Omega is typical McDevitt, but one of his better efforts.
I referred to Chindi, the previous novel in the series, as an “action movie of a book” and Omega is no different. Expect a fun read, filled with mishaps and adventure, but with a certain lack of depth. There are only a couple of characters that we get to know at all, the others are made of cardboard.
On the other hand, who has time for chat when a civilisation is at stake?
Hutch, the star of the series up until now, takes a back seat in Omega and remains 3000 light years from the main action, but still has a commanding influence on events. Her absence from the centre of the action is beneficial though, as there are no trademark, slightly unbelievably dramatic last minute rescues to shake your head at.
The pace is fast but well controlled, with the human struggle to save the more primitive alien Goompah people building to a satisfying crescendo of proper length. This is in contrast to previous Academy books that stopped all too suddenly for my liking. I absolutely loved the last paragraph of Omega, for what it’s worth.
Moral questions are raised about non-interference with less developed cultures, but they’re undermined by the fact that the humans have already decided to interfere by saving the Goompahs from the Omega Cloud in the first place. Maybe that would have been a good question to ask, but it could have made for a short and rather dull book. In the end, the method of human interference is a believable compromise.
The only (slightly) unbelievable construct in Omega are the Goompahs themselves. The are (literally, as it turns out) a cartoon; too simple, too happy. Througout the book I was sure there had to be more than meets the eye with them, some deep, ancient secret underlying their existence. But alas there is no such thing, as conveniently explained in the epilogue. I think McDevitt missed a trick here – it would have been enough to reveal something lurking behind the Goompah society and could have been expanded in future works.
I’m also struggling, just a little, with the theory posited for the origin of the Omega Clouds themselves too. It seems random and arbitrary, but in that it reflects the nature of the galaxy itself, I suppose, and is therefore entirely fitting. But I’m still struggling.
Omega can stand on it’s own (but is better if read in sequence with the other Academy novels), and is an exciting read. For my money it’s the best in the series up to this point, and McDevitt is becoming one of my favourite authors for his high octane Academy space adventures. Open it expecting plenty of action and not too much depth, and you won’t be disappointed.