I think McDevitt’s lost this series. I think he lost it when he moved the great character, Hutch, from space ship pilot to administrator. The books since then have been bland. She’s been bland. It’s been a huge disappointment. I miss her fire, her leadership, everything about her missions.
In the opening of Odyssey, an Academy ship jumps out of hyperspace with a blown engine thinking they’re a zillion miles from earth. Ships are sent to search for them. Turns out they’re in our own solar system. Been there the whole time. Terrible embarrassment for the Academy and Hutch. People are calling for defunding the Academy, maybe even shutting it down, and it’s fighting for its very existence. Turns out the ship in question is an old, obsolete model that Hutch feels needs to be retired from the fleet, against her boss’s wishes. She does so. And faces criticisms. The weird thing about this opening sequence, though, is we see no more of this ship, this crew, this line of ships, nothing. McDevitt drops it on us and then forgets about it.
Meanwhile Hutch meets a senator from Georgia who wants to yank the Academy’s funding — and his 15 year old daughter, who wants to become an Academy pilot when she grows up. She talks Hutch into letting her go out on a mission and she gets to. Additionally, we encounter cranky editor Gregory MacAllister again and the beautiful spaceship pilot Valentina Kouros on a TV show where they debate the space program. MacAllister, who respects and likes Hutch, still wants to shut everything down while Valentina wants to keep going to the stars. They like and dislike each other after that experience. MacAllister also encounters a North Carolina man who grew up in a religious fundie school that taught hellfire and damnation and was traumatized. He saw his old priest in a store and attacked him in front of witnesses and was arrested and charged with assault. Mac takes his side and hires a good lawyer to represent him. The book then spends an inordinate amount of time on this trial through the remainder of its pages and I can’t figure out why. It adds nothing to the plot. It has nothing to do with anything. It’s like McDevitt threw it in there just to show his disdain for religion. I have disdain for most religion myself, but it’s a stupid gimmick from an author who should know better.
There have been sightings of “moonriders,” UFOs, around the galaxy and people are curious about them. Hutch commissions a mission to go put out monitors where they’ve been spotted recently and Val will be the pilot. Going along with her will be Amy, the senator’s daughter, Eric, the Academy PR chief, and Mac, of all people. It’ll be a month long trip.
I know this might all sound like a lot, but it’s not. Most of the first 200 pages are taken up with politics and funding and fighting and UFO sightings and it’s honestly pretty damn boring. I was going to give it a two star review at that point, but thank God, McDevitt upped the ante after the first couple hundred pages and the book improved.
Mac and Val grow close on the trip. Could it be a romance? And if so, could it be remotely believable? Amy is precocious to the point of being annoying as hell. Eric sulks about his lack of importance. They set out their monitors. And they see moonriders. They see one land on a small asteroid, change its bearings, and send it toward a planet. Everyone on earth freaks out. Hutch has a plan, though, to defeat them, and they do. So far, so good. Meanwhile, Orion Tours, which relies on Academy bases for its tours throughout the system, is building a large hotel near a planet. Two moonriders show up there and all of a sudden, a planet sized asteroid is sent lunging toward the hotel. People freak out. However, there’s enough time to evacuate the hotel, which is under construction, so all is not lost. But now, after talking about shutting the space program down, people and politicians on earth are talking about creating a navy with actual weapons (there are no weapons on earth in the future).
Valentina continues to take them around to place monitors while Hutch faces a lot of heat at home. They go to a floating museum, where Val leaves the other three to go help rescue the people at the hotel. One night Amy is awake and hears footsteps. She goes to the ship’s bridge and sees a large version of Hutch, who tells her he wants her to get him the Origins Blueprints and to evacuate Origins. It’s a moonrider. She freaks out. She tells the two men and they don’t believe her. They think she dreamed it. She’s furious. She tells Val when she gets back and she’s more receptive, but doesn’t know what to think. They get in touch with Hutch, who actually nearly takes Amy seriously, but doesn’t know whether to believe her or not. Still, she takes action. Origins is a huge outer space project being built that is a super collider that will build black holes that can show us how the Big Bang created the universe. Hutch sends everyone she can find with ships to Origins to assist with evacuation. Val and Eric head over there themselves. The others had been dropped off at home a day earlier when their original trip was over.
Meanwhile, there’s a big plot twist. Big. Unexpected. And Hutch is furious. Val and Eric make it to Origins, where they’ve been warned they might be in danger. They don’t really believe it, especially after being told the circumstances. However, two moonriders appear in the sky several kilometers away and sit there waiting. Unfortunately, most of the ships coming to save the employees won’t make it in time, so it’s possible the moonriders blow the hell out of Origins. You’ll have to read it yourself to find out. And Valentina does something totally unexpected at the very end. Another big plot twist.
The book ends with the religious man who assaulted the priest being found guilty. Why was this even in the book again? What did it have to do with anything? People all around are possibly facing criminal charges. Hutch resigns from the Academy. And that’s it. Book Five was the weakest of the five Academy books I’ve read. Nothing huge takes place, like in the other books. Hutch is a disappointment. Mac, as the main protagonist, is okay, but he’s not her. I hope the last and sixth book will be much better, but I doubt it will. The only way it could be would be if Hutch would get out in the stars again piloting a ship. I’m not sure that’s going to happen. Guess I’ll have to read it to find out. This book, although part of a series, can probably be read as a stand alone book. The first half is worth two stars, the second is worth four. Overall, three stars. Cautiously recommended.