Ancient Shores Hardcover – Apr 1996
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
Near the sixty percent point, we get to the following: The male protagnoist, who has of course already fallen in love with the female scientist protagnoist, discovers she has disappeared. He figures out it was a fantastically advanced piece of alien technology they'd discovered that had malfunctioned. She ended up on a planet thousands of light years from Earth. Using some electrical cable, connectors and a gasoline-powered generator he buys at a hardware store, he repairs it and saves her.
If you buy that such advanced technology would use such mundane hardware you'll probably like the climax involving nothing more original than the government trying to take Sioux land. It was all too much for me. I think so much more could have been done with the original scenario. It was a missed opportunity.
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.
McDevitt is the logical successor to some of the greats like Heinlein and Asimov. His science fiction isn't always "hard sci-fi" - he often prefers to rely on strong ideas and characters to drive his stories. He seems to have fun with his novels, not allowing himself to take his characters or ideas too seriously.
While Ancient Shores revolves around the discovery of an ancient craft of unknown origin in a field in North Dakota, it's not the scientific discovery that McDevitt focuses on but the effect that such a discovery has on the people involved a well as the larger societal, technological, and economic implications. In addition, McDevitt examines the plight of the Native Americans in the region and portrays their strong belief in the sanctity of their land.
Ancient Shore ends with a bang...some might say a cheesy bang but its an emotionally satisfying conclusion to a well-done novel.
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
I wanted to like this book. Like other reviewers pointed out, the first few chapters were compelling enough to keep me reading. Read morePublished on April 29 2004
This is one of those novels that seemed to have been written in a single burst of creative energy. It is much simpler than his later novels (particularly the "Hutch"... Read morePublished on Jan. 11 2004 by Avid Reader
This book is a true page-turner. I simply couldn't put it down.
It is a "true McDevitt" book. Very entertaining, and a very original storyline. Read more
This is a true page turner in Jack McDevitt's typical style. Just when you thing "two more pages and I will stop reading at the end of the chapter... Read morePublished on Jan. 2 2003 by Markus Egger
Too much, yet not enough. That is the way I would describe my feelings about this book. On the one hand, McDevitt once again has an interesting idea. Read morePublished on Aug. 30 2002 by Stefan Thys
The story is about finding ancient technology in the form of a portal to other worlds. The author makes no effort to explore these other worlds and leaves the reader wondering what... Read morePublished on July 25 2002 by Roxanne Versace
I was recommended this book by a friend and enjoyed it enough that I want to read some other works by Jack. Fantastic plot and believable characters. Read morePublished on Feb. 8 2002 by Erik1988