mundane c ...more
David Peterson
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 25, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I love reading McDevitt's work. Always like grabbing some fast food. Outside of his two know series, his standalone books are hit and miss. Kinda like trying new fast food places too, I guess.

This, his first novel, isn't bad, but has too many navel-gazing discussions concerning Christian beliefs and extraterrestrial life. Great setup of First Contact and 'what to do with all this info'. The characters and plot move right along, but there's ponderously heavy 'whoa, dude' vibes that serve as road-
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A mighty fine First Contact novel. Jack Mcdevitt completely rewrote the text from an earlier version published in 1987. I haven't read the original and probably never will but this version is brilliantly conceived .There's no meeting the alien scenario but a complex and lengthy message from deep space. The effect of this message, and its contents, reverberates through numerous human communities. The science is well presented and the investigatory team has great characterization. A very nice read ...more
Sad disappointment. This will be the second author I stop reading as they seem to need to state their politics in their books these days. I read for entertainment, and with politics of today shoved into our faces constantly, I use books as an escape. I do not care what political side you fall on but in books that I read I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR IT!!!!

Unless you are into political reading, forget about this book as the story does not make up for the constant political crap you are forced to endure.

Nov 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book. Very light on the actual details of the message and what they gain from it. Very heavy on the social, religious, and political ramifications of receiving this type of information. I think it is a bit short-sighted on how our society would react, but that keeps it current I guess.
David Cavaco
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I really wanted to like this book given the premise that our world makes first contact with an alien world. Problem is that the story line has too many bland characters that the reader loses track of them or cares about them. Was expecting a bigger finale at the end but was disappointed. I recommend reading 'Contact' by Carl Sagan, the movie was great as well.
Rubén Vilaplana
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tener información que pueda cambiar la historia de la humanidad gracias a unos textos extraterrestres es el planteamiento que nos ofrece el escritor McDevitt en esta interesante novela de cf.

Un aporte de ideas que hace de esta novela bastente amena y entretenida, imprescindible en nuestro catálogo.
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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
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