My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’ve said many times (often, in reviews on Goodreads.com) that a day with a bad McDevitt novel beats a day with no McDevitt novel whatsoever. The last two or three Alex Benedict novels haven’t been bad, exactly, but they have struck me as increasingly repetitive. COMING HOME follows closely on the heels of FIREBIRD, and the two share plot elements, particularly about the disappearing ships plot thread. The standard McDevitt plot structure is in play here (see my Firebird review for a rehash of it all), so there are no great surprises.
COMING HOME is probably the first novel where I’ve actually sort of egged on the author to get past the expected twists and turns of the standard plot structure and get to the meat of it all– when a mysterious white skimmer shows up to shoot up Chase and Alex at one point in the story, I found myself saying “Yeah, right, we all know they are going to get past that.. so move on why don’t you?”
I won’t reveal much about the plot, except to say that the big McGuffin this time is a mysterious long-lost cache of Earth artifacts, from the early days of space exploration. This gives McDevitt a chance to write a novel set on Earth in the far future, after severe climatic change and political/social evolution has had its effect. As the artifacts being sought are largely from the 20th and 21st century, we get to see the past from the perspective of someone searching for knowledge we take for granted as readers. It’s an interesting literary device– for instance, we learn that in the far future, only a relative handful of Shakespeare’s plays survive intact. Coming Home is also the most self-referential of the novels so far, as it features Chase Kolpath discovering the life of Priscilla Hutchens, the star of the other big McDevitt series. Hutch lived millenia before Kolpath, it turns out. A nice Easter Egg. For the first time, as well, Chase mentions writing her memoirs in the real time narrative so we experience Alex’s reaction to them.
Fair Warning, SPOILER ahead. The other great reveal, the one we have been building up to since Firebird, was the rescue of Alex’s Uncle Gabe from the hyperspatial rift his passenger liner fell into 20 years previous. When it actually happens, it’s kind of a non-event. For such an influential character throughout the series, Gabe kind of comes off as a non-starter. He’ll need fleshing out in later books.
SUMMARY: Coming Home wasn’t my favorite of the Alex Benedict series of novels. It was solid and workmanlike, but the repetitiveness is starting to become increasingly obvious with every novel and that is starting to affect my enjoyment of them.