Firebird - Jack McDevitt This book in the Alex Benedict series marked a bit of a turning point for the series in some ways. I've noted in previous reviews that the characters in the series seemed quite static, not changing or growing a great deal over the course of the books. There were some themes that travel cross-book, such as the nature of their work (looting tombs?), the nature of AI (and the question of its sentience) and the opinions of the characters, sometimes conflicted, of these topics.

In this book we see, with the introduction and fleshing out of the character Gabe, Alex's uncle, an attempt to create a metaplotline that will not only travel across books, but has some chance of causing real growth for the characters. It still seems done somewhat piecemeal, and perhaps a bit awkwardly given it introduces and almost immediately resolves issues that would ideally have been allowed to grow across multiple books, but it is a nod in the right direction.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest issues I have with this series as an ongoing series is the lack of recognition the characters get for their successes. Whilst Alex-as-celebrity has been de jeur for a number of books now, with requisite tv appearances and the like, I am constantly jerked out of the flow of the narrative but the incredible idea that Chase is still relatively unknown all throughout known space. Given the magnitude of achievements credited to her over the books, achievements that not only made headline news across all of human space but directly resulted in the cessation of hostilites long suspected to be about to break into open war, and the mass mobilization of both human and aliens to save an _entire planet_. Not only that, but quite publicly the credit was given almost solely to her. The idea then that in these later books, taking place as early as a year later, she is back to being a complete unknown. Fame is fleeting I know, but it seems unbelievable that it should be quite that fleeting.

Some nod is made to the accomplishments, such as a particularly prestigious award being given to both Alex and Chase for achievements in previous books, but that really just highlights the problem for me.

These quirks aside, this book is once more McDevitt doing exactly what he does best in this series - a fascinating, narrative-driven mystery following up on the disappearance of a physicist renowned for walking the edge of recognised science, and the discovery of a problem that has plagued humanity for many thousands of years, along with the potential of saving tens of thousands of people thought long dead.

For the narrative alone, and the way it propels you forward page after page, this book gets four stars. Highly entertaining.