Review: The Long Sunset by Jack McDevitt

The Long Sunset by Jack McDevitt
cover by John Harris

Award winning author Jack McDevitt reaches deep into his literary bag of tricks once again to entice readers with a thought provoking journey into the future. The Long Sunset is the eighth installment of The Academy series featuring interstellar pilot Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins, a strong character who has evolved with each chapter into the kind of hero modern science fiction yearns to claim.

In the year 2256. it seems the advancement of man has finally reached its apex and traveling amongst the stars in a transdimensional superluminal (FTL) starship has lost its romantic appeal. As new discoveries of other life become far and few between, the political realm begins to frown on extravagant research outside our own solar system. Even after a startling message arrives in the form of music from an unexplored corner of the universe, a large portion of humanity struggles with a growing paranoia surrounding the strange alien beings on the other end.

Not even the romantic image of an alien waterfall or the inviting sounds of what has been labeled the Calliope transmission can sway public opinion. The discoveries of alien intelligence and search for evidence of ancient civilizations on distant worlds has lost its sex appeal. Contemplating the stagnation of her own waning career and probable dreary future thanks in part to life extending medical enhancements, Hutch jumps at the chance to pilot an expedition one more time. Setting out aboard the ship Berry Eiferman just before the mission can be stopped, readers are swept away in a different kind of discovery. The finding has less to do with what happens once the source of the signal is realized and more to do with what to do with that information.

The Long Sunset is not a fast-paced book if you consider the action, but it makes up for it in compelling ideas that forces the reader to pause, to weigh the options presented by the author and consider the actions taken by the characters. An ideal candidate for book club type discussions, this is the kind of literature that science fiction fans love to debate.

One of the common elements McDevitt often uses in his novels is the cleverly timed news reports that help set the social importance of the scenes within the context of the story in comparison to other events in this future world. The headline grabbing news desk synopses are often witty, but always telling of the social climate that sets the background for the action. One noticeable trait is the varied location of the news surrounding the mission in comparison to the other news of the day. As excitement of the journey diminishes, the news noticeably slides further and further back in importance.

Another distinct feature in McDevitt’s novels is the attention to realism when it comes to characters. One would be hard pressed to find a role presented over the top in these books. This not only helps in character plausibility, the relatability and casual perception readers feel when reading about authentic people will also encourage emotional engagement and overall investment in the story.

Soon to be released by Simon & Schuster imprint Saga Press in April 2018, The Long Sunset by Jack McDevitt continues the author’s long-standing prominence in influential works of science fiction.

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