Chindi by Jack McDevitt
ACE Hardcover: ISBN
0441009387July 2002
Review by Ernest Lilley
416 pages List price $14.00  Purchase this book at Amazon.com

Chindi is about the best mix of SF, adventure, and space opera I can remember crossing orbit with. 

For me, the best part is that I haven't read a lot of McDevitt's work, so I can look forward to looking backwards over his previous novels. I did read Deepsix, which Chindi is a sequel too, and liked it very much. Order doesn't hinder these books though, feel free to join the crew at any port of call.

Priscilla Hutchins, captain of the superluminal starship City of Memphis, is the sort of person Sigourney Weaver's Ripley could like, and even envy a bit. Not that she has a home, or a guy, or even a cat of her own, but she's got a career, the respect of her fellow pilots, and as for guys...well there are possibilities. 

On the other hand, it's getting a bit old, traipsing between the stars as an Academy of Science captain, and yes, it's lonely at the top. after pulling the academy's fat out of the fire and watching someone else get the credit one too many times, Hutch decides it's time for life on the beach and bids Bill, her ship AI, farewell. All ship AIs are named Bill, by the way, and I don't know if that's a tribute to our Mr. Gates or just a coincidence. 

The hero of her last adventure, the swashbuckling Preacher Brawley, independent spacer and sometime media darling, also happens to be someone Hutch has a personal interest in, and though it seems to have the possibility of reciprocation, they spend far too much time as ships passing in the starlight and cold of space, and not nearly enough time bathed in candlelight, or a warm embrace. 

Which would be the situation that the academy intrudes on when they ask the two to captain separate missions to track the opposite ends of what seems to be an alien transmission another ship intercepted while on an astrophysical survey mission. 

This type of occurrence is exceedingly rare, and to date humans have only found a few ruined alien civilians, like the one Pricilla explored in Deepsix.

To bait the hook, they'll give Hutch a new ship, and make it worth her while to put off that retirement just a little longer...and it's probably nothing anyway, so what could happen?

Need we say more?

Soon, Hutch, Bill the AI, and a host of amateur explorers, the cream of the Contact society, actually, are boldly going off to where no one has gone before, tracking down a possible alien transmission and hoping for a First Contact. 

It's SETI among the stars, and not only aren't the Contact society members trained for this sort of thing, they own the ship, that is until they return home and hand the keys over to the Academy. The Contact society may be full of kooks, but they're kooks with money, and space exploration doesn't bring in the cash it might, so the Academy needs their goodwill.

So you've got a bright, attractive, rational, female, starship captain on the wrong end of a multi light year long transmission from a guy she digs, and cooped up with a bunch of amateur first contact specialists that don't have to follow her orders because they own the ship.

But what's the worst that could happen? 

It does.

This is one deep space mission you don't want to miss, though before its over pretty much everyone on it will certainly wish wish they had. 

Id take off my eSuit helmet to author Jack McDevitt, but he's got me more than half believing id be breathing vacuum if I did. McDevitt has a real  knack for combining edge of your seat tension with well thought out SF and characters that are both compelling and believable. 

Great stuff. Keep it coming.