The Roadmakers left only ruins behind -- but what magnificent ruins! Their concrete highways still cross the continent. Their cups, combs and jewelry are found in every Illyrian home. They left behind a legend,too -- a hidden sanctuary called Haven, where even now the secrets of their civilization might still be found.
Chaka's brother was one of those who sought to find Haven and never returned. But now Chaka has inherited a rare Roadmaker artifact -- a book called A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court -- which has inspired her to follow in his footsteps. Gathering an unlikely band of companions around her, Chaka embarks upon a journey where she will encounter bloodthirsty rirver pirates, electronic ghosts who mourn their lost civilization and machines that skim over the ground and air. Ultimately, the group will learn the truth about their own mysterious past.
Nearly 800 years have passed since the plague eradicated civilization in the 21st century. Primitive city-states are surrounded by ruins of the "Roadmakers," whose engineering secrets died with them. Part of the trick and charm of McDevitt's (Eternity Road) new novel lies in the protagonists' encounters with objects--aircraft, computers, road signs, etc.--they, but not readers, find mysterious. When an expedition leaves to find the legendary "Haven," a repository of information left by the Roadmakers, only one member returns, alive but dishonored. His son joins the sister of one of the dead crew, a scholar and others to mount a new expedition. McDevitt renders believable the postapocalyptic landscape through which the band travels north from the Mississippi by horseback, boat and, finally, balloon, enduring attacks by vestigial security machines and pirates. Less sure is his handling of emotional matters. Deaths occur with barely a mention of grieving or self-doubt by the survivors, and the narrator remains too aloof from the action. The story is absorbing, but its social and political observations can be facile. Its fundamental conceit, furthermore--that people of the new world are so eager for knowledge of the old, even of its arcane literature, that they will risk their lives for old books--seems borrowed from old SF classics like Fahrenheit 451 or Brave New World.
Overall excellent, characters and plot sometimes murky.
Having just finished reading this book, I had to share my thoughts on it. Please bear with me, this is my first written review. McDevitt paints a clear picture of his world in this post-apocalyptic novel. Occurring some 1000 years after a plague that ended civilization, Chaka and her companions travel from the area of modern day Memphis on the Mississippi River to what sounds like the Bay of Fundy in eastern Canada. Their over land route takes them north to Chicago, then east via highways made by the "Roadmakers." Many of the sights they find are recognizable to the reader but are unknown and baffling to our heroes. Traveling in search of the legendary or mythical "Haven", they find friends as well as danger and love on the road.
Eternity Road is very well written and very easy to read. The story catches you from the prologue and takes you on a journey worthy of Jules Verne. The characters have a realism that makes you laugh, cry, and even get angry as they travel across unknown lands and face down mysterious strangers and hazards.
This is the first book I have read by Jack McDevitt; it certainly won't be the last!