It’s been a while since I’ve done a book review on the site, so I’m taking a look at Jack McDevitt’s Deepsix, the sequel to Engines of God.
Author: Jack McDevitt
Original Publication Date: September 2000
ISBN: 978-0061020063 or 006102060
Available from Amazon.com.
A team of researchers have come to the planet Maleiva III. Maleiva III, which has been nicknamed “Deepsix”, is a habitable world where the last expedition to the planet ended in tragedy when the landing team discovered that the planet rated at least 5 Australias on the “Everything Is Trying To Kill You” scale. Their goal, to discover as much as possible about the planet before the planet is destroyed by a rogue gas giant. When ruins are found on the planet, a team of Xenoarcheologists to investigate the ruins and find out who used to live on this world.
The team, accompanied by lander pilot Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins, lands near the ruins. Around the same time as the team’s arrival, misogynist, anti-intellectual, and general asshat journalist Gregory MacAllister, who is on a cruise that’s come to watch two worlds collide, has also landed on the planet with a woman he’s trying to impress, bringing the liner’s only lander with them. When an earthquake brought on by the approach of the planet destroys both landers, the survivors must travel cross-country to the first expedition’s lander, before the approaching planet kills them.
Like a lot of humans-vs-environment stories, Deepsix is something of a travelogue. This makes it like a superior version of the last SF Big Dumb Object book I reviewed – Rendezvous With Rama. The difference is, unlike Rama, there is more peril, and greater stakes then there are with Rama, particularly with the timetable of the incoming planet, and the constant peril of the murderous wildlife.
McDevitt is too successful at making MacAllister into a vile, unlikeable piece of crap, and he falls short of giving him a character arc where he becomes a significantly less unlikeable piece of garbage, nor an arc where he manages to redeem himself through his death. Considering how much of a life changing experience this experience would be, this is rather surprising.
Additionally, several character stake views on the rescue that could be described, at best, as sociopathic, and at worst as psychotic, and nobody calls them on their bullshit.
Originality: This is a Rama-style travelogue with much higher stakes and much, much better characterization. 4/6
Characterization: The characters are generally well fleshed out, minus the problems I have with MacAllister’s lack of an arc. 4/6
Story: The travellogue is well done, as well as the efforts of the ships in orbit to put together a backup plan. 5/6
Emotional Response: You, like the characters, want to explore the planet further, while worrying about the characters who aren’t MacAllister. however, boy, did I want MacAllister to either clean up his act or die, so I wouldn’t have to put up with him or his the excerpts of his misogynist, anti-intellectual writings that start off every chapter. 4/6
Overall: MacAllister made this book a chore to get through. I could have read this book in a couple weeks. However, having to deal with him made me dread picking the book up again, leading the process of reading the book to take months. 3/6
In total, Deepsix gets 32 out of 42.