Jack McDevitt is one of my favorite science fiction authors. I discovered him by searching for award-winning books on our NoveList database, and found his novel The Seeker won the prestigious Nebula award for 2006. I thoroughly enjoyed that book and the other books in the series, which features antiquities dealer Alex Benedict and his assistant Chase Kolpath.
Another series of McDevitt’s that I have enjoyed reading features Priscilla Hutchins, a space pilot. In Omega, the fourth novel in the series, she gives up her wings to become the Director of Operations for the International Space Agency.
Thankfully she doesn’t have long to dwell on the downside of running a large bureaucracy and all of the red tape that goes with it. A mysterious dark cloud deep in outer space is destroying any artificial structures and any life that gets in its way. Upon investigation, it is found that this destructive cloud, called the omega, is only three months away from overtaking a world with a pre-industrial alien civilization. The creatures are nicknamed the “Goompahs” for their resemblance to the characters in a popular children’s show, and when news of their fate is beamed back to Earth, they garner a great deal of support and sympathy from the public.
So Priscilla Hutchins puts together a two-pronged rescue mission. One team is dispatched to try and divert the omega away from the Goompah homeworld. Another team, anthropologist Digger Dunn and pilot Kellie Collier, is sent to the Goompah planet in an attempt to warn the Goompahs before it is too late. They are limited by the ISA’s strict non-interference policy with alien cultures. Thus, using lightbenders, devices that make them virtually invisible, they observe (mostly unnoticed) Goompahs in their theaters, stores, and parks, picking up their language and their culture. A major breakthrough occurs when they find a Goompah library and are able to copy scrolls that enable them to piece together the written language of the Goompahs.
Digger and Collie make an astonishing discovery that makes their mission seem almost impossible. But when attempts to divert the omega fail, and it comes bearing down on the Goompah planet, they have no choice but to try and make direct contact with these creatures in a last-ditch effort to save them. A very exciting and fun novel from Jack McDevitt. Highly recommended.
Check the WRL catalog for Omega.