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Echo
Jack McDevitt
Ace, Nov 2 2010, $24.95, ISBN: 9780441019243
reviewed by Harriet Klausner

In eight millennium of space travel, humans met one sentient alien race by 1403 Rimway Calendar. Over the centuries since Melony Brown accidentally met the Ashiyyur when she was measuring solar temperatures her discovery led to many people like Somerset "Sunset" Tuttle, the poster boy for scientific quests, seeking other races, but none have been found since.

However, in 1431, Rainbow Enterprises’ Alex Benedict learns of a tablet with mysterious rune like writings on it, possessed by the late Tuttle’s lover Rachel Bannister. Alex and his assistant Chase Kolpath visit Rachel to ask if they can study the tablet and translate the writings. To their shock, Rachel says no. Both Alex and Chase wonder why she would refuse to reveal what appears to be a genuine artifact from an alien species that survived time and space; this relic would change Tuttle’s place in history from an object of mockery to a successful scientist. The pair also wonders if Tuttle found the historical object as most likely happened; why did he, also like Rachel, choose silence rather than affirm his life’s work.

The fifth Alex Benedict futuristic science fiction novel (see The Devil’s Eye and Seeker) is a superb action thriller. The message of how we twenty first century sophisticates interpret ancient scraps to fit our perceptions is made early on with a quote from Frances Bacon: "Antiquities are … remnants of history which have casually escaped the shipwreck of time". Fast-paced and filled with action, Jack McDevitt fans will appreciate his latest Benedict tale as once again the author combines outer space futuristic action adventures with a thought provoking look at how we "customize" historical objects to Echo our belief system.

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