I have been a fan of Jack McDevitt’s books for a long time (and the eye-catching covers of his books by artist John Harris). I think the main reason would be that while Mr. McDevitt’s books would largely be described as Science Fiction, they are first and foremost stories. In other words, though the novels include superluminal starships, A.I.’s, and a host of other futuristic concepts, those elements that would define it as Science Fiction serve only as the setting for the story, not the story itself.
Echo is a great example. The novel is essentially a treasure hunt mystery with an interplanetary scale, sparked by a stone tablet carved with strange, unidentifiable symbols once owned by an explorer who spent his life unsuccessfully searching for non-human intelligent life among the stars. What starts out as a curiosity soon becomes deadly serious. In the tradition of Doyle, antiquities dealer Alex Benedict is the Sherlock Holmes of the story with his friend / assistant / interstellar pilot Chase Kolpath serving in the role of Watson as the narrator for the events of the book.
I really enjoyed Echo. The story itself is fairly typical of other Alex Benedict novels but it still contains that undefinable element that makes the reader eager to turn the pages that McDevitt always seems to have in spades. Lately, some of the books on my shelf have been uninteresting, stale, or personally disagreeable and have left me unmotivated to read (those who know me well would find that hard to believe but it is nonetheless true). Echo is just the sort of story I needed to re-motivate me to dive into the next novel or text in the pile.