Traveling across the Stars for the Truth; New Sci-Fi Mystery from Jack McDevitt

Article excerpt

Title: Polaris

Author: Jack McDevitt

Data: Ace Hardcover, 370 pages, $23.95

Review by DAN SCANLAN

The Times-Union

Think of the starship Polaris as an interstellar Flying Dutchman, found adrift in the rapidly expanding remains of an exploded star, mysteriously empty of the famous pilot and six VIPs who were on board as they watched a white dwarf star destroy a planet.

The Polaris' last radio message is a cryptic "Coming home . . . departure imminent." But it didn't make it. A cargo ship en route to another planet nearby is rerouted to the last known position and finds the elegantly-outfitted craft afloat and empty, its shuttle craft still inside, along with the VIPs' personal items and spacesuits.

Fast forward 60 years and enter Alex Benedict, a seeker and dealer of antiquities and treasures. Brunswick, Ga., science fiction author Jack McDevitt introduced Alex and his beautiful partner, Chase Kolpath, in his 1989 novel Talent for War. Now comes his 11th novel, the aptly-named Polaris, which starts with the last voyage of the Polaris, the search and the sadness behind its loss.

It is a decade after the adventures of Talent for War, and Alex and Chase have just returned from a salvage mission at a long-abandoned space station. They are invited to a display of artifacts from the Polaris and get first dibs on some of the delectables, such as the captain's jacket and a Bible. Then disaster strikes, and Alex and Chase have the only remaining artifacts from the fabled ship. Reluctantly pulled into the mystery, they discover the Polaris and its crew and passengers have been the subject of lots of books and even more questions. And as with Talent for War, they realize someone seems out to get them before they discover the truth.

"I had a mystery that fit right into Alex and Chase, and I had no reason to find another world and another character. This was the kind of thing they would get into," McDevitt said from his Brunswick home. "I love mysteries, and these two are more fitted for that kind of thing."

In Talent for War, Alex narrated the duo's adventures. This time, Chase does the narrating as they get deeper into questions surrounding the Polaris' disappearance and why someone seems set to get its last remaining artifacts.

It's great fun to follow Alex and Chase in and out of danger, and refreshing to see Chase's perspective of Alex: a somewhat more daring, seemingly less caring person than he "described" in Talent for War. …