Science Fiction Though the Decades

Sunday, December 25, 2011

2000: Deepsix (McDevitt, Jack)

Modern pulp akin to James Rollins (2/5)
From June 13, 2011

I'm only just begun to realize this, but Jack McDevitt is the James Rollins of science fiction. Let me explain: 1) James Rollins writes archeology adventure... Jack McDevitt writes archeology adventure in space. 2) James Rollins has textbook characters... Jack McDevitt has text book characters in space.

The first James Rollins book was Subterranean and I actually really liked it for its adventure. In parallel, my first Jack McDevitt book was Engines of God and I, too, really liked it for its adventure and newness. My second Rollins and McDevitt books were, respectively, Excavation and Polaris, which I both found to be just OK because even after ONE novel of each author, the writing styles were generic. I got around to my third Rollins novel, Deep Fathom, and chucked it into the garbage after completing it. Crap. While this McDevitt novel isn't quite that bad, it still feels like an aim at quantity rather than quality.

My dad likes Jack McDevitt. That should have been my first warning... he also likes James Rollins. Nevertheless, I still have rosy-tinted spectacles donned when I look at my second-hand McDevitt collection and I remember how great it was to delve into Engines of God. Where has the glamor gone?

McDevitt's stabs at characterization were pathetic; just terrible. He feels the need to mention everyone's height, how this person is one head shorter or this person well above six foot - I don't see how the reader's knowledge of the heights of the cast will reflect in any sort of empathy, especially as it plays NO part in the unfolding of the plot. Secondly, McDevitt gives passing characters names and jobs and a brief life history even though these characters have very little impact on the bigger scene. Lastly, it seems like every character has their current job because `the money is pretty good' (this is written more than three times).

As for his writing style, I can't say he earns any points there either. McDevitt's main science fiction competitors are from Britain, who lush prose and detail makes me agog with borderline reverence. Deepsix has paragraphs no longer than eight lines, usually comprised of two or three lines and splattered with liberal amounts of dialogue. There isn't a poetic narrator or a reflective first-person perspective. It much like an American best-seller- lots of dialogue to hold the waning attention of the reader. Another liberty McDevitt took advantage of was using the phrase, `thank God' to a annoyingly gregarious degree- more than a score of times, for sure.

Further, the very liberal-minded character Gregory MacAllister feels like McDevitt preaching his personal philosophies. It's all too glossy and well-refined to simply be a mere addition to the cast and to the introductions to all thirty-six chapters (a fictional quote titling each chapter). He's not a terrible character but I think McDevitt intentionally write himself into MacAllister's shoes.

And yet, I will read the next sequence, Chindi, with much reservation.  

1 comment:

  1. The main contrast between McDevitt and Rollins is that Rollins' works all have downer endings.