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SpaceBrew Review: Ancient Shores

Ancient Shores
by Jack McDevitt

as posted on Goodreads

This book was like a “wave” at a football game. You know the one where people stand up in turn waving their arms around and it gives the effect that the stadium is an ocean? Yeah. That. Let me explain the analogy.

Well you probably got that it was up and down with the suspense, drama and general kickassery of the story. It was indeed. The gait would pick up and get me real interested, then it would slow back down and even bog down with unnecessary character introductions and irrelevant loose ends. But it also reminded me of a stadium wave because of how imperfect the wave part of the wave actually was.

You know when you see those stadium waves they’re sort of like poor excuses for real waves? Because some people are short and don’t show up well. Some don’t wave their arms properly or high enough, some don’t participate at all. Some women don’t shake their boobs when they stand up and wave. And some people start waving too early. All in all, it’s just a disorganized chaotic poorly choreographed function that just really isn’t as great as it could be. That’s how this book read to me.

I mean it wasn’t bad. Who doesn’t want to find a ten-thousand-year-old ship in his yard? And a teleportation device that takes you to another world… upon which you can stand on a shore and look at the Horsehead Nebula. Seriously dude? Sign me the eff up for that. But no one seemed all that impressed. The nebula was described as looking like a coming storm, lightning and all. That sounds like something that would take my breath away, leave me with tears in my eyes, and probably drop me to my knees. Not to mention the chills. No one got emotional about that. This is something we’ll never see with our naked eyes in our lifetimes. Or ever in the course of human history, I’ll wager. But these people thought no more of it than a nice sunset. Ooh, ahh.

It was like he was in too much of a hurry to get back to the political battle going on over the reservation land. Yeah I think a few too many pages were spent telling me about that. And seriously… Mr. McDevitt wanted to tell all these threads to the story like how the Roundhouse affected certain people. So he’d introduce them one after the other, giving me their names, where they were from and all the good stuff they’d ever done – just to tell me they were going to visit the Roundhouse. And felt the presence of God when they got there. Yeah. Like this, for instance:

Teresa Blevins, from Norfolk, Lousiana was a kindergarten teacher. One of the best Suckix County School District had ever seen. She had never missed a day at work – even when her husband had been abducted by illegal aliens and shot out of a cannon over the Atlantic during the last River War. She loved her job, and loved the children. She believed that not only could she teach them life lessons, but she could learn from them as well. Teresa had been watching the news of the Roundhouse for the last two weeks now, and was beginning to think she should go visit. So she loaded up and…

Then proceeds to tell me how she drove up there to see it, and got turned away at the gate. And then she’s never mentioned again. Now tell me, Mr. McDevitt, why exactly did I need to know anything about her at all? Nothing ever happened with her! Seriously! He does that like thirty times. Or tells about how some dude is a great postman, has never put a letter in the wrong mailbox, never kicked a dog, et cetera, but decided this was a bad thing, so loads his truck full of C-4 and drives to the Roundhouse to blow it up. But some kid’s walkie-talkie sets it off early and he dies in the wrong town. Who cares what his name was? All of these low-level characters could have been described by one paragraph, with no names, selling the fact that some people were drawn religiously to the device. Some came from many miles (and indeed, many states) away to see it, only to be turned away. One man from Sucksit County Michigan even tried to blow it up, but made it only halfway before accidentally killing himself. Boom. Done.

So yeah, he bogged down the story with way too many of these extraneous plotlines that were irrelevant to the story line and never went anywhere. And furthermore they served to confuse the reader because every one of them was given a full name and a brief biography. So when the regular characters would re-enter the scene, I’d find myself saying, “Wait, who was she? Was this the kindergarten teacher?” It was ridiculous.

All for a story that was mediocre at best. The storyline could have been ridiculously awesome. Set me free with a hundred thousand words and a teleportation device and I’ll haunt your dreams and invade your emotions. You hear that Mr. McDevitt? I just said I could have written it better! Well, isn’t that always the case? We think we could do better. Well, this was fun. But it wasn’t great. We never really got any answers about who or when or why – or even where all the terminixes went. And in typical Jack McDevitt style, we don’t actually meet any real alien life. Well, there is the thought that maybe there was an invisible one, which could have been a lot spookier. But once again, it never went anywhere.

Meh. Overall I give it three stars. Amy predicted this is what I would give it. And having forgotten that, I logged on with my tablet in bed, after I finished it and marked the three stars, saying I’d write a full review tomorrow. Then I scrolled down and saw her comment. Well played, Amy. You sure called it right. Not a bad book, but not something I ever need to read again.