Ancient Shores
Jack McDevitt
Shortlisted for 1997 Nebula Award

Cover Hmm. Is there anything nice I can say about this book. The central idea of the alien artefact and why it was found where it was found, is good. Some of the descriptions in and around the alien artefact is good as well. The general standard of writing is competent, though tending to be dull. That's really the best I can say about it.

Now for a rundown of the major things I think are wrong with it.

The main character is meant to be Tom Lasker. He is the only person mentioned in the cover blurb. Tom starts the story and finds the first alien artefact all in the first chapter. Then slowly fades into oblivion. The real protagonist, Max Collingwood, of the story isn't mentioned until chapter two. This is the first indicator of the structurlessness of the book.

Next, when the main character does finally show up he goes into interminably long and tedious details about WWII combat aircraft. By the end of the book I felt I'd be able to build and fly one of the bloody things. and to top off all this tedium is the fact that the planes have nothing what-so-ever to do with anything else in the book. The book is about the discovery of two alien artefacts the first of which is a yacht. There are no details given about normal yachts in the book. Is this because Jack only knows about WWII planes?

The second focus of this book is the sociological impact of the discovery of the alien artefacts and my next bone of contention. The book follows the movie trend of being designed for people with an attention span of no more than five minutes. It is full of little ten page snippets which bear no relation to each other or the main characters and events of the book. Each snippet starts with an annoying four page potted bio of the main character in the snippet. Once this irrelevant side-track reaches it's end the character and events are never seen or heard of again.

The point of these snippets is to show the impact of the alien artefacts on different sections of society. Half of Jack's snippets don't seem to be a logical extrapolation of the events and their impact. They are unconvincing as the result of the discovery of the alien artefacts.

The final annoying thing is the gratuitous use of real people, (Sagan, Benford, Le Guin Hawking, etc.) as characters in what is otherwise complete fabrication. It smacks of nepotism. How many famous friends can I persuade to be in my novel to lift it out of the gutter. This is of course assuming Jack actually asked these people if they would mind appearing in his novel.

Because of all this I couldn't give it more than two stars and was sorely tempted to give it one.