Summary: The Academy is running out of money. In the meantime, MacAllister, a senator’s daughter, a pilot, and a PR guy from the Academy are on a tour looking for UFOs because reasons. Eventually the find some (ish), the daughter gets contacted by aliens (maybe, no one believes her at first and it’s never really explained), and a bunch of people die.
As with a few other books in this series, it takes half the book to get to what feels like the main plot point, with a massive acceleration in the last 15% and a final climax in the last 5%. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just felt a lot more obvious in this book.
Especially when half the book it feels like is spent talking about how the Academy isn’t getting funded any more (mirroring NASA and other modern day space programs) and an oddly large amount of the second half on a trial about a guy who went to a religious school, grew up, and punched a priest. I still haven’t figured out where that came from.
That being said, I still enjoy the universe that McDevitt has built here. The universe actually feels big and the technology feels right. I want to believe that life will be more common than he paints it, but if it’s not, this feels like how the universe might just be.
Once again, I hope the next book has a few more answers (we still don’t know what the Omegas are and now there’s a real current alien race?), but given the previous four and that #6 is the last book currently out… We’ll see.
ETA: The book opens with a ship ‘lost’ in space because it didn’t go nearly as far as it should have, despite the physicists saying that shouldn’t be possible. Yet that particular weirdness is dropped and never mentioned again in favor of the ‘retire the old ships because funding plot’. Weird.