Deepsix – Jack McDevitt (2001)
‘With less than three weeks to go before a rogue gas giant collides with the world known as Deepsix, Priscilla ;Hutch’ Hutchins and her crack team land on the surface to record and salvage as much of the planet’s ancient civilisation as they can before it is lost forever.
But as they struggle to make sense of this strange uninhabited world with its stone cities under ice, unexpected predators and inexplicable hints of impossible technology buried in the rubble, their only means of escape is suddenly destroyed. The clock ticks relentlessly toward an unavoidable apocalypse. They must find some way to get off Deepsix before it plunges into the depths of the rampaging gas giant.’
Blurb to the Voyager 2001 paperback edition
The sequel to ‘Engines of God’ sees Hutch – the diminutive pilot introduced in the aforesaid novel – once again involved in last-minute xeno-archaeology.
The planet Maleiva III (Deepsix) is about to be cannon-balled by a rogue gas-giant which has entered the system from the depths of space. Although explorers visited the planet twenty years previously to investigate its six-billion year old biosphere and the highly evolved predators which inhabit the world it is only now that it is about to be engulfed that evidence of a sapient but apparently extinct civilisation has been found.
Hutch, being the only pilot with a lander capable of visiting the planet and near enough to reach the planet in time, is asked to head a team to try and salvage what artefacts and evidence they can before Maleiva III is destroyed.
In ‘Engines of God’ of course, Hutch was on another planet helping a team to excavate an alien temple before terraforming destroyed all evidence. Thankfully, that is where the similarities end.
‘Deepsix’ is a much tighter novel in that McDevitt confines the action to one location and the alien mysteries, far from being a backdrop, complement the unfolding human drama and provide a perfect balance between the two.
McDevitt, as we cannot fail to be aware, is an American. He has a great eye for character and detail, but one wonders whether he ever really stopped to consider whether any interstellar culture as this could really be populated so heavily by Americans.
There is one Frenchman and a Russian, I must point out, but that seems to be McDevitt’s only concession to a multi-cultural society.
On the other hand, if the network of human colonies, ships and of course Earth itself (which seems to have been taken over by the US. The cynical columnist McAllister at one point mentions the ratings for the WorldBowl) is a metaphor for the US, then it is not a pleasant comparison, and rather a damning portrait.