Review of Starhawk – Prequel to The Academy series by Jack McDevitt

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While I was still struggling with a horrendous cold, my day suddenly became a whole lot brighter when I unearthed this gem from my teetering TBR pile…

starhawkPriscilla ‘Hutch’ Hutchins has completed a nerve-bending qualification flight for an interstellar pilot’s license. But her career may be over before it has begun. Faster-than-light travel has only recently become a reality and the World Space Authority is all too aware of how dangerous it can be. To make matters worse, efforts to prepare two planets for colonisation are killing off native species, outraging people on Earth. So pilots are not exactly in demand.

If you are a fan of space opera, and you haven’t yet tracked down this entertaining series, featuring Priscilla aka Hutch, I recommend it. In fact, I’m scratching my head as to why I haven’t written any reviews on the likes of Chindi or Deepsix, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. This book is a prequel, charting Hutch’s adventures while qualifying and around the time just after.

McDevitt manages to convey the political and social pressure on his near future world without pages of exposition, which has a direct impact on Hutch’s aspirations. I confidently expected to find after her initial difficulties, that Hutch would get started and all would roll out smoothly for her. But it doesn’t pan out that way, which I really enjoyed. I also liked the fact the dramatic incident at the beginning of the book leaves a major character traumatised throughout most of story. It felt pleasingly realistic that The World Space Authority had to scratch around for backup ships and personnel once something went wrong – and the administrator at the helm waited to follow protocol, rather than immediately launch a rescue.

The eco-terrorism also felt all too real, right along with the shocking consequences. Unlike Deepsix or Chindi, there isn’t a single major problem that powers this novel but rather, a series of events that involves Hutch and come together in the denouement at the end. This has divided McDevitt fans. Some have found the more fragmented nature of the novel disappointing, but I really enjoyed the sense I wasn’t sure where he was taking this next.

Hutch has always been an enjoyable protagonist, and I liked seeing her a little more inexperienced, making rookie mistakes she later doesn’t commit. I quickly became immersed in the world and the adventure, which drew me in. I even managed to forget the bleeping cold for a while…

Any grizzles? While I enjoy McDevitt’s plotting and worldbuilding, dialogue isn’t his strong suit and at times it plain clunks. But there is too much right with this enjoyable space opera for this to be a dealbreaker and if you are considering diving into a long-running near-future science fiction series, give this introductory novel a whirl.
8/10

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