This is something of a prequel to The Engines of God where we see Priscilla Hutchins’ early days after getting pilots license for taking the big FTL interstellars out into the void. A lot of her early days are the frustration of not being able to get a steady job as a pilot, especially after she blew off one such job over an ethical issue. She still gets a little work here and there, but mostly she’s parked at a desk.
But it’s also the story of one of her instructors, Jake Loomis, and his flirtation with retirement. After a frightening brush with death, he decided he was done, but the business of interstellar flight was not quite done with him. So he kept getting pulled back in, “just for one more flight”. Ultimately the decision on whether or not he was going to retire was made by someone else.
While it was not as satisfying as a sequel to Cauldron would have been, it was fun to see Hutch back when she was still merely Priscilla, and to see how she earned her nickname in the first place. If you’re a fan of the Academy series, definitely check it out.
I haven’t read any Jack McDevitt, which is even sadder considering I have several of his novels in my basement library that were purchased because of John Harris covers.
I almost bought this when it came out because I thought going with the prequel first might be the place to start this series, but I’m curious if it is good in and of itself or if it is better if you’ve already developed a liking for the character.
I would start with The Engines of God. While McDevitt’s writing has improved over the intervening years, The Engines of God is a big tale of big ideas. Starhawk was a much quieter character study.
As for his other series (the Alec Benedict series), it’s a toss-up between the first book, A Talent for War, and the second one, Polaris. Talent introduces us to that world, but Polaris switches to a different viewpoint character and the series is much improved for it.
Or you might try one of his standalone novels. Of those, my favorites were The Hercules Text (if you can find it), Moonfall, and Time Travelers Never Die.
Thanks, I’ll check out Time Traveler’s Never Die at some point. And I have Polaris but not the first book so I’m set up in that department. I like the time travel trope, despite it being overused…well, according to some. I guess it isn’t for me as I don’t get tired of it.
My introduction to Jack McDevitt was through his novel “Eternity Road” which I found to be quite enjoyable, and I’m not really into post-apocalyptic books in general (with the other exception of David Brin’s “The Postman” which was sooooo much better than that lousy movie}.