The Engines of God by Jack McDevitt
Two hundred years ago, humans made a stunning discovery in the far reaches of the solar system: a huge statue of an alien creature, with an inscription that defied all efforts at translation. Now, as faster-than-light drive opens the stars to exploration, humans are finding other relics of the race they call the Monument-Makers – each different, and each heartbreakingly beautiful. But except for a set of footprints on Jupiter’s moon Iapetus, there is no trace of the enigmatic race that has left them behind. Then a team of scientists working on a dead world discover an ominous new image of the Monument-Makers. Somehow it all fits with other lost civilizations, and possibly with Earth’s own future. And distant past. But Earth itself is on the brink of ecological disaster – there is no time to search for answers. Even to a question that may hold the key to survival for the entire human race…
The Engines of God is very unique for a Sci-Fi book. The science element is very subtle, mostly limited to the ethical questions raised by the possibility of finding earth-like planets in other systems. Instead it focuses more on the “soft science” of archaeology. This concept of alien archaeology was fascinating to me, and I thought expertly executed.
Aside from those elements, The Engines of God read more like an action adventure book than hard science fiction. The pace was quick, the characters mostly one-dimensional, and the number of life-threatening situations increasingly unrealistic. The main character, “Hutch,” was a typical heroine: plucky, beautiful, intelligent, and brave. The book follows her adventures piloting archaeology teams trying to find the builders of several large, beautiful monuments spread throughout the known galaxy. It was a fun read, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in space travel. Fair warning, however, that it never seems to answer any of the questions it raises, which can be fairly frustrating.