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Ancient Shores Hardcover – Apr 1996

3.8 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 395 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Canada / Fiction (April 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061052078
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061052071
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 17.1 x 24.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #512,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Something very strange has turned up in Tom Lasker's wheat field: a ten-thousand-year-old sailboat made of an unknown substance. And then there's the Roundhouse, apparently a doorway to another world, sitting squarely on Sioux reservation land. How did they get there, and what do they signify for the people embroiled in their discovery? This is sci-fi on a grand scale by the author of The Engines of God.

From Publishers Weekly

Early in the next century, outside a North Dakota town, farmer Tom Lasker digs up a boat on his land. Not only is the vessel crafted from an unknown element, but Lasker's farm is on land that has been dry for 10,000 years. A search for further artifacts unearths a building of the same material and age that turns out to be an interdimensional transportation device. The building sits on land owned by the Sioux, who want to use it to regain their old way of life on another world; meanwhile, the U.S. government, fearful of change, wants to destroy the building. Right up to the climax, McDevitt (Engines of God) tells his complex and suspenseful story with meticulous attention to detail, deft characterizations and graceful prose. That climax, though, is another matter, featuring out-of-the-blue heroic intervention in a conflict between the feds and the Indians by, among others, astronaut Walter Schirra, cosmologist Stephen Hawking and SF writers Ursula K. LeGuin, Carl Sagan and Gregory Benford. "If the government wants to kill anyone else, it'll have to start with us," announces Stephen Jay Gould. That absurdity aside, this is the big-vision, large-scale novel McDevitt's readers have been waiting for.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
'Ancient Shores' is only the second novel by Jack McDevitt that I have read. The first was 'Engines of God' which was a far superior work. 'Ancient Shores' is by no means a bad novel. It's just not science fiction. While there is plenty of fiction there is next to no science. Which is fine - the novel is more than entertaining as it is.
Two alien artifacts are discovered in North Dakota and the novel follows a large cast of characters as they deal with the repercussions of such a momentous find. This is hardly a new twist in the First Contact genre but McDevitt's story is full of a vibrancy often lacking in other attempts. The plot is mostly character driven - a good thing given the authors adept skills in drawing characters that are at once believable and almost archetypal.
The intriguing aspect of 'Ancient Shores' is McDevitt's pessimistic take on how mankind (or, more specifically, white North American mankind) would react to the discovery of alien machines of incalculable value. Let's hope he is wrong.
McDevitt has been described by Kevin J. Anderson as 'one of the best hard SF writers in the business.' I look forward to reading more.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
While I did enjoy "Ancient Shores," it was not my favorite of McDevitt's work by any means. The idea was quite sound: a boat made of materials that simply shouldn't exist is uncovered in a farmer's field. Further away, a building that grants a new type of technology - and a new way to travel - is uncovered. But from there, the book got a little scattershot and random.
We follow many world reactions to this newfound technology - from the collapse of the stock market at the apparent use of materials that would never wear out, to religious fanatics, to the UN demanding the artifact be made a world-owned item, free of any one nationality. McDevitt certainly extrapolates the effect of technological change in this novel, and it is quite a classic approach to Science Fiction.
However, the plot withers amid all of this extrapolation. The heroine and hero of the story begin to get less and less air-time, and ultimately fizzle out near the end. Likewise, a sub-plot of a potential "alien trapped on earth" peaks interest, then loses ground to yet another tangent in the story.
For a better tale of the effects of Science and Technology on the world stage of economics and politics, try the "Red Mars," "Green Mars," "Blue Mars," trilogy by Stanley Robinson. McDevitt had a good idea here, but it just didn't quite fly as high as it should have. It was interesting, and made me think of a few new ideas, but didn't drive me to the end like his tales usually do.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The discovery of what appears to be a sailboat, buried for no apparent reason in North Dakota. Upon further inspection, we find out that the sailboat is more than 10,000 years old though it still looks brand new. Additionally, it is made from materials that will virtually never wear out. Max Collingwood with the aid of April Cannon (a scientist) tries to determine from where the boat originated. This leads to the discovery of a portal to other worlds.
This book raises interesting questions regarding technology. Each time there is an advance, invariably there is an industry producing old technology that will be affected economically. In this book, ancient relics are unearthed that have technology that is light years ahead of what currently exists; creating panic in several industries including transportation, clothing and tires. Now the question. Do we use the technology for all its benefits or do we destroy all evidence of the technology to preserve our existing economy and industries? I would vote for the former rather than the latter because the latter is a selfish attitude with very short-term thinking.
Mankind must always make sacrifices in order to advance. The author brilliantly illustrates that notion here in a book that you will zip through rather fast.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Hmm. Is there anything nice I can say about this book. The central idea of the alien artefact and why it was found where it was found, is good. Some of the descriptions in and around the alien artefact is good as well. The general standard of writing is competent, though tending to be dull. That's really the best I can say about it.
Now for a rundown of the major things I think are wrong with it.
The main character is meant to be Tom Lasker. He is the only person mentioned in the cover blurb. Tom starts the story and finds the first alien artefact all in the first chapter. Then slowly fades into oblivion. The real protagonist, Max Collingwood, of the story isn't mentioned until chapter two. This is the first indicator of the structurlessness of the book.
Next, when the main character does finally show up he goes into interminably long and tedious details about WWII combat aircraft. By the end of the book I felt I'd be able to build and fly one of the bloody things. and to top off all this tedium is the fact that the planes have nothing what-so-ever to do with anything else in the book. The book is about the discovery of two alien artefacts the first of which is a yacht. There are no details given about normal yachts in the book. Is this because Jack only knows about WWII planes?
The second focus of this book is the sociological impact of the discovery of the alien artefacts and my next bone of contention. The book follows the movie trend of being designed for people with an attention span of no more than five minutes. It is full of little ten page snippets which bear no relation to each other or the main characters and events of the book. Each snippet starts with an annoying four page potted bio of the main character in the snippet.
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