The Barnes & Noble Review
Omega is the aptly titled concluding volume of Jack McDevitt's epic science fiction Engines of God tetralogy (The Engines of God, Deepsix, and Chindi). Humankind has known about omega clouds for decades, but virtually nothing has been done to try to stop the monstrous civilization-killing galactic fog, which is due to pass over Earth in 900 years. But when an endearing alien civilization (nicknamed Goompahs) in the early stages of technological development is discovered right in the path of an omega cloud, the people of Earth simply can't sit around and watch the wobbly, floppy-eared humanoids be annihilated.
A rescue team is hastily put together and sent out to the distant planet. To complete their mission -- to destroy an unstoppable cloud and to save a civilization without the beneficiaries realizing it -- the Earthlings need nothing short of a miracle. As a team of linguists and scientists speeds towards the planet, newly appointed director of Academy operations Priscilla Hutchins must fend off religious fanatics and entrepreneurial parasites bent on saving and exploiting the Goompahs, while also trying to unravel the mystery of the omega clouds. When Priscilla's mentor, Harold Tewksbury, dies before revealing his theory of the omega clouds, she finds the answer in the unlikeliest of places.
Fans of truly epic science fiction owe it to themselves to read McDevitt's Engines of God series, which is comparable thematically to Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels and Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey sequence: addictively entertaining, thought-provoking, disturbing, and -- in the end -- deeply inspiring. Paul Goat Allen
McDevitt takes his time moving all the players in this drama into position. He handles the back story so adroitly that readers unfamiliar with earlier volumes in this series should have no trouble following the action. Finally, he provides a satisfying answer to the mystery of the omegas that is appropriately cosmic without straining credulity.
No one writing today is better than McDevitt at combining galaxy-spanning adventure with the genuine novel of ideas. This latest amalgam of hard SF and humanist concerns is McDevitt at his best, and that is very good indeed.
Having mastered the big, sprawling adventure stories called space opera in books like Chindi, McDevitt extends the form in this feel-good SF novel that earns its hopeful conclusion. Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchens, heroine of several of McDevitt's previous novels, has had a full career as a space pilot and is now administrator of the government agency in charge of space research. Like most people, she's only mildly concerned with the long-range threat of the omega clouds, masses of energy floating through the universe that detect and pulverize artificial structures (and the intelligent creatures that live in them). After all, the cloud headed for Earth is 900 years away. This situation changes when a charmingly innocent young alien race is discovered just a few months before a cloud will obliterate it. Hutch has to juggle resources to save the cute creatures, at the same concealing the human intervention in order not to disrupt the alien civilization's development. The cloud's implacable threat keeps the action tightly focused, though the story shifts viewpoint frequently to show crowds of people committing themselves to different aspects of the mission. Part of the rescue effort involves spaceships and gadgets, but the most serious part depends on human intelligence and passion. McDevitt is very good at imagining strange challenges-and at picturing humans coping when things don't work out as planned. His characters succeed in imposing their compassion on the void. (Nov. 4) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The discovery of the omega cloud phenomenon-cloudlike waves of energy that destroy entire civilizations-has put Earth on alert. When the cloud heading toward it veers toward a planet populated by a primitive alien species, a few concerned individuals, including a research scientist and a former space pilot, travel to that world in a desperate attempt to save it and, in so doing, discover a way to save their home planet. McDevitt excels in combining hard science, gripping adventure, and engaging characters into a story rich in detail and filled with action. Set in the same far future as Chindi and Deepsix, this taut tale of sf suspense belongs in most collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.