I picked this one up because it was nominated for the 2008 Nebula Award for best novel. (It didn't win.) I was impressed. This is the first novel of McDevitt's that I've read, and now I've got another author whose works are going to wind up getting added to my "should read" list...
This was a novel of spaceflight in a post-spaceflight world, which is an interesting environment to explore, especially as it correlates strongly to the current (early 21st century) public disinterest in advancing space technology. This was a fun theme to explore.
McDevitt also has (nearly-so if not outright) sentient AIs running a lot of life; the plight of their kind is also a background theme in the story, done nicely, if mildly.
There's a bit of action as well, both on the pulp-ish "monster on frozen world" formula, and in the "speak to a intelligent gas cloud" style. It was fun to read.
It was also interesting to hear McDevitt's thoughts on "first contact" and establising a common language with an alien intelligence; the parallels with Robert Sawyer's Rollback, which I read only two months ago, were striking. Both authors probably used the same source material while authoring their books; the parallels were striking.
This was a fun fun read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Cauldron is the latest in McDevitt's Acadamy series. It involves a new hyperspace sort of engine, allowing the characters to travel to the Galactic core and solve three different mysteries, two from previous books.
On the plus side, it has plenty of Priscilla Hutch Hutchins in it. Hutch is a great character who has been minimized in some of the more recent books in the series. This one drops her right in the middle of the action.
But, overall, I didn't like the book much. First off, the blurb on the back of the book makes it clear that the story involves a new drive. So, why use up half the book on the development of the engine? It would be okay if that half was all great hard sci-fi stuff. But it's more like a suspense book. Will the engine work? Will it?
Well, yeah, it will. The freaking blurb on the back tells you so. Given that, the first half is pretty tedious.
The second half gets moving better. And, indeed, three different mysteries are resolved. The problem here is that the resolutions are so, well, tepid. There's very little sense of wonder at their revelation.
You just feel sort of let down at the end. Bummer.