My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was somewhat disappointed in this book, especially when compared to its predecessor in the series, Chindi, which was an amazing book. The series features an Academy pilot, Hutch, who everyone loves. She constantly saves the day through smarts and bravery. In this book, however, she’s no longer a pilot. She’s now an administrator for the Academy and when we do see her, she’s taking flak from everybody for not being able to grant inane wishes or she’s sending messages off to her star ship pilots. That’s all we get from her. Major disappointment.
In this book, we get more of the Omega clouds, monstrously huge clouds floating through space, decimating virtually every city on all worlds they encounter. One is headed for earth in about 1,0000 years. Meanwhile, they find another that’s turning and heading for an earth-like planet in about nine months. The problem is, this planet is inhabited by a pre-industrial, but still advanced civilization. Aliens. They look vaguely similar to us, in a cartoon like way, and have amazing architecture, libraries, restaurants, theaters, temples, etc. There are 11 cities on this planet, all fairly near each other. And they have no idea what’s about to happen to them.
There’s an Academy ship out there and the four people aboard are instructed to go down to the planet and interact with the aliens, who are being called Goompahs, a term I learned to utterly hate by the end of the book. The team wears clothing that make them invisible and they go into the cities, but Dig, one of the book’s heroes, starts a stampede that kills the leader of the team, so something goes wrong right away.
Another ship is on the way with supplies, including dozens of things to be placed around the cities to eavesdrop on them so we can learn their language. Because the only way to save them is to either divert the Omega or to convince the Goompahs to leave their cities and head for the high ground. Unfortunately, the Goompahs are scared to death of humans, having seen Dig, and think he’s a demon. So convincing them to leave their cities seems out. A ship is sent with scientists and linguists. The linguists get daily reports from the planet with recordings of conversation and start learning Goompah and become quite conversant in it. They’re going to dress up as Goompahs and tell them in their own language to leave when the cloud arrives. Another ship is sent with a huge kite (which struck me as really stupid) and some video devices, to divert the cloud. The leader of this ship is a major asshole. It’s a nine month flight, so they’ll just barely be beating the cloud there.
The ship with the linguists loses its engines after six months and is stranded. Another ship comes by with room for one passenger, and the asshole gets on, determined to divert the cloud. Meanwhile, Dig has heard an alien woman speak who makes wild claims about seeing things all over the world which may or may not exist. He decides to appear before her and tell her about the cloud, which is now visible to the Goompahs, and tell her to head to the hills and to tell everyone. She freaks, but doesn’t run away and he gives her the message.
Dig has a thing for his pilot, Kellie, and one of the other ship’s captains marries them. Rather than a celebration, the asshole insists that Kellie take him right then and there to the cloud to try and divert it. Nice. The cloud sucks them in and Kellie escapes, while asshole blows the ship up in the cloud. I was glad to see him die.
Do the humans divert the cloud? Or do they convince the Goompahs to leave their cities and go to higher ground? If so, how? And what happens to the planet? You’ll have to read it to find out.
Aside from some of the problems that I’ve already mentioned, this book is too long and simply DRAGS. Oh my God, I thought it would never end. I wanted everyone to die by the end of the book. I couldn’t say that about the previous books in this series. McDevitt is a good writer, normally, and I have the last two books in this series. I’m hoping for a return to form. Recommended if you’re reading the series. Otherwise, not recommended.