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Chindi (Priscilla

Chindi (Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchins Series #3)

3.9 31
by Jack McDevitt

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On a routine survey mission studying a neutron star, an Academy starship receives a transmission in an unknown language. Before leaving the area, the starship launches a series of satellites to find the signal—and perhaps discover its origins.
Five years later, a satellite finally encounters the signal—which is believed to be of


On a routine survey mission studying a neutron star, an Academy starship receives a transmission in an unknown language. Before leaving the area, the starship launches a series of satellites to find the signal—and perhaps discover its origins.
Five years later, a satellite finally encounters the signal—which is believed to be of extraterrestrial origin by the Contact Society, a wealthy group of enthusiasts who fund research into the existence of alien life. Providing a starship to the Academy to be piloted by Captain Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins, the Contact Society embarks on a mission to find the source of the transmission.
Across a myriad of stars, from world to world, Hutch and her crew follow the signal, but find only puzzles and lethal surprises.
Then, in a planetary system far beyond the bounds of previous exploration, they discover an object. It is immense, ominous, and mysterious. And it may hold the answer not only to the questions of the Contact Society, but to those of every person who has ever looked to the sky and wondered if we were alone...

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Chindi is Jack McDevitt's third novel -- after The Engines of God and Deepsix -- to feature Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchins, veteran starship pilot and one of the most credible heroines in contemporary SF. Both she and McDevitt are at the top of their respective forms in this big, lovingly detailed new novel of interstellar suspense.

Accompanied by an anthropomorphic AI and a crew of enthusiastic amateurs, Hutch discovers an alien satellite that is part of an intricate network of receivers and transmitters spanning an incalculable distance and leading to a series of inhabited -- or formerly inhabited -- worlds. Eventually, the searchers discover the Retreat, a small moon containing a treasure trove of alien artifacts. But this discovery only leads to a larger one: a massive interstellar vessel they dub "the Chindi," i.e., the "spirit of the night." As Hutch and her companions slowly uncover the Chindi's secrets, McDevitt's narrative achieves an impressive degree of visionary and conceptual grandeur.

McDevitt's virtues are on full display in Chindi: the clean, clear style, the easy humor, the sympathetic portraits of believable people under relentless pressure. McDevitt has written some of the most entertaining, thoroughly imagined SF adventures of recent years, and Chindi -- with its potent, wide-eyed evocation of cosmic mysteries -- is one of his most absorbing creations. Bill Sheehan

McDevitt [is]... a writer of hard, humane science fiction thrillers, and Chindi is one of his very best.
Publishers Weekly
In this sequel to last year's well-received Deepsix, McDevitt tells a curiously old-fashioned tale of interstellar adventure. Reminiscent of Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama, the story sends veteran space pilot Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchins and a crew of rich, amateur SETI enthusiasts off on a star-hopping jaunt in search of the mysterious aliens who have placed a series of "stealthed" satellites around an unknown number of planets. After visiting several worlds, and losing two of her dilettantes to a murderous group of alien angels, Hutch follows the interstellar trail to a bizarre, obviously artificial planetary system. There, two spectacular gas giants orbit each other closely, partially sharing the same atmosphere, while a large moon circles them in a theoretically impossible circumpolar orbit. The explorers soon discover a number of puzzling alien artifacts, including a gigantic spaceship that fails to respond to their signals. First contact is McDevitt's favorite theme, and he's also good at creating large and rather spectacular astronomical phenomena. Where this novel falls short, however, is in the creation of characters. Hutch, beautiful and supremely competent, is an adequate hero, but virtually everyone else is a cartoon. The book abounds in foolhardy dilettantes, glory-hogging bureaucrats and capable space pilots. Oddly, in a novel set some 200 years in the future, McDevitt's cast is almost exclusively white and Anglo-Saxon. This is a serviceable enough space opera, but it operates far from the genre's cutting edge. (July 2) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
On her final active mission for the Academy, spaceship pilot Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchinson ferries a group of wealthy UFO hobbyists to the site of a mysterious signal from distant space. After discovering only dead planets and unexpected danger, Hutch and her crew of amateurs finally encounter a vehicle that seems to promise a long-awaited first contact. The author of Deepsix relates the further adventures of a resourceful and determined woman who places her duty to those under her care before her personal ambitions. First-rate sf adventure and smooth, well-plotted storytelling make this a superior choice for sf collections. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another adventure for Academy space pilot Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchins (Deepsix, 2001, etc.). When a ship detects a brief but apparently modulated transmission from an unknown source near a neutron star, the aliens-or-bust members of the Contact Society summon a state-of-the-art spaceship and declare their determination to track the transmission to its source. The Academy selects Hutch, veteran of several archaeological expeditions to distant stars, to pilot them. At the neutron star, they confirm the transmissions, but find no aliens: instead, three "stealthed" satellites transmit information to a destination in another star system. Soon, other satellites are found orbiting stars that the unknown builders consider of interest-including Earth. A close friend of Hutch's takes one of the satellites aboard his ship for study and analysis; soon thereafter the ship explodes. Coincidence? Following the transmissions, Hutch and party-including dilettante leader George Hockelmann, soft-porn actress Alyx Ballinger, and artist Tor Kirby, one of Hutch's old flames-discover a planet whose civilization was destroyed by nuclear war; and, still farther afield, a bizarre and beautiful system where, on a moon orbiting a pair of ringed gas giant planets, they find a house complete with artifacts, books, and a burial plot. More important yet, a colossal alien spaceship's busy refueling nearby. Naturally, Hutch's bold but foolhardy explorers demand to investigate. Slow to start, and the tepid, tentative romance doesn't help; happily, the puzzles wrapped in explanations within mysteries and cliffhanging resolution are well up to McDevitt's previous high standards.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchins Series , #3
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.12(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.12(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

June 2224

People tend to believe that good fortune consists of equal parts talent, hard work, and sheer luck. It's hard to deny the roles of the latter two. As to talent, I would only say it consists primarily in finding the right moment to step in. --Haroun al Monides , REFLECTIONS, 2116

PRISCILLA HUTCHINS WAS not a woman to be swept easily off her feet, but she came very close to developing a terminal passion for Preacher Brawley during the Proteus fiasco. Not because of his good looks, though God knew he was a charmer. And not because of his congeniality. She'd always liked him, for both those reasons. If pressed, though, she would probably have told you it had to do with his timing.

He wasn't really a preacher, of course, but was, according to legend, descended from a long line of Baptist fire breathers. Hutch knew him as an occasional dinner companion, a person she saw occasionally coming in or going out of the Academy. And perhaps most significantly, as a voice from the void on those interminable flights to Serenity and Glory Point and Faraway. He was one of those rare individuals with whom one could be silent, and still feel in good company.

The important thing was that he had been there when she desperately needed him. Not to save her life, mind you. She was never in real danger herself. But he took a terrible decision out of her hands.

The way it happened was this: Hutch was aboard the Academy ship Wildside en route to Renaissance Station, which orbited Proteus, a vast hydrogen cloud that had been contracting for millions of years and would eventually become a star. Its core was burning furiously under the pressuresgenerated by that contraction, but nuclear ignition had not yet taken place. That was why the station was there. To watch, as Lawrence Dimenna liked to say, the process. But there were those who felt Renaissance was vulnerable, that the process was unpredictable, and who'd attempted to close it down and withdraw its personnel. It was not a place Hutch was anxious to visit.

The wind blew all the time inside the cloud. She was about a day away, listening to it howl and claw at her ship. She was trying to concentrate on a light breakfast of toast and fruit when she saw the first sign of what was to come. " It's thrown off a big flare, " said Bill. "Gigantic," he added. "Off the scale."

Unlike his sibling AI on the Benjamin Martin , Hutch's Bill adopted a wide range of appearances, using whatever he felt most likely to please, annoy, or intimidate, as the mood struck him. Theoretically, he was programmed to do so, to provide the captain with a true companion on long flights. She was otherwise alone on the ship.

At the moment, he looked like the uncle that everybody likes but who has a tendency to drink a bit too much and who has an all-too-obvious eye for women.

"You think we're actually going to have to do an evacuation?" she asked.

" I don't have sufficient data to make a decent estimate, " he said. " But I'd think not. I mean, the place has been here a long time. Surely it won't blow up just as we arrive. "

It was an epitaph if she'd ever heard one.

They couldn't see the eruption without sensors, of course. Couldn't see anything without sensors. The glowing mist through which the Wildside moved prevented any visuals much beyond thirty kilometers.

It was hydrogen, illuminated by the fire at the core. On her screens, Proteus was not easily distinguishable from a true star, save for the twin jets that rose out of its poles.

Hutch looked at the display images, at the vast bursts of flame roiling through the clouds, at the inferno rendered somehow more disquieting than that of a true star, perhaps because it had not even the illusion of a definable edge, but rather seemed to fill the universe.

When seen from outside the cloud, the jets formed an elegant vision that would have been worthy of a Sorbanne, beams composed of charged particles, not entirely stable, flashed from a cosmic lighthouse that occasionally changed its position on the rocks. Renaissance Station had been placed in an equatorial orbit to lessen the possibility that a stray blast would take out its electronics.

"When do they expect the nuclear engine to cut in?" she asked.

" Probably not for another thousand years, " said Bill.

"These people must be crazy, sitting out here in this soup."

" Apparently conditions have worsened considerably during the past forty-eight hours. " Bill gazed down at her in his smugly superior mode and produced a noteboard. " It says here they have a comfortable arrangement. Pools, tennis courts, parks. Even a seaside retreat. "

Had Proteus been at the heart of the solar system, the thin haze of its outer extremities would have engulfed Venus. Well, maybe engulfed wasn't quite the right word. Enshrouded, maybe. Eventually, when the pressure reached critical mass, nuclear ignition would occur, the outer veil of hydrogen would be blown away, and Proteus would become a class-G, possibly a bit more massive than the sun.

"Doesn't really matter how many parks they have if that thing has gone unstable."

The AI let her see that he disapproved. " There is no known case of a class-G protostar going unstable. It is subject to occasional storms, and that is what we are seeing now. I think you are unduly worried. "

"Maybe. But if this is normal weather, I wouldn't want to be here when things get rough."

" Nor would I. But if a problem develops while we're there, we should be able to outrun it easily enough."

Let's hope.

It was unlikely, the dispatching officer had assured her, that an Event would occur. (He had clearly capitalized the word.) Proteus was just going through a hiccup period. Happens all the time. No reason to worry, Hutchins. You're there simply as a safety factor.

She'd been at Serenity, getting refitted, when the call had come. Lawrence Dimenna, the director of Renaissance Station, the same Dimenna who'd insisted just two months ago that Proteus was perfectly safe, as dependable as the sun, who'd argued to keep the place going against the advice of some of the top people at the Academy, was now asking for insurance. So let's send old Hutchins over to sit on the volcano.

And here she was. With instructions to stand by and hold Dimenna's hand and if there's a problem, see that everyone gets off. But there shouldn't be a problem. I mean, they're the experts on protostars and they say everything's fine. Just taking a precaution.

She'd checked the roster. There were thirty-three crew, staff, and working researchers, including three graduate students.

Accommodations on the Wildside would be a bit tight if they had to run. The ship was designed for thirty-one plus the pilot, but they could double up in a couple of the compartments and there were extra couches around that could be pressed into service during acceleration and jump phases.

It was a temporary assignment, until the Academy could get the Lochran out from Earth. The Lochran was being overhauled--armored, really--to better withstand conditions here and would replace her as the permanent escape vessel within a few weeks.

" Hutch, " said Bill. " We have incoming. From Renaissance. "

She was on the bridge, which was where she spent most of her time when riding an otherwise empty ship. "Patch them through," she said. "About time we got acquainted."

It was a pleasant surprise. She found herself looking at a gorgeous young technician with chestnut hair, luminous eyes, and a smile that lit up when there'd been time for the signal to pass back and forth and he got a look at her. He wore a white form-fitting shirt and Hutch had to smother a sigh. Damn. She'd been alone too long.

" Hello, Wildside , " he said, "welcome to Proteus. "

"Hello, Renaissance." She restrained a smile. The exchange of signals required slightly more than a minute.

" Dr. Harper wants to talk to you. " He gave way to a tall, dark woman who looked accustomed to giving people directions. Hutch recognized Mary Harper from the media reports. She owned a clipped voice and looked at Hutch the way Hutch might have glanced at a kid bringing the lunch in late. Harper had stood shoulder to shoulder with Dimenna during the long battle to prevent the closing of the station.

" Captain Hutchins? We're glad you're here. It'll make everyone feel a bit more secure to know there's a ship standing by. Just in case. "

"Glad to be of service," Hutch said.

She softened a bit. " I understand you were headed home before this came up, and I just wanted you to know that we appreciate your coming out here on short notice. There's probably no need, but we thought it best to be cautious. "

"Of course."

Harper started to say something else but the transmission was blown away by the storm. Bill tried a few alternate channels and found one that worked. " When can we expect you? " she asked.

"Tomorrow morning at about six looks good."

Harper was worried, but she tried to hide it behind that cool smile while she waited for Hutch's response to reach her. When it did she nodded, and Hutch got the distinct impression that back behind her eyes the woman was counting. " Good, " she said with bureaucratic cheerfulness. " We'll see you then. "

We don't get many visitors out this way, Hutch thought.

THE STATION MADE periodic reports to Serenity, recording temperature readings at various levels of the atmosphere, gravity fluctuations, contraction rate estimates, cloud density, and a myriad other details.

The Wildside had drifted into the hypercomm data stream between Renaissance and Serenity and was consequently able, for a few minutes, to pick up the transmissions. Hutch watched the numbers rippling across a half dozen screens, mixed with occasional analysis by the Renaissance AI. None of it was intelligible to her. Core temperatures and wind velocities were just weather reports. But there were occasional images of the protostar, embedded at the heart of the cloud.

"How sure are they," she asked Bill, "that ignition won't happen for a thousand years?"

" They're not giving opinions at the moment, " he said. " But as I understand it, there's a possibility the nuclear engine could already have started. In fact, it could have started as much as two hundred years ago. "

"And they wouldn't know it?"

" No. "

"I'd assumed when that happened the protostar would more or less explode."

" What would happen is that over a period of several centuries after its birth, the star would shrink, its color would change to yellow or white, and it would get considerably smaller. It's not a process that just goes boom. "

"Well, that's good to know. So these people aren't really sitting on top of a powder keg."

Bill's uncle image smiled. He was wearing a yellow shirt, open at the neck, navy blue slacks, and slippers. " Not that kind of powder keg, any"

They passed out of the data stream and the signal vanished.

Hutch was bored. It had been six days since she'd left Serenity, and she ached for human company. She rarely rode without passengers, didn't like it, and found herself reassuring Bill, who always knew when she was getting like this, that he shouldn't take it personally. "It's not that you aren't an adequate companion," she said.

His image blinked off, to be replaced by the Wildside logo, an eagle soaring past a full moon. " I know. " He sounded hurt. " I understand. "

It was an act, meant to help. But she sighed and looked out into the mist. She heard the gentle click by which he routinely signaled his departure. Usually it was simply a concession to her privacy. This time it was something else.

She tried reading for an hour, watched an old comedy (listening to the recorded audience laughter and applause echo through the ship), made herself a drink, went back to the gym, worked out, showered, and returned to the bridge.

She asked Bill to come back, and they played a couple of games of chess.

" Do you know anyone at Renaissance? " he asked.

"Not that I'm aware of." A few of the names on the roster were vaguely familiar, probably passengers on other flights. They were astrophysicists, for the most part. A few mathematicians. A couple of data technicians. Some maintenance people. A chef. She wondered which was the young man with the luminous eyes.

They live pretty well, she thought.

A chef. A physician.

A teacher.


She stopped. A teacher ?

"Bill, what possible use would they have for a teacher?"

"I don't know, Hutch. It does seem strange."

A chill worked its way down her spine. "Get Renaissance on the circuit."

A minute later, the technician with the eyes reappeared. He turned the charm on again, but this time she wasn't having any. "You have a Monte DiGrazio at the station. He's listed as a teacher. Would you tell me what he teaches?"

He was gazing wistfully at her while he waited for her transmission to arrive.

" What are you thinking? " asked Bill. He was seated in a leather armchair in a book-lined study. In the background she could hear a fire crackling.

She started to answer but let it trail off.

The technician heard her question and looked puzzled. " He teaches math and science. Why do you care? "

Hutch grumbled at her stupidity. Ask the question right, dummy . "Do you have dependents on board? How many people are there altogether?"

" I think you may be right, " said Bill, cautiously.

She folded her arms and squeezed down as if to make herself a smaller target.

The technician was looking at her with crinkled eyebrows. " Yes. We have twenty-three dependents. Fifty-six people in all. Monte has fifteen students. "

"Thank you," said Hutch. " Wildside out."

Bill's innocuously content features hardSo if an evacuation does become necessary-- "

"We'd have to leave almost half of them behind." Hutch shook her head. "That's good planning."

" Hutch, what do we do? "

Damned if she knew. "Bill, get me a channel to Serenity."

--From Chindi by Jack McDevitt (c) July 2002, Ace Books, used by permission.

Meet the Author

Jack McDevitt is a former naval officer, taxi driver, customs officer and motivational trainer. He is a multiple Nebula Award finalist who lives in Georgia with his wife Maureen.

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Chindi (Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchins Series #2) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In the far distant future, man has learned to travel at FLS (faster than light speed) but has also terraformed other planets so that humans could colonize them. One thing mankind has not found is a sentient species that is their equal or superior. They have found remnants of other civilizations that have long since died when man was crawling out of the caves and they have found a warlike race of beings that have depleted the resources of their planet with their many wars.

Priscilla Hutchins, Hitch to her friends, is a very good space pilot in the academy who is nearing burnout and ready to retire. She is asked, on behalf of the academy, to take control of the civilian spaceship the City of Memphis and guide the crew, members of the contact society, into deep space in hopes of meeting intelligent alien life. They discover that someone has left a series of stealth satellites in orbit around space bodies all across the galaxy. Every time they find one of their trackers, they beam something new about this universe and those who have and continue to inhabit it.

CHINDI is a space opera with plenty of action and unexpected developments in almost every sense. Jack McDevett has created a realistic space-faring universe mindful of Star Trek that is just waiting to be explored by Hutch, her fellow adventurers, and readers. There are many characters in this novel that deserve to have their own story told.

Harriet Klausner

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read, though a bit long at times
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i have read the entire series and enjoyed them all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this series!! Hutch is incredible...
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deesy58 More than 1 year ago
Tedious & Improbable. Not worth the price.
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