The Engines of God (Series) – Jack McDevitt

Book One, Ingredients list:

1. FTL drives
2. Decently easy interstellar travel
3. Single, hard-minded, I-do-my-job-because-I-have-nothing-else-and-anyway-I-love-to-do-it Star Pilot (named Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins) with incredible skill that remains mostly undiscovered and under-utilized doing transport jobs for rich companies
4. Massive planet that is empty and thought to be better utilized as a replacement Earth (once it’s terraformed, that is)
5. Archeologists who insist that there is more to be learned from the ancients who once lived there
6. Money-makers and politicos who could give a fuck about archeologists or their work


I suppose so. I mean, this book doesn’t really leave much to guess. Group 1 wants Group 2 to leave the goddam planet, Group 2 doesn’t want to. Group 2 convinces our plucky heroine to stick around and fly their butts out at the last minute. Ancient shit is found, planet is destroyed, and they wander around the galaxy following clues to see where their heart-I mean-information takes them.

Best quote from the book:

Janet listened skeptically at first, and then with mounting enthusiasm.

Book Two. Shit gets REAL.

In this stunning piece of literature, our plucky heroine (hereafter referred to as: Plucky McPluckersons) is minding her own goddam business when some stupid high-minded scientists start wetting their pants over the destruction of yet another planet. Sure, THIS time it’s due to another fucking planet smashing its shit up, but what does she care? Being the only nearby pilot with any skill, she gets wrapped into a scheme to go and “learn” about the lost civilizations of the planet anyway. Problems abound, including (but not limited to) their landers being destroyed, people being destroyed, and large fucking insects trying to kill them while they march to find a lander left by a previous expedition. Mostly it goes like this:


Best quote from the book:

Hutch drew him away and turned him over to the Asian.

Book Three, Synopsis:

Plucky McPluckersons was minding her own business when a group of crackpots with a “theory” hire her to be their pilot as they look for satellites around planets or signals from satellites around planets or some shit. At any rate the satellites end up forming a trail to somewhere. Zooming around space at the whim of crackpots-that-also-happen-to-be-right-a-lot-of-the-time seems to be a hobby of hers.

(Note that, from now on, Plucky McPluckersons’ character is essentially a bureaucratic paper-pusher who still manages to get roped into these off-world missions.)

Best quote from the book:

Nick made a face, signaling that he didn’t like zero gee, that his organs had begun to move around.

Book Four. It’s time to save the WORLD.

Some cloud shit brought up in Book One rears its ugly head when it’s discovered that the clouds not only move toward civilized planets, but they also FUCK THEIR SHIT UP. Naturally, humans won’t abide by this wonton destruction. Just kidding! Humans don’t care even when they realize that a shit-cloud is coming for THEM, and will be here in… 900 YEARS. Way to plan ahead humans. Go you.

Turns out that Plucky McPluckersons gets to test out any shit-cloud-removal theories on a nearby civilization about to be destroyed. Yay Science!

Best quote from the book, a tie between:

More applause.


On the surface of the threatened world, seas had become rough, in anticipation of the onslaught.

Book Five. (Psst! Not much happens.)

Okay sure so some lights start blinking and they wander off to follow them. Sure they start to see these now-called “raiders” adjusting the trajectory of nearby objects to impact with planets at a later date. And sure they get attacked at various points by the raiders themselves. So what? The record player that is the brain of most characters in this book is playing one, solitary loop over and over: OMG MY SPACEFLIGHT PROGRAM IS UNDERFUNDED. WE NEEDZ MORE MONIEZ. AND MAYBE THIS WEIRD SHIT WILL GET PEOPLE TO PAY.

Best quote from the book:

Everett was standing in his dark blue uniform, looking a bit older than the last time she’d seen him.

Book Six, aka: “Oops! We forgot to end Book Four!”

The shit-clouds are back ladies. And they’re closer than ever to swarming your little speck of a planet and… well… okay so it has only been a few years. But at least now spaceflight is all but extinct save for a few private organizations. And BY GUM are they some organizations! I mean, even Plucky McPluckersons is a fundraiser for one of them now! And now they have new technology to wander into the core of their galaxy! To finally stop the shit-clouds from shitting all over things!

It all gets kind of funky at the end but I can’t tell you or it’d spoil it. I don’t mean that it will spoil a good ending, but it’s the only one this book has got.

Best quote from the book:

Like any good high school teacher, she was pure showbiz.

Series end. And so my time thinking about it.

CONCLUSION: Whip out the big red SELL stamp and get crazy. (When the shit-clouds come your crap will be useless anyway.)

Reviewer’s Note: This book is suspenseful enough that you might, potentially, forget to evacuate your bladder and end up exploding in such a violent way that it’s felt by your ancestors. If you were a hamster. So adjust to scale accordingly.

About Bevin

Requiring tambourines at all attempts at enlightenment since 1997.