Not long ago, I booklogged Odyssey, the latest of Jack McDevitt's Archeologists in Spaaaace books. When I picked that up, I also grabbed a paperback copy of Seeker, the latest in his other series of novels, these ones about, well, antiquities dealers in spaaaace. I don't believe I've booklogged the previous volumes, A Talent for War and Polaris, so we'll lump them all together here.
A Talent for War introduces the setting and main characters: Alex Benedict is a dealer in antiquities a few millennia in the future, when humans have discovered FTL travel and spread out among the stars. There have been several collapses and revivals of civilization generally, but things are pretty good at the moment. Benedict sells old things to rich people, and is very good at what he does.
In the first volume, a beloved uncle dies in a transportation accident, leaving behind some cryptic clues that send Benedict off on an adventure. His uncle may have discovered something about legendary war hero Christopher Sim, and whatever it is is valuable enough that someone will kill to protect it...
This establishes the pattern for the otehr books: Benedict discovers a lead on some archeoligical treasure or another, and sets off in search of it. In A Talent for War he meets up with Chase Kolpath, a female pilot who becomes his right hand and the narrator of the other two books, and begins following the clues toward whatever it is he's looking for. Meanwhile, mysterious forces make a couple of attempts to kill him, and the search turns into a race to find the object in question before the bad guys do.
Despite the presence of a couple of assassination attempts per book, these are surprisingly calm novels. There are more pages spent describing archival research into the provenance of valuable artifacts and the historical personages who owned them than there are pages spent on derring-do. If there are swashes involved, they're several hundred years old, and were last buckled by some famous dead person.
They're also weirdly compelling reading, at least for me. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but there's something sort of comforting about them-- the society that Benedict lives in is fairly settled and pleasant, and the attempts on his life are very mundane, and usually dealt with by running away from danger and calling the police. And McDevitt does a very nice job of giving the feel of a culture with centuries worth of lost history.
I like the other series better-- that's why I waited for Seeker to come out in paperback-- but I do enjoy these books, and will happily read more if he writes them. While they do form a series, and the later books refer back to the previous volumes, they're pretty self-contained, and none of the plot events are driven by things that happened in other books, so you don't need to worry about reading order, if you decide to check these out.
Thanks for the post... I am waiting for my usual favorite authors (Stirling, Flint and Weber) to come out with new books, so I appreciate the background on what looks like a very interesting new author and series.
Hmm. How have I missed McDevitt? Archaeologists and Antiquities Dealers in Space sound like my kind of thing. I shall go and request a couple from the library immediately. Thanks!