Review: Firebird, by Jack McDevitt

I returned to Jack McDevitt’s Alex Benedict series fairly quickly this time, thanks to a Christmas present from my wife.  Again, reading on the Kindle sped things up as I tore through this during a very busy week.

I reviewed the previous book in this series, Echo, back in November.  I had felt that while it was quite good, the scope of the book was smaller than previous books, and that had disappointed me somewhat.  However, it was more than made up for by toying with the beloved characters with the kind of angsty cruelty that only a few authors can pull off.

In Firebird, the scope was back up to the grand scale, and the cruelty was still up at a high level.  We’re not talking about hacking off limbs or anything as bloody as that.  No, he’s going after the characters where it really hurts: regrets, guilt, and the reopening of old wounds.  And despite all that, he managed a happy ending.  In fact, the finale (in the epilogue) knocked it out of the park with a bittersweet homerun.

I hope he’s planning at least one more, because the end of the book implied a future event that I would very much like to see, both because it would be satisfying in a happy-ending sort of way, but also because I think it’s going to introduce whole new levels of strife into our character’s lives.  Yeah, something of a contradiction, but it has potential for, “Yah, now we get to light outselves on fire!”

Now, before I give it a complete fan-boy thumbs-up, I will say that there were a couple of points where I felt a bit of author-preach come through.  If you don’t know what I mean by that, then you haven’t read enough Heinlein.  However, in this case, I didn’t mind the preaching so much because 1) it was reasonably subtle, and 2) in this particular case, he was preaching to the choir.  Notably, the message was that it’s frustrating when people get overly attached to their opinions/conclusion.  It’s not that they believe what they believe.  It’s that they cannot even entertain the notion that they might possibly be wrong, and that even suggesting that possibility is taken as a personal attack.  Lord knows I’ve run into that scenario way too many times in politics, religion, and science.  So yeah, enough said.  Preaching to the choir.

So, if you’re already into the Alex Benedict series, check it out.  If not, go back and start at “A Talent for War”.