Part of my read of Nebula winners. This one is a lot better than McDevitt’s Time Travelers Never Die, my one prior encounter. It’s still a bit undewhelming itself, however, and I’d judge it as not deserving of a major award. The story here is relatively interesting and there is a real plot with things that matter unlike the extended tourist show of the latest McDevitt. The plot is undermined by the setting being rather stale and generic--a conservative, unchanging human society looks for a lost colony that may be more innovative--but for most of the work the prose and pace are enough to sustain interest. In the end what turns this from a slight success to a slight failure in my view is the characterization, which is quite bland and unmemorable. Given the format where we have to spend quite a deal of time in the characters as they define the world and their quest, this is a major deficiency, and resulted in a fairly boring experience particularly for the middle section of the book. It picked up momentum at the end of the story with a few neat revelations and setting twists, and I do appreciate that for once a Nebula winner actually engages with a far future setting. Still, the work suffers from an overly conventional and somewhat stale formula throughout, and doesn’t provide enough incentive to seek McDevitt out again.
Worse than: A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
Better than: On Basilik Station by David Weber