Infinity Beach

Posted by : atcampbell | On : July 17, 2001

Infinity Beach by Jack McDevitt

Fourteen people attended this meeting, and one person contributed comments by e-mail. The topic of this meeting, Infinity Beach by Jack McDevitt, is a science fiction mystery set hundreds of years in our future. Despite centuries of space travel and the colonization of many solar systems, humans have still not encountered other intelligent life. Kim Brandywine, a fundraiser working on a last-ditch project to find extraterrestrials, discovers that her long-lost older sister was involved in an exploratory mission that may have actually made first contact. The plot details her search for what really happened. Eight people at the meeting had finished the book, and three were about halfway finished.

Since this was our group’s fifth discussion of a Jack McDevitt book (most of any author), we had a good idea of what to expect from Infinity Beach. It was a fun mystery with interesting SF elements. We enjoyed following all the twists of Brandywine’s investigation, and we appreciated that solutions never simply fell into her lap. The book had several gripping action scenes, particularly a mad chase through a train tunnel. We enjoyed the variety in scenery as the story progressed all over the galaxy. McDevitt weaves a lot of future history about a great war into the background, and it ties nicely into the investigation. Kim’s job as a fundraiser was a clever means for her to get around to the places she needed to visit in her search for answers. We appreciated how Kim always found opportunities to go out to nice dinners.

The major problem with this book was the character of Kim Brandywine, who was hard to like. When we first meet her she’s working on a project to attract the attention of aliens by causing stars to go supernova! Many of us hated this project a lot. Once Kim starts looking for her sister, we’re surprised at how few ethics she displays. She seems willing to tell any lie, break into anywhere, and steal anything (including a starship) to get what she wants. She constantly puts her close friends into danger on her behalf. One person dubbed her an “intergalactic valley girl”.

Overall we found this to be a fun SF mystery that was well worth reading. Unfortunately the unlikable protagonist prevents this book from being one of McDevitt’s best.

After the meeting, several of us had a nice dinner at Brick Oven Pizza.

— A. T. Campbell, III