Omega by Jack McDevitt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm of two minds on this book.
It's pretty damn awesome when it comes to characters and the gentle push toward an alternate Star Trek kind of universe with almost no posturing and no overpowered gunships. The dearth of alien species is a nice touch, making it more of an archeological mystery. These future humans happen to be peaceful, too, for once, and most of their principled actions reflect those of the Federation but there's also a more realistic bending of the rules, too.
Enter this book. The Omega clouds are absolutely immense intergalactic clouds of nanotech that spike huge energies and are apparently programmed to seek out any intelligent life. Cool, right? It might explain the lack of aliens. The next world in the path of one of these happens to be pre-industrial LIVING aliens! Oops. And the cloud will reach them during this novel. Oops.
Enter conflict, a race to save an alien species, provide tons of commentary on general human stupidity and opportunism. Hey, look, let's grab as much as we can of their civ to sell because they're all about to become instant relics!
It sounds like a really good episode of Trek, right? Right. Well, no complaints there. I never expected total and complete originality out of these. Just a careful and methodical worldbuilding, care and devotion to characters, and a hopeful outlook despite everything. Including a very regular death toll on every single outing. (Wait... redshirts?)
So what's my problem? We get a fully developed alien culture here including PoVs from these guys, right down to a fully religious world-build and science-debates and a huge survival thing.
Well... I'll be honest. As long as we stuck with the humans I was pretty invested. The aliens? ... not so much. The whole self-aware cartoon character nod and the way we humans fell for how cute these buck-toothed aliens... well... I guess I can see it but I didn't really appreciate it.
It might just be me. The commentary was fairly clever but the way it was pulled off? I don't think McDevitt went far enough. Or the amount he did go was a bit too far for the pacing and investment I was supposed to have in saving these guys.
Too much of the novel was slightly meh. Not a lot of meh. Just slightly. The rest was engaging and interesting. :) Hence the four stars. But this is pretty much on the same level as the second Academy novel for me.
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