Unfortunately it is really really boring. The characters and the locales are forgettable, and the thrust of the story is dull. I gave up after about a hundred pages.
Humanity has achieved starflight. Expeditions have found mysterious monuments from several civilizations. Most intriguing is the evidence of extinction events which have occured repeatedly and independently on various worlds. We follow pilot Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins and various archeologists and linguists as they try to solve the puzzle.
The plot is certainly engaging, and well laid out. The characters are well described, although some felt two dimensional. McDevitt takes a good stab at sense of wonder, but falls a bit short. I enjoyed Engines of God, and wanted to find out what happened, but I kept feeling as if it was lacking a certain something. The pivotal events were toned down to the level of the individual protagonists. This seemed to be intentional, but it detracted from the sense of awe that should have been engendered. The ambiance is also flawed. The book is set in a 2202 that seems awfully similar to 2002. Starships are flying, but everything else is either pretty much unchanged, science fiction boilerplate, or just plain undescribed. And could someone please explain why there just happen to be a couple of bottles of Chablis on board the shuttle at the end? Deux ex Pantry…
As a whole, this book disappoints because it is so frustratingly close to greatness. I shall perhaps look for McDevitt again, but not with any frantic sense of urgency.